On Thursday, the NCAA announced 5 new rules changes, 4 of which will have major, sweeping impact across the competitive landscape. We will break-down each of those changes further in separate articles.
Falling into line with FINA on breaststroke pullouts
The NCAA’s new policy on underwater breaststroke pullouts was one rule change that was very expected, after FINA officially changed its rules on the subject midway through this past college season.
Previously, swimmers were allowed one dolphin kick during each underwater pullout on breaststroke. Essentially, that meant the hands had to break steamline, officially starting the pullout, before the swimmer could take the dolphin kick.
The rule was notoriously hard to enforce, though, as most swimmers would separate the hands only a few inches, and officials standing on the deck had the unenviable task of trying to watch for that tiny hand separation while also judging when a swimmer’s lower body started the kick.
So last December, FINA streamlined the rule, allowing swimmers to take their dolphin kick before the pullout. That means the hands can remain in a streamline position while the swimmer takes the kick, and then the rest of the pullout can follow.
The rule change came at about the halfway-point of the NCAA swimming season, though, and the NCAA has a policy of not changing its rules in the middle of a season. That means this past NCAA season took place under the old pullout rules. (College swimming even sent its own officials to U.S. Winter Nationals to watch NCAA athletes and make sure they followed NCAA rules while making any “A” or “B” cuts, even though the new FINA rule was legal for USA Swimming at the time.)
The NCAA adopted the new FINA rule for the upcoming season, though, as part of its sweeping list of changes announced today. That was a widely expected move, and brings college swimming in line with FINA and USA Swimming rules, along with high school rules, which actually changed to this new pullout before even FINA did.
Breaststroke pullout rules are one the hotter topics in swimming right now, and its certainly possible more rule changes will be coming down the pike soon. In 2013, FINA considered, but ultimately rejected, what would have been the most drastic change of all – abolishing underwater pullout and allowing dolphin kicks out to 15-meters like the other three strokes.
Two of the four 2015 NCAA champs in a breaststroke event will return next year (Stanford’s Sarah Haase and Texas’s Will Licon), and Minnesota’s Kierra Smith could potentially return the next year after her Olympic redshirt, and now that group and the rest of the NCAA’s breaststrokers will be able to use the same pullout in college swimming as they do in their summer seasons.