The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel on Wednesday approved synchronized diving to be an optional event in non-championship and invitational meets starting in the 2015-16 academic year.

If the teams in a dual-, tri- or quad-meet agree to have a synchronized diving event, it can replace either the 1-meter or 3-meter diving events -- or both. In invitational meets, synchronized swimming can replace any springboard or platform diving event.

The use of synchronized diving must be mutually agreed to by all the coaches involved in the meet or invitational.

A synchronized diving competition will consist of five dives from each same-gendered pair, and a minimum of three diving judges must be used.

Backstroke starting blocks

The panel also approved making the use of backstroke starting blocks permissible for next season.

The devices have already been developed by manufacturers and the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Committee wanted to allow swimming programs the choice to use them. The backstroke starting blocks are designed to help prevent competitors from slipping at the start of their races.

Fast finish

The panel also approved a rule allowing conferences to add the 100-yard individual medley to championship competition. It is not required.

The event will follow the 1,650-yard freestyle competition on the final day of the meet. The race is commonly held as the last event of international meets.

Other approved rules changes include:

• After the turn in breaststroke races, swimmers will be allowed to do a single butterfly kick before their first breaststroke kick.
• For all starts involving deaf or hearing-impaired swimmers, a strobe light should be positioned so swimmers can view it.