The Pulse: NCAA Championship Reform Is the Hottest Topic at this Week’s CSCAA Convention

The hottest topic of conversation at this week’s College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America was the existential dread over the future of the sport in a rapidly-evolving collegiate athletics landscape.

But the conversation is not all doom-and-gloom. Coaches are looking for NCAA Championship reform in an effort to increase the relevance and exposure of swimming.

Among the ideas that were floated are pushing the meets back to ealry April, moving it up to early February, or making college swimming a fall-only sport, leaving the spring to long course and international competition.

ESPN, which owns the rights to televise and stream the NCAA Championship meets through at least the 2031-2032 season, will be a major driver of any decision to change the schedule.

Louisville head coach and CSCAA board member Arthur Albiero spoke to the fact that athletics directors have told the CSCAA that swimming doesn’t have exposure, and that a lack of exposure limits the sport’s importance to the athletics department.

That lack of exposure is largely driven by the meets overlapping with the NCAA basketball tournaments. Historically the conflict has been with the men’s basketball tournament, but in recent years also the women’s tournament as well as Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, Paige Bueckers, and the South Carolina women, among others, have dramatically raised the profile of the women’s basketball tournament (which had higher championship television ratings than the men’s tournament this year).

A review of the press seating at the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships throughout the years has revealed as many laptop screens tuned into basketball games as swimming statistics.

But in the conflict comes opportunity. The women’s basketball tournament, gymnastic championships, and softball and volleyball tournament shows that there is increasing interest across the country in sports outside of the traditional “big two” of college athletics, especially in women’s sports. If swimming can shift outside of those overlapping windows, there is a chance to prove the sport’s relevance to a broader audience.

We don’t know that this will work. There’s so much change coming to college athletics, that the uncertainty of the future is endless. Putting swimming in the best position to thrive in the new environment, though, will be the key to its future.

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20 days ago

I think the idea of betting is a great way to support the sport.

1 month ago

I hope some of you still see this and that I’m not too late to the party. I feel like I have some helpful insight here. I am not a fan of swimming. I’m just a fan of Texas who occasionally pops in to gather intel on how Texas is doing to help me write a weekly/monthly blurb on my home message board on every sport at Texas in order to keep people up to date on how every sport across the entire AD is doing.

So, as someone who doesn’t really care about swimming, I can tell you why.

1) No one knows it exists. I can’t even begin to tell you how few people are even aware… Read more »

Reply to  BioDogTexas
27 days ago

I agree with numbers on the suit

1 month ago

Id love to see NCAAs move to late February and be held scm. There’s nothing like world records to hype a sport.

desparate for excitement
1 month ago

12/5 ish — Dual meet NCAA Champs — using training format already in place for mostly mid-November Invites.

Live ESPN broadcasts(See DrPhil’s notes below) of 7-9 (or double that if we can get time on Fri & Sat) select dual meets, shaped to create interest/conflict/education (develop our own Caitlin Clarks)/ broadcasts each weekend from early January through Late February, with individual and team rankings through the season. Multiple prerecorded interviews with athletes in that meet with competitive “sparks” in each.

Conference meets on whatever schedule and streaming arrangements they can manage.

Live NCAA Section Show- Times/teams/Stars/Promote meet(s)

The US had separate Male and Female Olympic Trials through 1968. Since that time the two most significant swim meets in the world… Read more »

Reply to  desparate for excitement
1 month ago

Some well thought of ideas BUT 12/5ish is the weekend of all the FBS conference football championship games of which ESPN controls 6 (1 on Friday and 5 on Sat). If getting TV is an objective it is a non starter during CFB championship season. Any later in December you are messing with finals – FCS football jumps to Jan for the end of their championship for this reason. ESPN also has rights to Men’s and Women’s soccer Cups in early DEC as well as women’s Volleyball which draws good viewership numbers. Doing what is best for swimming should be the objective. If it is successful and draws significant interest then linear/live TV will follow. But to think just because… Read more »

1 month ago

One thing to note about networks is ESPN bought the rights to all NCAA championships. It was a package deal. They aren’t broken down individually outside of football and men’s basketball. There is a podcast within the Dan LeBatard show where John Skipper and David Samson talk about the business of sports and media that is interesting. They talked about the championships contract not too long ago.

