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

  25 Jenny Wilson | September 13th, 2012 | AAC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, College, Featured, Ivy League, NCAA Division I Mid-Major, News, Pac-12, SEC

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


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25 Comments on "New NCAA Selection Process Will Make For “Better Meet With Better Swimmers”"

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4 years 1 month 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 example –

“””””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.”””””

What if that one individual qualifier is a miler and the 200 free relay got an A cut? Do the four people on the 200 free relay come or do three of them come and swim that relay with the miler?

Also, what if a swimmer qualified in say the 200 IM but not the 400 IM…would that swimmer still get to swim the 400 IM as long as he/she did not bump anyone else out? If no, why not? Are we going to have a meet of four heats per event on the men’s side? If it doesn’t affect the meet cap, why not let people swim in what was the old “B” cut system?

Too many questions and not enough answers.

Ole 99
4 years 1 month 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
4 years 1 month 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 relay that got under the “A” cut not have an individual qualifier on that relay. And that relay was not even invited under the previous system.

3. The article specifically addresses that swimmers who qualify individually would be allowed to swim any other events they have “B” cuts in

4 years 1 month ago

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

4 years 1 month 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.

4 years 1 month 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
4 years 1 month 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 be cannibalized a lot by the 12th – 18th best swimmers at the same old Top 10 programs. That might be true, and can be easily addressed. Cap NCAA squads by program to 15 or 16 athletes (I don’t know what the cap is now, or if there is one, or what the best number for a cap would be, but the point is to have one). I agree the NCAA is not a better meet if we have the #5 through #8 best swimmer from Stanford or Texas in the same event, and an easy cure is to keep the total sqauad numbers limited.

Ole 99
4 years 1 month 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?

4 years 1 month ago

Does this mean elimination of the limit of individual swimmers by team?

4 years 1 month ago

So as I understand it, the number of swimmers per team stays at 18? This is not much of an issue, as generally only Cal, Stanford, and Texas overqualify swimmers. However it does mean that these teams might have to taper some swimmers a bit more at conference meets as they will not be able to make it on as relay only then save the taper for NCAAs. Of course, with the cutoff around 30, it won’t take that much.
It seems that the swimmers who will be missing out are those on midlevel relays, e.g. Iowa and Purdue, that don’t have four really fast guys but instead maybe one qualifier and three contributors that just manage to combine for an A cut.

4 years 1 month ago

I’m not a fan of speculation. I love facts. FACT IS (and yes I just went thru both the Final psychsheet ( and the Entry List before cuts ( and came to the conclusion that 15 teams that were NOT invited, would have been under new rules.

They are the following:
USC Santa Barbra
West VA
Western Kentucky
Cal Bakersfield
Georgia Tech
Cleveland State

Take it for what you will….

4 years 1 month ago

The previous mentioned Stats are considering they take the top 30 now as the article suggested.

4 years 1 month ago

Ok someone explain this to me….Chris help me out here –

So Individuals who qualify can swim their “B” cuts, but “relay only swimmers” cannot swim “B” cuts? What is the point of that? Why?

1. If they are NOT taking up 235 individual spots
2. And the NCAA is NOT paying for them
3. And they DO count towards the 18 person limit,

Why not let them swim “B” events? Are we worried about the meet lasting too long? What about only “B” events in 400 / under races, as in some USA Swimming club meets that do not allow “Bonus swims” in the 800/1500?

4 years 1 month ago

Chris is being disingenuous. Go to his blog at for May 29 to see the original discussion.

Chris DeSantis
4 years 1 month ago

What do you mean by disingenuous? Am I sayinlg something I didn’t say in the original conversation that you link to. Here is the link to the specific blog:

4 years 1 month ago

No, I just thought that I would credit you by linking to your discussion, as you had not mentioned it specifically. Forums are so touchy!

Chris DeSantis
4 years 1 month ago

I think the sentiment is that once you have selected for individuals only, theoretically going out to 30 places, you have a representative competitive field for the event. Letting someone who went, for instance, the 45th best time swim in the event when they didn’t actually qualify for it doesn’t make much sense. The line has to be drawn somewhere, and 30 people is a really reasonable number of people to let compete in an event that scores 16.

4 years 1 month ago

But Chris, if that is the case, why let individual qualifiers swim their “B” cuts then? Theoretically you COULD have a qualifier who is slower than a relay only swimmer swimming an event the relay only swimmer wasn’t allowed to swim.

Example –

Person “A” qualifies in the 50 free and has a “B” cut in the 100 free. Person “A” swims the 50 free and the 100 free. Person “B” qualified as part of a 400 free relay and who has a “B” cut in the 100 free that is faster than Person “A”‘s 100 free. The relay only swimmer cannot swim that “B” cut 100 free.

