New NCAA Selection Process Will Make For “Better Meet With Better Swimmers”

The NCAA has approved new selection criteria for the 2013 championships, the details of which will be released later this week. SwimSwam spoke with CSCAA consultant Bob Groseth, who described the changes as ones that would, “make the meet better, bring in more teams, and get more people in the meet.”

Instead of inviting individuals and relays as they have done in the past, the NCAA only will select from individual events. This means that they’ll be able to increase the number of people they invite in each event, from around 17 /18 to 30/31 in the men’s events and from just over 30 to more like 38 on the women’s side. As in the past, individuals invited to the meet may swim other events if they have B cuts.

In order for a team to qualify a relay, that relay must have an A cut and the team needs at least one individual swimmer invited to the meet in order to bring three additional swimmers to field the relay. Relay swimmers can only swim relays, which according to Groseth is something they’ve been “trying to work out with the NCAA for probably 20 years.”

Because the NCAA’s expanding the individual field, the burden will fall on the individual institution to pay for the relay-only swimmers it brings to the meet. The new rules also mean that teams cannot qualify for NCAAs with a relay alone. Once teams have one relay there, they can swim their B cut relays as well. Teams with four individuals invited but no A cut relays can also enter relays with B cuts.

Groseth, who worked heavily on the proposal with Notre Dame’s Matt Tallman, said they were searching for the best way to have the best meet at NCAAs. “The best way to have the best meet is to have the best swimmers there,” he explained. “And the best way to have the best swimmers there is to select from individual events.”

In the past, capping the individual events to leave room for relays meant that some swimmers were left out of the meet while others who may not have been as fast qualified on relays and got to compete in the individual events. Expanding the individual event field will pull in some from each category.

Groseth says the changes were spurred in part by the men’s meet going down to 17 individuals in 2012. “Last year there were four individuals that were ranked 15th going into last chance meets that didn’t get to go,” he said. “That’s still going to happen but instead of 15th place it’s going to be 30th or 31st, which makes a big difference.”

So what sort of changes can we expect to see this year? “It will be more competitive, especially in the relays,” Groseth says. “Probably the most important change is more teams will be represented. Especially on the men’s side–you’re going to bring in at least five or six and up to 10 teams.”

The automatic and provisional cuts will be based on the times that qualified 16th and 24th for the meet the past three years. That means that the time standards for 2013 NCAA Championships will be a bit softer than in recent years. According to our calculations, they’ll look something like this:


200 Free 1:29.93 1:31.06
400 Free 3:17.40 3:19.85
800 Free 7:07.89 7:13.57
200 Medley 1:38.57 1:39.87
400 Medley 3:35.57 3:37.83


200 Free 1:18.60 1:19.29
400 Free 2:54.09 2:55.97
800 Free 6:25.92 6:29.19
200 Medley 1:26.38 1:27.48
400 Medley 3:11.25 3:12.90


Follow Jenny on Twitter @jennydwilson

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8 years ago

Did they ever stop to think that instead of getting more mid-majors to the meet, and more teams overall, the 16-30 spots that will now come will simply be the 12th-18th best swimmers from the same old top 10 programs?

Also, it would be possible to get an “A” cut in a relay but not have an individual swimmer qualify. IF that school was willing to pay to take the relay, why not let them swim if they do not affect the NCAA’s bottom line or the meet cap?

Also, IF, in order to bring a relay, you need one individual qualifier, what if that person is/was not on the relay that did get an “A” cut? For… Read more »

Ole 99
Reply to  DutchWomen
8 years ago

A relay team with an “A” cut needs to have one of its four participants be an invited individual swimmer. The relay team with the qualifying time is what qualifies, not the overall school’s team.

Chris DeSantis
Reply to  DutchWomen
8 years ago


I’ll take your questions one at a time

1. Actually, the coaches that proposed this change did take an in depth look at who would be added to the meet under this system, and found that in fact a significant amount of mid major programs, particularly on the men’s side, would be added to the meet. I have to dig up the specfic facts but if this had been implemented last year, there would have been at least six more schools that had no representation invited to the men’s meet.

2. The specific scenario you are talking about is highly unlikely. We looked at three years of data, and only once in the last three years would a… Read more »

Reply to  Chris DeSantis
8 years ago

Brownie points to Chris for having real answers, not just random conjecture.

Reply to  Chris DeSantis
8 years ago

If there are no time standards for individual events, how will anyone get to decide who gets to swim events they weren’t invited for? There are no B times anymore.

Reply to  Josh
8 years ago

Seems like there would still be A and B individual cuts, see the end of the second paragraph. I’m presuming all A cut individuals (which there will be fewer than 30 people) will still make it automatically while B cut individuals (which there will definitely be more than 30 people) will still have to see how they rank up to make it in.

Joel Lin
8 years ago

I never liked the rule that said if you qualify for an event, then you can opt into swimming others. Then you get the drop dead 100 sprint butterfliers going 1:50 at NCAAs.

In the 1980s you made the cut in an event or you did not swim it, period.

I like the idea of the best 30 in each event by the times going to NCAAs. It permits room for some more to under taper for conference meets and then have more in the tank for the peak NCAA meet for the top programs.

The rich always get richer, and I hear the point that what this might do is make it so that the additional spots will… Read more »

Ole 99
8 years ago

The more I let this change sink in, the more I like it. Its kind of the reverse of what USA swimming has done with the olympic trials. You reserve the NCAA championships for just the best swimmers in the individual events. One could argue the relay events suffer, but I would wager the impact there will be fairly minimal given those events are dominated by the big boys where significant overlap on invited individual swimmers/relay swimmers will exist. Any chance the folks at SwimSwam could “do the math” based on last year’s times?