James Beam
1 month ago

Random thought…would it help if Peacock or NBC aired the NCAA championships instead of ESPN since they cover all other swimming events in the USA?

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

But then I won’t be able to send my yearly “watching the tourney!!” message with a picture of a pool to all* my friends.

*this is a lie there are none

Reply to  James Beam
1 month ago

Please not Peacock. That’s half the reason for USA Swimming’s broadcast failures.

Follow my bubbles
1 month ago

You really want to spice things up? Get the sports books to begin pushing betting on races and prop bets. It’s worked wonders for March Madness. It might take a few years, but it’ll make the sport a lot more relevant.

Last edited 1 month ago by Follow my bubbles
Steve Nolan
Reply to  Follow my bubbles
1 month ago

There’s already major scandals a-brewing in professional sports re:player-specific prop bets, they’re already doing away w/ em for all college sports I think.

(What’s easier, a swimmer to get a boffo NIL deal or do some prop bet point shaving??)

1 month ago

That “lack of exposure” is a combination of the NCAA and USA Swimming (in swimming, USA Swimming still works hand-in-hand with tv for NCAA swimming….) not pushing their television partners out of the 1980s way of promoting/showing the sport. They could easily show NCAA Championships on ESPN or ESPN2 (after all, ESPN doesn’t have the bball tv rights…) live rather than hiding it behind ESPN+. But there’s zero pressure/insistence by the NCAA and USA Swimming (who are too complacent and allow the sport to be shown behind a myriad of paywalls as well) to earn any exposure.

This comes from within. Until people actually force the hand rather than blame everyone else, we’ll be stuck regardless of what time… Read more »

Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

So it took a bit to find, but based on this website: TV Listings for – March 20, 2024 – TV TangoE

Going by Finals for swimming days (and just quickly glancing at the 8pm EST time slot)
Wed March 20 (ESPN had the NBA, ESPN2 had the NIT)
Thur March 21 (ESPN early rounds of…college wrestling, ESPN 2 first round of women’s bball)
Fri March 22 (ESPN college wrestling, ESPN 2 first round of women’s bball)
Sat March 23 (ESPN college wrestling, ESPN 2 first round of women’s bball)

Wed March 27 (ESPN NBA, ESPN 2 NIT)
Thur March 28 (ESPN MLB, ESPN 2 college baseball)
Fri… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by DrSwimPhil
Reply to  DrSwimPhil
1 month ago

Phil you are correct that there is no insistence from those within the NCAA headquarters about televising swimming or most sports. They achieved their objective and that is a long term total championship deal that lumps swimming in with most of the other championships and for the $ they were seeking. Not sure how USA Swimming factors in-perhaps under the previous leadership which had a plan about the NCAA championships circa 2009 but all of those administrators are gone from the Springs. If the product gains significant interest beyond just those in the sport television will follow (look at last 10 years of women’s VB and gymnastics).

Reply to  Swim3057
1 month ago

USA Swimming factors in because the NCAA defers to the NGOs for most of these Olympic sports, swimming included. Remember the NCAA deferred to the NGOs for each sports’ transgender rules? There’s a reason NCAA swimming’s ruleset mirrors USA Swimming’s. And a reason why we get essentially the same broadcast (including commentators) details between the two. USA Swimming is driving this ship. But the admins are just beyond complacent and really don’t seem to care at all at improving/marketing the sport and getting more eyes on it. They just sit back and rely/hope the Olympics and NBC every 4 years gives them enough money (and even if not…”eh, who cares”….) to make it through the next quad. And this includes… Read more »

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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