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DI cabinet approves new selection process for swimming

By Greg Johnson

The Division I Championships/Sports Management Cabinet approved a new selection process for swimmers that would focus more on individual events starting with the 2013 Division I Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships.

Cabinet members also voted not to support a number of proposed changes to the Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships format, including a one that would have sent four men’s and women’s teams to the finals site and reduce the number of days there from 12 to eight. In addition, the group asked the Division I Wrestling Committee to further vet a proposal to change the team component of the championships to a dual-match format.

Meeting Monday through Wednesday in Indianapolis, the cabinet approved the new swimming selection process that maintains the access ratio to the championships but selects all 281 women’s and 235 men’s swimmers in individual events only.

Teams with at least one swimmer invited in an individual event would be eligible to swim one or more relay events at the championships, provided they have met the qualifying standard throughout the season.

Teams with at least four swimmers invited in individual events and teams that are eligible for at least one relay through the qualifying standard would be eligible to swim additional relay events, provided they have met the provisional relay standard throughout the season. Schools would be allowed to bring up to four uninvited relay alternates to the finals site at the institution’s expense.

The Division I Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Committee believes the new selection process creates more competitive fields in each of the individual events while still allowing the top relay teams to enter those events. Additionally, more schools would be represented at the championships.

Under the former selection process, the number of swimmers selected for the individual events often wasn’t significantly more than the number of scoring positions for those events. For example, the top 16 finishers in an event earn points for their teams, but in some cases there could be only 17 individuals selected for a particular event.

Additionally, the number of relays selected by the committee was, at most, the exact number of those that earn points.

Tennis proposals defeated

Cabinet members did not support a proposal that would have sent four men’s and women’s teams to the Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships finals site, while reducing the number of days there from 12 to eight.

The proposal also would have added four campus-site regionals at which a round of 16 and quarterfinals would be played. Currently, 16 men’s and women’s teams advance to the finals site, along with all the individual singles and doubles competitors.

The cabinet also did not support another part of the proposal that would have (1) removed the warm-up with the opponent before singles and doubles competition at the championships; (2) reduced the time between singles and doubles from 10 to five minutes; and (3) shorten each changeover from 90 seconds to 60.

Cabinet members believe the proposals need more vetting with coaches and student-athletes. However, they did suggest that the Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Committee explore additional format-change options for the championship and possibly present them when the cabinet convenes in February.

The cabinet did approve a change to the selection criteria that requires singles players to compete in at least six matches in the spring and for doubles teams to play at least five matches in the spring to be considered for selection into the NCAA championships.

Currently, singles players are required to play at least 13 matches combined through the fall and spring, and doubles teams must play at least 10 matches over the same time period. Those are still the minimums, but the tennis committee recommended the change to have more of the competition balanced between fall and spring. Committee members also believe that will gives them better information when it comes to making at-large selections.

Dual-match format in wrestling

The cabinet reviewed a proposal to change the team component of the Division I Wrestling Championships to a dual-match format. During a lengthy discussion, cabinet members expressed both cautious optimism for the proposal and concerns that the concept may not have been fully developed with Division I coaches (based on feedback cabinet members received before the meeting). In addition, the cabinet acknowledged challenges related to considering budget requests in the middle of a budget cycle.

The proposal called for the selection of 16 teams (nine automatic qualifiers and seven at-large selections) in the second week of February. The first round would have been conducted the following week at eight campus sites with the participating schools incurring the expenses.

The eight winners would have advanced to the finals site a week later (third week of February), where the quarterfinals and semifinals would have been conducted on the first day. The consolation and the championship dual matches would have been on the second day at the finals site. Individual weight-class national champions would be held in the third week of March.

The cabinet voted to refer the concept back to the Wrestling Committee for additional development. Specifically, the cabinet wants additional feedback on how the proposed championship would affect the current championship, information on the views of the NCAA’s media partner(s), and an analysis of the budget impact related to the championship’s current budget. In addition, the cabinet requested results from a survey of Division I wrestling coaches and input from student-athletes.

 Cabinet reengineering

In addition to considering proposals from sport committees, cabinet members reviewed feedback from their June meeting at which they discussed how to enhance their oversight of Division I/National Collegiate championships.

The cabinet conducted breakout sessions on the following topics:

  • Expectations and accountability for cabinet and sports committee members
  • Championship execution
  • Sport committees
  • Championship experience components
  • Communication and information dissemination

An overriding theme that emerged was improving the communication among the sports committee chairs, cabinet liaisons and NCAA championships managers.

“Those three people in each sport need to have more conversations than we have had in the past,” said Jane Miller, cabinet chair and senior association athletics director for programs at Virginia. “We’ve gone through our processes periodically, and this is a great time to look at what works well and what things we can do better. It boils down to communication.”

Miller and the rest of the cabinet are encouraged by the work they’ve done so far, though she said improving the cabinet’s processes will be an ongoing exercise.

Other highlights

In other action at the cabinet’s Sept. 10-12 meeting, members:

  • Approved a format change in the National Collegiate Men’s Gymnastics Championships that calls for each team to have five competitors perform routines in each event, with all five scores being counted. Previously, teams had six gymnasts perform in each event, but only the top four scores counted in team competition.
  • Approved Villanova as the finals site for the 2013 Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship.