The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Committee at its recent annual meeting recommended a “no recall false start” proposal that would go into effect for the 2011-12 season.

The change, as with all playing rules proposals, must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which meets via conference call Wednesday.

The no recall false start rule means that unless a false start is blatant, the race would be allowed to continue and the student-athlete committing the false start would be disqualified after the event is finished. The false start must still have dual confirmation from the starter and the referee.

This rule is already in effect for international, national and high school swimming events. Previously, NCAA swimmers had to return to the starting blocks when false starts occurred.

“It’s in the best interests of everyone to let the race continue,” said NCAA Swimming and Diving Secretary-Rules Editor Brian Gordon, senior associate athletics director at St. Rose.

Disqualifications have been infrequent at the international level since this rule was put in place. People are used to getting down and holding their start.”

The committee has discussed the change before, but it never gained enough traction to be recommended. Recent survey results from NCAA coaches indicated support, though.

“Coaches are finding that the athletes they are recruiting are accustomed to this rule,” Gordon said. “In fact, it was more of a change for the student-athletes to get used to the (previous) NCAA rule.”

Swimsuit Penalties

In addition to the change in false starts, the committee also agreed that any swimmer found wearing an illegal swimsuit will be disqualified from that event. The disqualified swimmer will be allowed to compete in another event in a dual meet or on another day in a multiple-day meet, so long as he or she wears a swimsuit that complies with NCAA regulations. 

In 2009, the committee placed restrictions on high-tech swimsuits for collegiate competition. Suits cannot extend past the knee; men’s suits must stop at the waist, and women’s at the shoulder. Materials must be completely permeable to air and water and be no more than 0.8 millimeters thick.

Committee members also recommended that a track-style starting block with wedges be allowed for collegiate competition. These starting blocks, which will not be required but will be allowed, began appearing about two years ago. Research in this area shows that there is no significant advantage to using this style of starting block.

“I would imagine that they will become more commonplace in the next three to five years,” Gordon said. “This is a way of keeping up with the times.”

The committee also recommended allowing swimmers to wear tape during competition if the referee determines it does not give the participant a competitive advantage. Before the start of the competition, the referee must receive a letter from a certified athletic trainer or doctor stating that the tape is being worn for a documented medical purpose.

There was a concern in the swimming community that some tapes with elasticity were being worn to gain an advantage.

“Hopefully, this allows student-athletes who wouldn’t otherwise be able to compete in an event to be able to do so,” Gordon said.