It just seems silly to not let a kid swim who is already at the meet. Look at Kate Flederbach last year. Was not invited in the 100 freestyle (49.15) but almost scored (48.78, good for 17th) once she got got to the meet. Something like that could happen to a relay only swimmer at some point down the road. If you’re going to try selling this to AD’s it would be much easier if these relay kids would get to swim “B” cuts no? How are AD’s going to feel about flying kids to NCAA’s for 4 days to swim 1 race?

If we’re worried about the length of the meet, limit “B” cut events to 400 and under – no 500’s or miles as they do for Bonus events in USA Swimming meets.

Matt Tallman
4 years 1 month ago

These changes allow for the most complete field of individuals and relays within the framework of change that the NCAA was willing to allow. With these changes, at least the top 16 relay institutions should be represented in each event which has not happened in quite some time. Depending on the selection of athletes by the institution’s coaches the actual relays will likely be there. The mission of the proposal was to see that those two objectives (top individuals and top relays) get accomplished. We will see in March if in fact that is the case. There is always potential for some example of unfortunate circumstance. It happens in every selection of NCAA participation for all of the sports; team or individual.

4 years 1 month ago

I don’t coach at the NCAA level, and never made the NCAA D1 A or B individual cut times so never actually swam at the meet, but I find that this whole process, past, and proposal for the future, to be more complex than it needs to be. I have no issue with A Cuts and then having B cuts to fill up the designated # of lanes NCAA wants to fill, but once you start adding an A cut swimmer is allowed to swim B cut times, AND limit the # of entries for that 2nd race the swimmer is in, THAT’S when you start cutting people out of the meet.

Here’s my example: Let’s say NCAA wants to take 32 swimmers for the men’s 100 fly. They take all of the A cuts. Let’s say then qualifier #17 does not actually swim the 100 fly but something else. Fine, just have him scratch that event in advance. Then, to fill the remainder of the lanes (let’s say there were 20 A cuts, which means there are 12 open lanes, but swimmer #17 doesn’t swim, so that actually opens 13 spots. The next 13 fastest swimmers who want to swim this race get in.

What’s so hard about that? I don’t understand the reason or need for such complexity like A cut swimmers have to be on a relay that gets an A cut to swim at NCAA’s but the other relays swimmers don’t need A cuts or B cuts and can still swim and yadda yadda. That’s way too complicated.

If you’re good enough, you get in. IF you’re not, you don’t. It’s not rocket science.

4 years 1 month ago

I may be wrong, but how I read the article, there would not be any standards for individual events. The only “A” and “B” standards will be in the relay events only.

4 years 1 month ago

As mentioned in an above reply, my interpretation was that there would still be A and B cuts. A cuts would still guarantee automatic entry; it’s just that the selection process for those with B cuts would change and be much less tenuous.

3 years 8 months ago

I’ve finally digested the new rules and find them much simpler and more importantly much fairer than the recent past! Finally the NCAA has come up with a logical, lucid thought process and made the correct changes.

More individuals, representing more teams will be invited. 30-32 for men up from the horrid 17 in 2012. The relays will still be fine based on the number of invited individuuals with the addtion of “relay only” swimmers invited. No more teams that can field a qualifying relay but have no individual qualified swimmers, like Purdue men in 2012! And no more relay swimmers clogging up individual events, who were not faster in pre-NCAA meet qualifying than individuals left out of the meet.

2 years 7 months ago

I am new to the college swiiming seen so please correct me when I inevitably make an errant comment and I will not take it personally.

The official psych list came out and I have some questions. They show top 39 who I am assuming are definetly swimming that event. But then there is a serrated line w “invited” underneath. Are these swimmers below the top 39 definetly swimming the event?

And how do they determine the invitees..

I understand that Giving all the relay swimmers automatic spots if they have a b cut was problematic, and should be eliminated. But, why do they get penalized? Why don’t the fastest swimmers in each event (that are at the meet either as a relay swimmer or top 39), swim their event?

What does swimming an “a” cut in the 200 im have to do with marginally making the 100 fr “b” cut when their are 10 swimmers at the meet (maybe only on relays) faster?

Why not after taking the maximum amount of swimmers, simply just put the fastest x and x amount of swimmers in each event, regardless of how they got there.

Why invite swimmers into events when their other swimmers on deck that have swam faster and therefore have earned the right to swim.

Just some thoughts from a rookie.

2 years 7 months ago

Todd – try reading this and see if it answers your first few questions: