NCAA Temporarily Suspends Interpretation Prohibiting College Swimmers From Competing Against High School Swimmers

PHOENIX, February 21. THE NCAA suspended implementation of its official staff interpretation of Bylaw yesterday as the U.S. swimming community breathed a sigh of relief. The new interpretation will not be implemented until March 26 – after the NCAA Championships are over.

The news was conveyed last evening in an e-mail from CSCAA Executive Director Phil Whitten to all CSCAA members.

The interpretation prohibits college athletes from competing directly against high school athletes who may be prospective college athletes. Specifically, it outlaws college and high school swimmers from swimming in the same heat. If put into effect, it would necessitate seeding separate heats and finals for high school and college swimmers.

"What we've gotten is a reprieve," Whitten said. "Now it's up to us to educate the NCAA as to why implementation of this interpretation would be a disaster for our sport. We need to convince them that swimming needs an exemption from that interpretation.

Whitten said the issue would be discussed fully at the coaches' meetings at the various NCAA championship meets next month.

The complete text of Whitten's e-mail follows:

Many of you have called or e-mailed me and/or Wayne Burrow regarding an official NCAA reinterpretation last December 12 of the staff interpretation last July 19 of Bylaw, concerning individual sport competition in which college athletes compete directly against high school prospective student-athletes.

The staff interpretation of last July had held that such competition was permissible so long as the event either involved no team scoring, or if there were team scoring, the college team and the outside team were to be scored separately.

The new, official interpretation added an additional provision – that the college athletes could not compete directly against the high school potential prospects in the same heat, flight or pairing.

This interpretation, if allowed to stand, would play havoc with virtually every senior-level USA Swimming meet on the calendar, and it was this provision that sparked the outcry in the swimming community.

I have good, though limited, news.

The NCAA decided today to utilize the July 19 staff interpretation for all meets until March 26. Here is a communication from Brad Hostetter, the NCAA's Director of Membership Services:

"Due to the timing of this official interpretation and the reliance on the 7/19/06 staff interpretation in establishing events, we are not holding events/institutions accountable to the official interpretation until March 26, 2007. This date allows the swimming, skiing and indoor track community to get through their championships and provides a more reasonable time for spring meets to adjust to the official interpretation. Further, there is an outstanding issue that LRIC will likely discuss as it relates to their official interpretation next week. We will follow up with everyone on that issue as it unfolds.

"So, the bottom line … is to tell [coaches] that they are not subject to the 12/12/06 official interpretation until March 26 but that the events must be run in accordance with the 7/19/06 staff interpretation since the events should [have] been established at the time that this interpretation was communicated. Finally, this also means that institutions will not be accountable for turning in violations from this season or declare individuals ineligible and seek reinstatement (until March 26 of course)."

This "stay of execution" in Wayne's words, does not solve the problem. What it does is it gives us the time to meet, to strategize and to educate the NCAA officials as to the reasons why swimming must obtain an exemption from the official interpretation of Bylaw

This will be among the major topics under discussion at our coaches' meetings at the Division I, II and III NCAA Championships. Please plan to attend and have your voice be heard.

Your ideas, arguments, and suggested strategies and tactics are welcome. You can reach me at or by phone at 480-628-5488.


Phil Whitten, Executive Director