While the big story in Division III has been the late removal of Amherst’s team from NCAA psych sheets as a punishment for drinking on the team bus home from their conference meet, astute followers of Division III swimming noticed another absence: Worcester Polytechnic Institute or WPI.
WPI sits 13th in the national ranks in the 200 medley relay at 1:30.25, and would have been invited as the 12th team into NCAAs with the removal of Amherst. But WPI does not appear in the psych sheets, nor does backstroker Jack Bauer, who would have been tied for the third seed in the 100 back and would have held the sixth seed in the 200 back.
We spoke to coach Paul Bennett, who said that Bauer couldn’t attend the meet due to an academic conflict (Bauer is in Australia for this academic quarter), and that his absence caused the relay to be bumped from NCAA invite status.
Bennett says the NCAA’s rule interpretation is that schools don’t “own” relay times – the four athletes who achieved the time do. So though WPI had gone a time that would have been invited, because they put up the time with Bauer leading off, the time is no longer NCAA invite eligible when Bauer is not attending the meet. Bennett says the NCAA sent out a memo in early February with that interpretation, but that the policy came as a surprise to him and other coaches he’d talked with.
The NCAA Pre-Championships Manuel for Division III doesn’t address this directly, but does lay the groundwork for the interpretation. Schools are required to include the names of the swimmers who achieved each relay entry time. The memo itself, sent out on February 9th, explains the rule interpretation as follows:
If a student-athlete on the fastest relay is unable to attend the championship meet, then that time will not be valid, and the fastest relay time achieved with all currently eligible student-athletes must be submitted.
“It’s really kind of disappointing to us,” said Bennett.
WPI has no other qualifiers and won’t be competing at the meet. The other three relay members would have been able to compete in their B cut events had the relay qualified, but without individual invites of their own, they are on the outside. WPI finished 16th last year and were sixth in the 200 medley relay. Bauer was seventh in the 100 back a year ago.