The NCAA has published it’s “Return to Championships” guidelines for all winter sports being played during the 2020-2021 season, including swimming and diving.
The guidelines, which vary across each individual sport, share some basic rules, including the fact that all sports will be played at predetermined locations, all athletes will be required to social distance, and all athletes, coaches, trainers, and volunteers will be required to get COVID-19 tests while participating in any of the Championships.
The NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships were already supposed to occur at a predetermined, single site: the Greensboro Aquatic Center in Greensboro, NC.
At all of the Championships, people will be divided into three tiers, determined by their need to have COVID-19 tests. All individuals categorized as “Tier 1” are in the highest exposure tier, where physical distancing and face coverings may not be applicable due to their interference with athletic-activities. “Tier 2” individuals are those who may come into contact with tier 1 individuals, but can still maintain social distancing and face coverings. “Tier 3” individuals include anyone who does not come in contact with tier 1 individuals, and they are required to wear face masks and practice social distancing. However, a Tier 3 individual may be reclassified to a tier 2 individual if they come in contact with any tier 1 individual.
Only individuals who fall under the tier 1 and tier 2 designations will receive COVID-19 testing. The Tiers are divided as follows:
- Tier 1
- student-athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, medical staff, equipment staff and officials.
- Tier 2
- Administrators, security, event staff and league staff
- Tier 3
- Members of the media, housekeeping, catering, sanitation and transportation.
In addition, tier 1 and tier 2 members must follow strict guidelines while participating in the NCAA Championships. These include:
- All tier 1 and tier 2 individuals must get tested prior to traveling to a host site. It is their responsibility to ensure that they are COVID-19 negative within 48 hours prior to travel.
- Upon arrival at the host site, all individuals will be subject to NCAA COVID-19 testing, and any additional testing as directed by the onsite COVID Manager & Team Health Officers.
- When traveling or at a host site, Tier 1 and Tier 2 personnel must engage only in scheduled activities. Activities and / or meetings with individuals that are not part of the tested community are strictly prohibited.
- When Tier 1 and tier 2 individuals are not within the CTZ at the competition or practice venue, perfect model behavior for physical distancing and face coverings must be exhibited at all times.
- If a Tier 1 or tier 2 individual has close contact with someone, they must inform their Team Health Officer and / or onsite COVID Manager immediately. Additional testing or isolation may be needed before they can join scheduled activities. (Close contact defined as less than 6’ physical distance for 15 minutes or more without a face covering, or as defined by CDC and state / local guidelines)
- Face coverings and physical distancing are required at all times
The NCAA’s guidelines also call for additional protocols, specific to swimming and diving, which include limitations to the warm-up pool, limited locker room use, and no cold or hot tub usage.
For swimming and diving, this remains relatively consistent with what has been done on the national and international levels. For example, for USA Swimming’s Pro Swim Series this weekend, all athletes and coaches are required to get tested before being able to enter the competition venue. Swimmers traveling from 4 or more hours away also had to arrive at the site by Monday in order to receive an additional test in order to compete and quarantine if necessary.
The added cost of testing has resulted in some cuts to the NCAA Championship, including Division II swimming and diving, which reduced the field for this year’s competition.