The NCAA has implemented a new policy about who receives trophies immediately, and who has to wait, in the event of a tie at the NCAA Division I Swimming & Diving Championships.
At its meeting in April, the NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Committee agreed that in the event of a tie in the championship A final, the trophy will go to the oldest by birthday. The younger student-athlete will hold a stand-in trophy for the awards ceremony and will be mailed a trophy following the championship (standard delivery is four to six weeks after the event).
In other words: when two-or-more athletes are tied, seniority rules.
Previously, there was no publicly-stated policy on what would happen with regards to the ceremony in the case of a tie. Because each trophy has a specific event and place on it, there is only one trophy at the championship for each placement in the A-final of each event.
Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue, but the committee was forced to address it last year after Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines and Penn swimmer Lia Thomas tied for 5th place in the 200 free at the women’s championships. Thomas, a transgender woman, was given the original 5th-place trophy, while Gaines was given an alternate trophy to hold during the ceremony. Hers was mailed later.
Appearing on a podcast in the spring, Gaines, who has become a face of a national campaign against the participation of transgender women in women’s sports, says that she believes the decision was made to “save face” amid the controversy.
“Once I got out of the water, we kind of go behind the podium to the awards ceremony where they distribute the trophies. So, I walked back there and the NCAA official came up to me and said, ‘Hey, we only have one fifth place trophy’ — which I understood.
“But he said, ‘We’re gonna have to give that trophy to Lia. Yours will be coming in the mail. Great job.’ I was kind of taken aback. I don’t think he necessarily expected me to really question it, but I was like, ‘Okay, I understand, but can I ask why you’re choosing to give the trophy to Lia?’”
Gaines claims that the NCAA official responded, “Well, we’re just giving the trophies out in chronological order.”
“So then, I was thinking, ‘Chronological order,” Gaines continued. “We just tied. I don’t really know what we’re being chronological about. So can you explain?’ He kind of just looked at me and said, ‘We have to give the trophy to Lia but we respect and admire you so much.’
“So at this point, he basically admitted to me that the NCAA was trying to save face. I don’t think they handled this properly, but I don’t think they were prepared to handle this kind of situation. They were faced with something they were unsure what to do with.”
Gaines’ accusations forced the NCAA to create a formal policy on the matter to avoid uncertainty or accusations of impropriety in the future.
While both swimmers were seniors last season by NCAA eligibility, Thomas, who was born in May 1999, is older than Gaines, who was born in April/ 2000.