USOPC College Sports Think Tank Recommends Delaying Swim & Dive Recruiting

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee College Sports Sustainability Think Tank, a group assembled to “address the loss of collegiate Olympic and Paralympic sport opportunities in the wake of COVID-19,” released its final recommendations around four topics — sport sustainability, sport structure, vertical partnerships and Paralympic inclusion.

The think tank was co-chaired by University of Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin and USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland. From the aquatics world, the group also included U.S. National Team swimmer Sierra Schmidt, Paralympic swimmer Justin Zook, and water polo Olympian Maddie Musselman, Olympic water polo coach Adam Krikorian, and CSCAA Executive Director Greg Earhart.

“The USOPC Think Tank is proud to move these ideas into action with the NCAA national office and membership,” said Scott Stricklin, University of Florida athletic director and USOPC Think Tank co-chair. “Now is the time to think creatively to preserve our broad-based collegiate sports infrastructure.”

Regarding sport sustainability, the group issued two recommendations — one specifically about delaying the recruiting timeline for swimming and diving. As of 2019, coaches could begin contacting students on June 15 following their sophomore year of high school, with official visits permissible starting Aug. 1. At the time of that change, the CSCAA requested — and was denied — an exemption to have the swim and dive recruiting window open later.

The new recommendation doesn’t give a detailed timeline but suggests that the recruiting process would begin in the senior year of high school.

Full list of recommendations:

SPORT SUSTAINABILITY

  • Recommendation 1: Develop a customized recruiting plan for swimming and diving to initiate the recruiting process during a prospect’s senior year of high school. By delaying initial contact, limiting visits and implementing a contained recruiting calendar, the adjustments will alleviate pressures on prospects, ease the time burden on athletes and coaches, and increase operational efficiencies.
  • Recommendation 2: Allow flexible engagement with prospective and elite male gymnasts by deregulating men’s gymnastics recruiting rules around clubs, tryouts, camps/clinics and national teams. These changes would allow varsity programs to partner with youth programs and USA Gymnastics to share facilities, streamline expenses and generate revenue through expanded camps/clinics.

SPORT STRUCTURE

  • Recommendation 3: Build and pilot an Olympic Sustainability Membership Category, modeled after the NCAA Emerging Sports for Women structure, to test regulatory flexibility for low-sponsored sports. Flexibility may include multidivisional membership and nimble conference affiliation to ease scheduling burdens and strengthen regional partnerships.
  • Recommendation 4: Formalize USOPC and NCAA organizational alignment by expanding the existing USOPC/NCAA cooperation agreement to mechanize leadership-level connections, sport-level partnerships, communications collaboration and project-specific engagement.

VERTICAL PARTNERSHIPS

  • Recommendation 5: Establish partnerships to achieve NCAA championships efficiencies through (1) National Governing Body/NCAA championships hosting partnerships, (2) NGB/NCAA efficiency partnerships and/or (3) NGB/NCAA auxiliary partnerships. Pilot concepts are intended to increase operational efficiencies, open revenue opportunities and enhance the student-athlete experience.
  • Recommendation 6: Pilot Olympic and Paralympic Games content sharing and develop a recognition program to increase storytelling and elevate national awareness of the role colleges play in developing Olympians and Paralympians. Over time, these efforts may strengthen commercial interest in the collegiate Olympic and Paralympic marketplace.

PARALYMPIC INCLUSION

  • Recommendation 7: Bring stakeholders together to launch the USOPC/NCAA Para-College Inclusion Project. This includes conducting research on national adaptive sport programming, collectively promoting adaptive sports, and connecting school leaders, adaptive programs and U.S. Paralympic leaders to strengthen sport structures.

The recommendations will now be reviewed by various NCAA committees.

According to the USOPC, more than 100 Division I sports programs were dropped “as an early result of the pandemic” — non-revenue sports like tennis and swimming were among the hardest hit.

More than 75% of the U.S. Olympic Team for the Tokyo Games competed in the NCAA (at 171 schools) and more than 50% of the Paralympic Team competed in college across 76 schools. For winter sports, more than one-third of the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team competed in college (48 schools) and 25% of the Paralympic team did as well (14 schools).

“We are incredibly excited about these recommendations, motivated to see them put into practice, and grateful to all of our USOPC Think Tank members for dedicating their time and energy to this important effort,” Hirshland said. “These recommendations lay the foundation for greater partnerships moving forward, and together we can work to keep Olympic and Paralympic sport opportunities strong on campus.”

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Nicole
1 month ago

What about making the official signing after the colleges give out financial aid awards. The way it is now my son has no idea how much college will cost at various universities because merit and financial aid awards happen in January-March after the signing letter in the previous November.

