A college swimming qualifier? What about this approach for the future?
While the College Football Playoff Committee released its final season ranking last month, four teams were identified as the best in the country and given the opportunity to compete for the domestic championship. It made the mind wonder: if swimming took a similar approach, what would a varsity swim qualifying look like?
What are college football qualifiers?
Developed in 2014, the College Football Playoff is an annual, invitational knockout tournament aimed at determining the national champion of the Football Bowl division. A 13-member committee selects the top 25 teams in the country, with the top four selected to compete in the semifinals of the college football qualifiers. The highest-ranked team play against the fourth-ranked team, and the second- and third-ranked teams face off against each other, with the winners advancing to the title match.
Teams that place between fifth and twelfth place are selected to make a News Years Six / BCS Bowl game, which could be the Peach Bowl, Cotton Bowl Classic, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. On a three-year rotating basis, two of these bowls are used for the CFP semifinals and four are used for teams from fifth to twelfth.
How would a varsity swimming qualifier work?
To create an effective college swimming playoff, the NCAA would need to rewrite the way college swimming works today. There are many factors that make college football work, and many of those factors would apply to the swim qualifiers as well.
Double encounter only
In college football, each team plays once a week. Days may vary, but most are Saturday and all end that night. To create an effective college swimming qualifier, swimming seasons would begin to follow a similar format. Each week, the teams competed in double-meet competitions. As a team begins to rack up wins and losses, the separation of records would be evident. The season schedule would like this:
Weeks 1 to 6: Double meetings
Week 7: Goodbye the week
Weeks 8-13-Double meetings
Week 14: Conference Championships
In a double-meet-only format, Championship matches (as is currently the case) would no longer take place. A conference championship would work by pitting the top two teams in the conference against each other, again in a two-way setup, with the winner declared the conference champion. This format would lead to a more conference-oriented double-meet season. Each team would be required to meet conference opponents for at least 8 of the 12 games, with the remaining four games being reserved for non-conference games.
Along with the requirement of conference confrontations, this leads to the possibility of schools becoming independent, like Notre Dame in football. Being independent, or not attending a power conference, wouldn’t affect a team’s standing in the polls.
In many sports polls are used to rank teams, polls generally don’t matter in any sport except football, and in this new format of swimming polls would become the center of attention. All varsity swimming competitions would be concluded on Saturday night, leaving a committee of members to vote for the top 25 teams.
The polls would be published every Monday evening, in a special poll broadcast on a network such as ESPN. The polls would then help decide how the fixtures will be looked at for the coming week, for example if two of the top 25 teams meet.
Criteria for ranking in the polls include total wins and losses, wins over the top 25 teams, and best overall performances. If a team is able to present a well-balanced double competition, regardless of conference affiliation, this will be taken into consideration before voting for the top 25.
Much like in the college football playoffs, there would be a committee of members who would vote each week for the top 25 swimming teams in the country. This committee would be made up of some of the top former college swimming coaches and current college athletic directors in Division 1. Names like Frank Busch, Jon Urbanchek and David Marsh are all people who could be on the committee.
The committee would also meet weekly to watch the fixtures and vote based on the criteria given for ranking in the polls. Members of this committee would be responsible for maintaining fairness in the rankings by not preventing teams from moving up or down based on personal bias. In this committee, a coach or athletic director associated with a certain school would not be able to comment on where the school they represent or represents should be in the polls.
The bowl meets
The top twelve after the publication of the final poll will be assigned to a bowl meet, each bowl will be awarded to some of the best pools in the country. These pools include Stanford University’s Avery Aquatic Center for the Goggle Bowl. The Freeman Aquatic Center at the University of Minnesota for the Chlorine Bowl. The Greensboro Aquatic Center for the SpeedBowl. The Lee and Joe Jamil Texas Swimming Center, at the University of Texas for the Texan Bowl. The Martin Aquatic Center, at Auburn University for the Gainz Bowl. To complete the six bowl encounters will be the H2O Bowl at the Gabrielsen Natatorium, University of Georgia. In addition, two of these bowl competitions will host the national semi-finals of the top 4 varsity swimming teams in the country. Each bowl meet will be on a three-year rotation like the college football playoffs, so each bowl will host a national semi-final.
While the top twelve teams will compete in the top six bowls, other teams outside of the top twelve will also have the opportunity to participate in a bowls meet. If a varsity team amasses at least 6 wins per season, they will be eligible for bowling. They will not be able to compete in a first bowl, but they will have the opportunity to compete in a small bowl.
The national championship
In an event that would be considered the biggest milestone in college swimming, the National College Swimming Championships would bring together the winners of the National Semifinals in the swimming capital of the United States: Indianapolis. Each National Championship meet will be held at the IUPUI Natatorium, due to the fact that Indiana has such a rich history in swimming and is located in the center of the country. It would be the best place to host teams and fans for the best swimming competition of the year.
What will be different about this competition from other regular season doubles competitions is that a prelims / finals format will be used. Each team will be allowed to enter up to four swimmers per event, with the first six after the preliminaries going to the finals. The same criteria would apply to relays. For individual events, the notation would look like this:
First place-8 points
Second place-5 points
Third place-4 points
Fourth place-3 points
Fifth place-2 points
Sixth place 1 point
For relay events, the score will be doubled. The meeting would start on Friday and end on Saturday afternoon, with the team with the most points named national champion.
The creation of a new competitive approach to varsity swimming opens the doors to a sport that is typically only watched every four years by the general public. This idea makes college swimming much more marketable. College football in America is a tradition and swimming might start to see the same reality. Due to the fact that swimming becomes more marketable in this new format, we may see the birth of new media companies that will help to present the sport to the general public. The ESPN sports television channel has very good ratings every Saturday for its flagship show, College game day. With this new swimming format, we have seen the birth of pre-competition shows related to swimming, such as University meeting day.
Most importantly, this new swimming format will help create a closer relationship between athletes and their teams. Due to the fact that more emotion will be placed on the double encounters, in the fight for the playoffs, it will help to strengthen the bonds between the teammates, as they have to help each other to achieve victories in each meeting.
Would Texas remain at the top of the men’s field, as they have in the current format? Could a regular-season upheaval derail a program’s title hopes, like when Appalachian State knocked Michigan out of the football field years ago. Nothing is off the table in the varsity swimming playoffs.
All comments are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine or its staff.