It has been a roller-coaster of a week for 4 men’s swimmers who have had uncertainty about whether or not they’re qualified for the men’s NCAA Championships. Jack Saunderson of Towson and Ben Cono of Loyola (MD) were well within the anticipated cut-lines for NCAA individual qualification when pre-selection psych sheets were first released late Monday night, but on Tuesday afternoon, those plans were upended. That’s because they received a call from the NCAA’s Mary Berdo saying that their times from the ECAC Championship meet would not count.
For a short time, that gave Georgia’s Clayton Forde and Texas A&M’s Angel Martinez hope as the next two swimmers to be moved onto the list as a result of those changes. Early the next morning, however, the NCAA’s decision was reversed, and the times from Cono and Saunderson were re-inserted into the pre-selection sheets, and eventually they were officially invited to the meet.
Late Wednesday evening, we spoke with Mary Berdo, who helped us understand the NCAA’s view of this unique situation where the teams participating in the ECAC Swimming & Diving Championship actually have two conference championship meets.
- The first bit to understand is that the ECAC is a dues-collecting, member conference. As a member conference, the ECAC is entitled to all of the privileges of active members (the same as any other conference) as long as it meets established minimum standards.
- According to NCAA Bylaws, in swimming and diving each NCAA member institution gets 20 days of outside competition in its total playing schedule, during the playing season. There are exceptions to that however, as laid out in Bylaws 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124. Those exceptions are for:
- ONE conference championship meet
- Season-Ending Tournaments (NCAA or NAIA Championship)
- 1 date for an alumni meet
- 1 date for comeptition against a foreign opponent in the US\
- any competition in Hawaii, Alaska, or Puerto Rico against a member institution
- a fundraising activity
- Celebrity Sports Activity
- Competition against U.S. National Team (for example, the U.S. College Challenge in November)
- A foreign tour once every four years
- The one conference championship rule above is bolded, as this is what’s relevant to the current situation. While only one conference championship meet can be excluded, schools are not forbidden from competing in more than one conference championship if they are a legitimate member of both conferences.
- In the cases of Towson and Loyola, their 2016-2017 competition schedule had enough days left under the cap of 20 that their athletes were still able to participate in the ECAC Championship even after the CAA and Patriot League Championships, respectively.
- Because many people treat and refer to ECACs as a “last chance meet,” even though it is truly a “member conference championship meet,” we sought clarification on last chance meets too. The “Approved Championships Qualification Meets” (NCAA lingo for ‘last chance meets’) are approved by the committee in the sense that they are bona fide competition, which ensures that they are meeting all of the same requirements as any other meet for NCAA championship qualification. This approval, however, doesn’t make these meets administratively unique. It’s just a way for the committee to make everyone comfortable that they’re meeting these standards for bona fide competition, which historically they hadn’t always. NCAA approved championships qualification meets must be held according to the regulations set forward in the championship qualification meet application. Most importantly, championship qualification meets must follow the regulations of bona fide competition as outlined in Rule 9 of the 2015-16 and 2016-17 Swimming and Diving Rules Book.