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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CasualSwimFan
7 months ago

I do not know who has the authority to make this decision, but it needs to be made for so many reasons. The sport of swimming and other sports for that matter contains so much development during their junior year. Let them continue to develop as opposed to forcing them to “go times” prior to being recruited which ultimately hurts their long term development. Why university and college presidents voted to allow having younger recruits on their campuses over the weekend baffles me, but it happened. Kids mature so much mentally and physically during that calendar year and that is probably why there is so much action in the transfer portal. Delay this and that may improve. Again, there are… Read more »

Anonymous
7 months ago

I think it’s a good idea to go back to senior year recruiting. My eldest son, 2018 grad, able to be contacted before and during senior year. Younger son (growth at 16) was the current model 2021 grad. Junior year is full of harder classes and SATs. It was so stressful, especially with CoVid and as a super late bloomer. Even with 2 years, his ability to explore options was massively reduced due to CoVid. Senior year is often more relaxed and a better time to explore options in my opinion.

Non-collegiate swimmer
7 months ago

Yes please! As someone who plateaued through sophomore and junior years by the time I was talking to coaches senior year(when I dropped a ton of time) all of or the majority of their spots were spoken for making it much more difficult for both of us to get what we wanted. Me a solid team and school with the opportunity to improve and the coach a kid just starting to exhibit their potential.
For me, I ultimately, as I like to say, retired from the sport but not without knowing I hadn’t left it all in the pool. I think this rule change would help more kids be less like me.(in the best way!)

SwimMama
7 months ago

Been involved with the process with my two sons both ways, both ended up at D1 schools – the shorter timeline (previous timeline, new recommendation) and the longer timeline (current timeline). There is pressure either way. A longer timeline does not change that, it just has everyone making a decision one year earlier and then waiting 2 years to join the team. From a parental standpoint, I highly recommend reverting back. It makes so much sense.

swimmom
Reply to  SwimMama
7 months ago

Had 2 older kids with the previous deadline and walked on to major D1 teams due to drops their senior year. Now one with multiple recent winter jr cuts going in to their senior year being told the rosters are full and money is gone. I also wish they would revert back to the previous timeline.

Riccardo
7 months ago

A high school boy should be able to swim their junior season to create value for themselves.

Dave Burleigh
7 months 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
7 months 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
7 months 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
7 months 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
7 months 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
7 months 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.

Oldmanswimmer
7 months 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.

McG
7 months 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 »

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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