Hosting challenges prompt joint swim championships in 2009
Men and women swimmers and divers will compete together in a joint Division III championships event next spring, after a lack of potential hosts for the historically separate men’s and women’s championships prompted the sports committee that oversees those events to recommend competing at the same time for 2009 only.
The Division III Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships will be hosted March 18-21 in Minneapolis by Macalester College. The Wednesday-through-Saturday competition is slated for the Dorothy L. Sheppard Pool in the University Aquatic Center at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities -- a Division I facility that hosted the separate Division III men’s and women’s swimming and diving championships in 2006.
The Division III Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Committee is soliciting bids to return to separate championships in 2010, but also will seek reactions about the combined competition from coaches, administrators and conference commissioners following next year’s event.
In recent years, Division III typically has conducted the separate men’s and women’s championships at the same site but in different weeks, with women competing a week earlier than the men. Next year’s combined championships, which still will be scored separately, will be staged during the week in which men would have competed under the usual format.
More than 450 men and women will compete in the championships.
The swimming and diving committee previously has been reluctant to move to a joint championships format because coaches and administrators have indicated mixed feelings about doing so. A 2006 membership survey revealed that nearly 60 percent of the respondents who coach combined men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs favored combining the championships while a relatively small number of respondents who coach only a men’s or women’s team unanimously opposed doing so.
However, a lack of availability of viable sites to host the 2009 men’s and women’s championships separately forced the committee to explore combining the events, and Minnesota and Macalester indicated a willingness to serve as the venue and host, respectively.
The committee -- which decided to proceed with the joint championships during its July 20-22 meeting in Indianapolis, then obtained approval from the Division III Championships Committee and Division III Management Council -- believes the Minneapolis venue will prove inviting for participants, as there are nearby accommodations for competitors and the facility has provided a high-quality experience for student-athletes at previous championships.
Although a separate championships format is planned in 2010, current trends could lead Division III to consider combining competition again in the future.
The 2006 survey indicated that most conferences annually conduct combined men’s and women’s swimming and diving championships, and that the same person serves as coach for both men’s and women’s teams at most Division III institutions sponsoring the sports.
The committee is finding it increasingly difficult to reserve facilities of the quality that have been used in recent championships for a two-week period. However, opponents of combined championships have expressed concern that the unique atmosphere of single-gender championships will be lost and the women’s competition may be overshadowed by men’s events. The question of whether those fears are justified could be answered by the experience of the 2009 competition in Minneapolis.
The four-day format for next spring’s event is similar to that employed by the Division II Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, which have been conducted jointly since 1983. However, the schedule of events likely will not be exactly the same as is used in Division II, and still must be finalized by the committee.
The Division III schedule will be included in the swimming and diving championships handbook, which is expected to be published by November 1. Meanwhile, the NCAA national office is providing general information about the championships to administrators and coaches this week.
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association