Only 63 teams earned invitations to swim individual events at the 2015 women’s NCAA Swimming & Diving Championship meet, which is the lowest since the NCAA changed the way it selects swimmers following the 2011-2012 season.
In the 2013-2014 season, 70 teams earned individual invites, and in the 2012-2013 season, 73 swimmers did. In both cases, that’s with the same 281 individual swimmers invited.
The new qualifying rules meant, among other things, that swimmers who only qualified for relays didn’t automatically get individual invites as well. This meant that the same 281 qualifying spots would be divided up among individual qualifiers (relay-only swimmers don’t count against that cap, which is why institutes have to pay for their travel themselves).
Initially, as was expected, this led to an immediate expansion of the number of teams who qualified swimmers for the NCAA Championships, and that expansion continued into the 2nd year under the new system.
But, this year, that took a sharp downturn to just 63 teams. That’s actually fewer than the year before the changes went into effect – in 2012, 64 teams sent swimmers to NCAA’s.
One might suspect that teams have adjusted to the new qualifying system – whereas previously, power teams could count on getting swimmers in to NCAA’s without much effort due to relays, now everyone has to be a little more focused for their mid-season invites and conference championship meets. That could be one reason why we’ve seen a shift back to a consolidation of power.