INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, March 3. THE NCAA's Legislative Review Interpretations Committee (LRIC) has endorsed the organization's recent reinterpretation of Bylaw 126.96.36.199, outlawing competition between college and high school athletes, according to Phil Whitten, Executive Director of the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA). There was no comment by the NCAA.
Whitten conveyed the news, which he termed "very disappointing," in an e–mail letter that went out to all CSCAA members early this morning. Acknowledging that no official statement has yet been made, he stated that, in fact, the LRIC had decided to endorse the rule interpretation it made Dec. 12 without change. Specifically, that college athletes may not compete directly against high school potential prospects in the same heat, flight or pairing. This interpretation, which was suspended through March 26 to allow the NCAA to conduct its championship meets in several sports, goes into effect on March 27, he said. The USA Swimming Spring Nationals begin on March 27.
The NCAA's decision, which Whitten said could "wreak havoc" with the USA's preparation for the 2008 Olympics, was made without any input from swimming coaches or NCAA swimming committee members.
"Clearly this was an interpretation designed to address a recruiting issue in some other sports," Whitten said. "The problem is that it is being applied indiscriminately to all NCAA sports. In some sports, such as swimming and track and field, it makes absolutely no sense and, in fact, creates a problem where none existed before. If ever there were an instance where [NCAA] President [Myles] Brand's suggestion that we need to have sport-specific legislation applied, this is it."
The NCAA has stated that some high-level meets, such as the Olympics, are exempted from the rule.
"What is not clear – and may not even have been decided – is whether other high-level meets, such as the USA Swimming National Championships are exempted as well," Whitten said. "Common sense would seem to dictate that the Nationals, Olympic Trials, World Championships, Pan Pacs, Pan Ams, Maccabiah Games, and so on, should be exempted, but common sense apparently was denied a seat at the table last Thursday."
To deal with the issue, Whitten has placed it on top of the agenda for next Wednesday's coaches meetings, held in advance of the women's NCAA Divisions I and III Championships. NCAA officials will attend both meetings to answer questions.