April 30, 2010

By Gary Brown
The NCAA News

The Division III Championships Committee has approved the Allan Jones Aquatic Center at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as the site for the 2011 Division III Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships.

 

Beloit College and the College of Wooster will host the national meet March 23-26, 2011.

The meet is one week later than usual, which was necessary to secure the site. The combined men’s and women’s format for the Division III meet (which went into effect two years ago) has resulted in it being the largest NCAA swimming and diving meet, which limits the number of facilities that are capable of hosting such an event.

Once the Division III Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Committee secured a bid from Tennessee, arrangements were made to move the meet back one week because of facility availability.

Accordingly, the Championships Committee approved a swimming committee recommendation to maintain the current qualification deadlines, even though the meet will be held a week later than normal. That means the traditional end of the qualifying window and allowable dates for last-chance meets will remain intact.

The swimming committee noted that the date change will affect only a small percentage of the swimming population by adding one week of training for those selected to the championships. In addition, student-athletes not selected can be released for the season once selections are announced.

Committee members reasoned that maintaining the current qualification dates will allow more time for championships travel planning and likely result in a travel cost savings. Institutions that wish to participate in last-chance meets will continue to plan for participation accordingly and in compliance with NCAA Bylaw 17.

Swimming committee chair Tom Till, the men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach at Goucher College, said the committee’s intention is not to increase the length of the playing season for all sponsoring institutions, but rather to provide the best championships experience possible for those student-athletes that are selected.

“The venue is at the heart of the championships experience for participating student-athletes and, in the estimation of the committee, a high-quality facility outweighs the consequences of moving the dates of competition,” he said.

The committee also examined the impact the date change would have on institutions and conference schedules. Members found that of the 23 conferences that sponsor swimming and diving, 11 hold conference championships at a conference member facility and would have little issue in changing the dates if they so desired. In addition, the committee found potential advantages to having an additional week for those student-athletes that qualify for the national championships (for example, longer lead time to establish championships travel and logistical plans).

“Many people assumed that they would have an extra week to qualify, but the committee didn’t want to string along those would-be cuts any longer or prolong the season, other than for those actually involved in the championship meet,” Till said. “Also, we understood that most institutions and conferences had already solidified their 2011 schedules. To keep that as fair as possible, we decided to maintain the same selection dates. So the only thing that is a week later is the training time for those who have been selected for the meet.”

The selection date for the 2011 championships is Sunday, February 27.

The site selection for 2011 continues a trend for the Division III championships to be conducted in Division I facilities designed to host premier swimming and diving events, thus giving Division III student-athletes an exceptional championship experience. Minnesota, Houston and Miami (Ohio) have hosted the Division III men’s and women’s meets in recent years.

Tennessee opened its Allan Jones Aquatic Center in 2008. The state-of-the-art facility has an eight-lane, 50-meter-by-25-yard competition pool, with a depth of 10 feet from end to end. The facility has a separate competition diving well that features three one- and three-meter springboards. Permanent seating accommodates 1,800 spectators with a deck area for up to 2,000 additional individuals, teams and other personnel.

“The facility at Tennessee is phenomenal and certainly capable of handling this championship meet,” Till said.

Till also noted interest from other premier facilities for future events, given the size and attractiveness now of the Division III championships meet.

“As the joint swimming and diving championship continues to evolve, the committee sees an opportunity to secure high-quality facilities,” he said. “We are now the biggest NCAA meet, and with the combined format requiring a facility for one week instead of two, we are suddenly a hot commodity, more so than we were previously.”

The swimming committee is close to securing sites for 2012, 2013 and 2014. Members have said that it may be necessary to adopt the one-week-later date formula for one or more of these events, but that the goal is to secure a venue that can accommodate the traditional third-week-of-March formula.