SwimMama
Reply to  Nicole
1 month ago

This makes so much sense, especially for boys, full rides are rare, and understanding the cost to attend is important.

Nicole
Reply to  SwimMama
1 month ago

SwimMama-maybe the NCAA rule of November 1st date works for other sports because there are more chances for a full ride or women (who have a full ride). With anyone offered less than a full ride it would be nice to be able to make an informed decision based on the cost.

Swimmingly
1 month ago

Meh

A little late for the 2021 and 2022 classes already impacted. With covid becoming endemic, this is closing the barn door after the horses are in the next county

Wethorn
1 month ago

I disagree with this pretty strongly. Most high kids who aren’t in sports are evaluating and visiting colleges their junior years (with many visits the summer prior to junior year). Why put athletes at a disadvantage?

Second, the athlete-coach relationship is critical. I follow recruiting closely in several sports and almost any athlete interview you read, they stress the relationship (and trust) with their coaches as being critical. Relationships and trust take time to build. Shortening the time to build relationships is likely to result in more athletes going to a school/program that isn’t right for them.

B1Guy!
Reply to  Wethorn
1 month ago

In swimming there are a lot of late bloomers especially on the Men’s side

Deepsouthatl
Reply to  Wethorn
1 month ago

I’d add to this, why is swimming so much different than other sports? Forget football and b-ball for a minute, Lax, softball, baseball etc, they are all on the same recruiting window as swim. I don’t understand why you want kids to have less time to make that important decision.

Why is swimming different? How is cramming all the recruiting into fall of senior year less stressful?

tallswimmer
Reply to  Wethorn
1 month ago

I’ll take the other side here — why would you hurry up and force kids into an athletic situation at 15 that’s not going to be right for them at 18?

I’m a bit older here, but when I was a sophomore, I got 2 junior national cuts by a combined .02 seconds. I would have been recruited by G5 D1 schools, D3 schools, etc. By the time I was between Junior and Senior years I was nearly winning Juniors and had senior national cuts.

The caliber/tone of recruiting was drastically different and I ended up at a top 15 D1 school (4x AA, National Champ, 2x OT finalist). My career trajectory would have been nothing without… Read more »

Deepsouthatl
Reply to  tallswimmer
1 month ago

Congrats on a terrific career.

I agree, kids shouldn’t be making decisions at 15. But as most non athlete students do, taking recruiting visits junior year doesn’t seem to be way out of line to me.

Other sports have late bloomers too. I just don’t see why junior swimmers should be getting information and taking visits. There are still talented 2022 kids making decisions in this fall, I don’t think all the money is gone at the top schools, the recruiting announcements at collegeswimming would suggest otherwise.

Meeeeeee
Reply to  Deepsouthatl
1 month ago

no one is stopping the kids from beginning to check out the schools that might be recruiting them. Just as a NARP would, any athlete can go see a school and talk with anyone who works there.

Deepsouthatl
Reply to  Meeeeeee
1 month ago

Wouldn’t that be a harder list to make with no access to communicate with coaches?

B1Guy!
Reply to  tallswimmer
1 month ago

Preach!!! You said it right they’re forcing kids into decisions by dangling money or a roster spot in front of em and saying this could be gone tomorrow. I bet if you asked the swimmers they’d prefer to make the decision when they’re closer to actually being on campus and apart of the team. That team chemistry stuff is bs now because half the squads will be gone by the time they get to campus and it could be a very different culture.

Last edited 1 month ago by B1Guy!
Oldmanswimmer
Reply to  Wethorn
1 month ago

Is there a rule stopping athletes from taking a trip their junior or even sophomore year without it being a recruiting trip? Just to check out the school?

Deepsouthatl
Reply to  Oldmanswimmer
1 month ago

No. School just can’t cover meals, etc on the trip.

John
Reply to  Oldmanswimmer
1 month ago

That was what my daughter did. While the black out was in place last November we drove literally across the country to check out each school on her final list. It obviously wasn’t the same but she got an idea from walking the campus and checking out the towns. Interestingly, she ended up picking the school that was closest to home (6 hour drive). She finally got her official visit there last month (and 8 months after she committed).

Nicole
Reply to  John
1 month ago

That is a great idea. I’m from a state that if we left the state for more than 24 hours we would have to quarantine for two weeks upon arriving back home. There was no chance to visit for us based on those circumstances during COVID.

Swimpop
Reply to  Wethorn
1 month ago

The athlete coach relationship is nice but given the turnover of the lead recruiter/assistant coach ranks we really stressed the school and program not the coach/lead contact for our swimmer/recruit. She ended up at a school that lost her contact halfway through the year of recruiting, the coach that picked up the ball and ultimately signed her is gone as well. Both took big upgrades in terms of programs so it wasn’t a red flag, happy for both of them, but glad that wasn’t the reason she chose her school/program.

I can think of a half dozen lead contacts my daughter was speaking with that moved schools in the 12 months of recruiting she went through. Not to mention programs… Read more »

B1Guy!
1 month ago

Yessss! July 1 before Senior Yr. swimming had a great model we need to go back!

Iowaswim
1 month ago

I wish it would go back to the way it was previous of the current recruiting timelines. To have a kid coming out of their sophomore year (some just started driving) deciding where they are going to school the fall of their Junior year is a lot and these kids change a lot over the course of 2 years.

I had one of my classes commit in their junior Year, just to have the whole coaching staff change over the course of a year and half before they got there. Given that may happen no matter what and that is a real risk but kids change a lot over the course of 2 years and so do coaches and staffs.… Read more »

McG
1 month ago

I agree that swimming should not be singled out, but I also think ALL collegiate sports recruiting calendars should be pushed BACK. These are kids making what is one of the most important decisions of their lives. Making that choice when you are 15, 16, 17 years old is too early for many kids. There is so much pressure to decide early so you don’t miss out on a roster spot. I think kids are rushing to make decision at too young an age. Give them more time the figure out what program best fits their needs. Also, as others have mentioned, the late bloomers are at a disadvantage in the current process. No commitments until Senior year makes much… Read more »

Oldmanswimmer
1 month ago

Is it my imagination or are we seeing more kids backing out of their verbal commitments as they reconsider their college choice in their senior year? Seems these changes would address this (perceived) trend.

Dave Burleigh
1 month ago

There is a logical disconnect here–how does delaying contact, limiting visits, and reducing the amount of time a kid has to talk to schools reduce stress on coaches and prospects? It seems to me that cramming a potentially two-year process into one year won’t accomplish that objective. Coaches have to recruit constantly, kids all have to leave home at some point (I hope), finances will always be complicated and stressful. Reducing the timeline to make decisions doesn’t change those facts.

Signing a letter of intent or even going to a college doesn’t mandate staying at that school forever. Kids renege on NILs regularly. With the new transfer rules, it is a bit of a free-for-all. Transferring used to be… Read more »

Nemo
Reply to  Dave Burleigh
1 month ago

I agree with you. After our son’s sophomore year it gave him time to speak to coaches and get to know them all summer plus the coaches had time to make trips to meets during the summer. There were some nice relationships formed. Our son had time during the summer months for calls with coaches and not having to go to school and deal with the recruiting process at the same time in my opinion works out great for the swimmer.

Once September arrived he had narrowed down to a final 5 schools to visit in early fall. Also he had all summer and more importantly the time to research the schools academic offerings. Kids have enough pressure athletically… Read more »

Swimgeek
Reply to  Nemo
1 month ago

You make some good points – so I’m not trying to be argumentative. But why couldn’t that exact same “summer schedule” that you describe happen the summer after JUNIOR year? And then make final decisions in fall of senior year.

That way we’re basing decisions off of 3 years of HS swimming and not just 2. The idea that your times in March of Sophomore year decide where you go to school is what troubles a lot of people.

BTW – I also know a lot of swimmers who are not quite at the major program scholarship level who do exactly what I’m talking about – they wait until after junior year and commit in fall of senior… Read more »

Nemo
Reply to  Swimgeek
1 month ago

So knock it back a year to June 15th after jr. year. I get where you are coming from and I understand your points. If you look up early commitments for the class of 2022 on National signing day for class of 2021 there were about 90 commitments and I did not count but it looked like 25-35% of them were not headed to Power 5 conferences.

IMO I feel like the more time the better after sophomore year. Definitely beginning at the start of senior year I feel is a mistake. The earlier recruiting time worked well for us. Also, not everyone swims HS so they don’t have to wait until March for their championship season. I believe… Read more »

Deepsouthatl
Reply to  Swimgeek
1 month ago

You are still talking about jamming up to 5 visits into a ~8-10 week period fall of senior year.

My swimmer had 4 visits in 6 weeks and he was fried by the end.

Deepsouthatl
Reply to  Dave Burleigh
1 month ago

Hear hear. This was what I was trying to say above. Dave did a much better job of communicating it.

Less time in the cycle flies in the face of the “too much stress/pressure” take.

Also no one has convinced me why swimming is so different than other sports. The late bloomer thing isn’t different in other sports.

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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