New NCAA diving selection procedures will allow more divers to enter NCAAs on school’s dime

NCAA Zone Diving meets begin next Monday, and this season, a major change will take effect to the NCAA qualifying rules.

The biggest take-home from some big tweaks to a complex selection process is that this season, more divers will be allowed to enter the NCAA meet, though divers outside of the traditional qualifying range won’t be reimbursed by the NCAA and can only attend the meet on the school’s dime.

In past seasons, 41 women’s invites and 35 men’s invites were held aside for divers, and those numbers were hard and fast caps, like the ones that govern swimming selections.

But this season, certain eligible athletes outside of those caps will still be able to participate in the meet, with the only caveat being that their schools will have to fully fund their trip with no reimbursement from the NCAA, like the top-placing divers get.

The NCAA selection process is perhaps more complex for diving than it is for swimming. Here’s a quick run-down of the invite process:

NCAA Diving Invite Process

Zone Meets

Divers have to hit a certain score during the season to qualify for NCAA Zones. At the Zone meet, divers compete to earn their NCAA invites.

Qualifying spots per zone

Each of the NCAA’s 5 zones earns a different amount of invite slots, based on how that zone’s divers did at last year’s NCAAs. Here’s how the invite slots are determined:

  • Each zone is guaranteed 5 women’s spots per event and 4 men’s spots per event.
  • Zones earn bonus spots on top of those 5/4 based on last year’s results. For example: Zone A had two women score at last year’s NCAAs on 1-meter. That earns them two bonus spots in qualifying this year, so they now have seven (5+2) spots on 1-meter.

Here are the qualifying spots per zone for 2015:


1m 3m Platform
Zone A 7 7 7
Zone B 10 7 8
Zone C 8 9 8
Zone D 8 10 9
Zone E 8 8 9


1m 3m Platform
Zone A 5 7 7
Zone B 9 8 8
Zone C 5 8 6
Zone D 8 6 7
Zone E 9 7 8

Eligibility vs. Reimbursement

The big change in the rules this year is a distinction between eligible divers and reimbursed divers. Where in the past, only 41 women and 35 men could go to NCAAs, this year, those 41 and 35 earn reimbursements from the NCAA. More divers than that can earn eligibility and participate in the NCAA Championships, just with the school paying instead of the NCAA.

The charts above show how many divers earn eligibility within each zone. Any eligible diver can compete in any of the three diving events at NCAAs, provided he/she placed top 12 at Zones. So if a diver earns eligibility on platform, he or she can still dive 1-meter and 3-meter at NCAAs even without technically qualifying in those events.

Reimbursement Spots

Each zone also earns reimbursement slots, and that system largely resembles the old NCAA qualifying procedures. First, the number of reimbursement slots per zone:

Reimbursement Spots

Women Men
Zone A 6 6
Zone B 8 8
Zone C 10 6
Zone D 8 7
Zone E 9 8

The zone meets have a priority system where each finishing spot in each event has a certain priority to earn a reimbursement slot. The order is below:

  1. Winner of 3-meter
  2. Winner of 1-meter
  3. Winner of platform
  4. 2nd on 3-meter
  5. 2nd on 1-meter
  6. 2nd on platform
  7. 3rd on 3-meter
  8. 3rd on 1-meter
  9. 3rd on platform
  10. 4th on 3-meter

and so on.

So in Zone A, for example, where 6 total women earn reimbursement slots, the top 6 priorities are guaranteed spots. The next priorities are added as divers “double up” on spots. So if, for example, the 3-meter winner also finishes second on 1-meter, the zone will now move to priority #7 (the third-place finisher on 3-meter) to round out its 6 total reimbursed athletes.

You can read the full NCAA explanation of the qualifying procedures in the official Pre-Champs manual here.

Though the oft-used comment-section joke is that we are SwimSwam and not DiveDove, we’ll be covering the NCAA Zone meets because of the impact divers have on the team race at NCAAs. If all of the above explanation sounded like a foreign language to you, fear not: we’ll be covering each zone and giving you the boiled-down version of which divers are in and which divers are out for the NCAA Championships.

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So for example from Zone A, 21 (7 in each event) divers can attend NCAAs if they are willing to pay for it themselves? That seems like an awful lot of divers.

Diving Enthusiast

I believe the main reason for this change was because of the tower event at the NCAA meet. In prior years the qualifying process favored heavily to to the springboard events. For example, most years to qualify for the meet out of zone B, you either had to be top 6 in the springboard events or top 2 or 3 in tower. As a result, divers who could have been top 16 or even top 8 in tower at NCAAs didn’t get to go to go to the meet.

Diver dad

That next to last line was supposed to say: “… but if it would help a teammate …”

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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