NCAA Participation Cap Formula Needs to Be Thrown Out!

PHOENIX, Arizona, May 3. SWIMMING World CEO Brent Rutemiller writes ” NCAA Participation Cap Formula Needs to Be Thrown Out!” in the latest Voice for the Sport, which appears in the May 2012 issue of Swimming World Magazine. The column is reprinted in full below:

It was on the final night of this year's men's NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championships in Federal Way, Wash., when I looked up into the stands and saw empty seats on both sides of the venue. The natatorium seats 2,500. My best guess is that 1,500 spectators were present to watch the crowning moment of what many believe is the most exciting annual competition in our sport.

I could not help but think that I was witnessing the tipping point in what appears to be the devolution of men's NCAA DI swimming. To put it bluntly, it is like watching a bathtub drain. The water level drops inch by inch as more water goes out. It is barely noticeable at first, but when it gets to those last few inches, it begins to swirl faster and faster, pulling other things down with it.

Only 42 men's teams were allowed to compete in the DI championship meet this year versus 64 women's teams. That is a huge disparity. I say “allowed” to compete because participation for the men's meet is capped at 270 athletes versus 322 for the women. The participation cap number is determined by an NCAA formula that is based on the overall number of NCAA athletes in the sport nationally, per gender.

When the NCAA championship committee adds up all the participating athletes, per school, by gender, the overall total determines the number of male and female athletes that will be allowed to participate in the championship meet. The resulting number is called the participation cap.

Once again, it all comes back to the unintended ripple effect of Title IX. Athletic directors are required to balance their institutions with an equal number of male and female participants. As we all know, more and more ADs are cutting male programs or are requiring male swim programs to field smaller teams while asking the female programs to increase their rosters. They rationalize by saying that the number imbalance between the male and female swim teams is needed in order to put the entire athletic department for all sports in balance.

It is wrong when individual institutions make decisions to balance their own departments, and the results of their action affect the entire sport and the quality of the NCAA championship meets on a national level.

As a result, there is no gender equity on the NCAA DI Championship level when 24 fewer men's teams than women's are allowed to participate. The NCAA is a national association of institutions. Shouldn't the same balance apply on a national level?

The NCAA's mission, by definition, is to be “an inclusive culture that fosters equitable (fair) participation for student-athletes….” By limiting the number of male participants on the championship level, is it going against its own mission of being “fair”? More significantly, the NCAA is party to the draining of the male sport by giving ADs more reasons to cut teams–at least 24 teams–that do not succeed in making it to the championship level.

This current NCAA DI participation cap formula for championship meets needs to be thrown out before everyone gets caught in the swirl!

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May 2012 Issue
Contents of the May issue:

8 Women's NCAAs: This Bears Repeating by Jason Marsteller
The University of California Golden Bears won their second straight women's NCAA Division I title – and third in the last four years.
14 Men's NCAAs: No Time Like the Present by John Lohn
The University of California, expected to be in a rebuilding mode after last year's men's title, enjoyed a wire-to-wire victory at the men's NCAA Division I Championships.
19 College Roundup: Rising to the Occasion by Jason Marsteller and Judy Jacob
From down-to-the-wire, one-point team victories to record-breaking streaks, there's nothing like the college national championships for excitement!
22 Lane Lines to London sponsored by Competitor by Jason Marsteller
This month's Olympic regional spotlight features Oceania.
25 2012 Olympic Preview: Open Water by Steven Munatones
The women's and men's 2012 Olympic 10K Marathon Swim will be held in the Serpentine, a 28-acre recreational lake in London's Hyde Park.
26 Olympic Flashback: 1976-84 by Jeff Commings with special contributions by Steve Johnson
27 Defining Moments: Consistently at the Top by Jason Marsteller
Curl-Burke captured its second straight combined team championship at the NCSA Junior Nationals – its fifth title in the last 10 years.
28 Dryside Training: Six Great Medicine Ball Exercises by J.R. Rosania
30 Q&A with Coach Yuri Suguiyama by Michael J. Stott
32 How They Train: Katie Ledecky by Michael J. Stott
34 American Relay by Judy Jacob
35 TYR Age Group Swimmer of the Month

6 A Voice for the Sport
36 For the Record
46 Parting Shot
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