The College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) has selected Cleveland State University to host the 2019 National Invitational Championship (NIC). The NIC was created because a growing number of students have been denied an opportunity to participate in a national-level championship. Since 2005, the number of Division I swimmers and divers (both men and women) has increased by more than 10%.
"As Division I has continued to grow," explained CSCAA Executive Director Joel Shinofield, "the number of postseason opportunities has not. The NIC remedies this."
The 2019 Championship will continue to be the “championship for champions” by providing automatic qualification for all Division I conference champions. Automatic qualification, Shinofield explained, resulted, in part, because of discussions with Division I athletic directors.
“It’s clear that athletic directors place a high value on conference championships and see it as an important gateway to national opportunities,” Shinofield explained. “We believe we’ve created a qualification process that has the best of both worlds - access paired with high-level competition."
It is a format that has resonated with athletic departments with forty-one institutions having already committed to the meet, with the biggest increase occurring among Power 5 institutions. Greg Earhart, Director of Research & Programs anticipates the event filling and suggests teams declare their intent to compete quickly.
In addition to announcing the selection of Cleveland State, the CSCAA announced the introduction of several new events, qualifying standards, and meet innovations.
New Events – Tougher Standards
For 2019, the NIC will be adding 50-yard events for the backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly and the 1000-yard freestyle. With the inclusion of the 100-yard individual medley, the NIC will crown champions in more events (52) than any other collegiate championship.
Along with the addition of eight events, the CSCAA unveiled time standards for the meet. The standards reflect the NCAA’s new and much-faster time standards and increasing popularity of the meet. To date, forty-one programs have declared their intention to compete. That is, according to Greg Earhart, a tenfold increase over this time last year.
Adding Fun & Excitement
In addition to the additions of eight events, the NIC will offer a twist when it conducts the 1000-yard freestyle. Taking a page from NASCAR and bicycle criteriums, the NIC will award points based on swimmers’ positions at the 1000-yard mark. The change is expected to introduce a new element of strategy and excitement into the sport’s longest pool event.
The CSCAA is also seeking to enhance the championship experience for the participants and fans. To do this, they plan on eliminating the use of pre-recorded music before the meet and in between events in favor of a live DJ during the evening finals. Additionally, fans will be asked to help select the swimmers-of-the-meet via social media.
Since its opening in 1973, The Robert F. Busbey Natatorium has been considered one of the fastest short course pools in the country. Many pools constructed since have taken notice of the design and have incorporated several aspects into their own construction. Water depth in the competition end of the pool ranges from 12-16 feet with direct overhead lighting, and wide flow-through gutters.
The natatorium has been the site of championships of all shapes and sizes during its history. These include sixteen national aquatic championships, dozens of college conference championships, the NCAA Championships, Gay Games, US Masters National Championships and Speedo Sectionals.
A Growing History
The 2019 Championship will be the fourth in the event’s history and a result of NCAA legislation that provided an exemption from teams’ declared playing and practice seasons. In 2018 Florida International University captured the women’s title while the United States Naval Academy won the men’s meet. Over 400 student-athletes competed in 2018 with San Jose State’s Colleen Humel and Wright State University’s Mitch Stover earning athlete-of-the-meet honors.
“Winning the CSCAA National Invitational Championship was an honor. Our athletes were thrilled to win a meet on a national stage in the postseason,” said FIU Head Coach Randy Horner. “We can’t wait to go to Cleveland this year and see how the meet grows and defend our NIC Title.”
Navy men’s coach Bill Roberts added, “The CSCAA National Invitational Championship was a terrific meet to be part of. We were honored to host and definitely look forward to seeing this meet continue to grow and develop.”