Are the ‘B’ Cuts Too Fast?? – Part I

Chris and Jake will discuss this item back and forth to make their case. You can decide for yourself who won and who lost.

Josh: Hey Guys, are the B cuts too fast now?

Jake: I, for one, think the individual ‘B’ cut times are too fast.  We can talk about relays later if we want to but the bottom line with the relays is we’re going to have 16 schools get a B cut in every event.  It’s going to happen so don’t even bother worrying about it.  The schools that we just off the mark in those relays in years past now have extra incentive to be talking about those relays with more seriousness than years past and more incentive to put time trials together to shave off those last few hundredths.

It’s the individual ‘B’ cuts that seem a touch quick to me and for two reasons.  The biggest reason for has nothing to do with the pool and everything to do with the classroom.  I look at d3 sports as athletics in the purest form.  A place where your love and passion for the sport outweigh any other reason for doing it.  I hear the phrase “student-athlete” thrown around an awful lot and at every level of intercollegiate athletics.  Fortunately we’re in a sport where we miss very little class, tend to have very committed students competing and young men and women that go on to do great things beyond their four years of racing.  This whole “student-athlete” has become a popular phrase that commentators of revenue sports like to throw around.

Do you have any idea how much actual class time big time college basketball players miss?  A season that extends almost as long as ours with games on weekdays nearly every week of the season, traveling hours upon end only to follow it up with season end tournaments that last days at a time.  Then we get into March Madness (please let me note how appreciative I am of March Madness as about 1% of their TV contract pays for our championships) where a team making a run at a national championship misses essentially 3 straight weeks of school.  My problem is in the classroom and the group that defines what d3 athletics is all about now having less of an opportunity to be recognized as an Academic All-American or Academic AAHM.  Looking back and being able to reflect on the “bigger picture” and what it’s all about, why we went d3 and what division 3 athletics should represent.

Now we haven’t had the luxury of sending huge teams to the National Championships here at Olivet.  Hopefully one day that will change.  But right now when I look back and reflect on my first three years here as a Head Coach I can outline a few things that I am incredibly proud of.  And the first two that come to mind have nothing to do with how fast someone swam.  My first year here our women’s team GPA ranked 2nd in the country, I believe it was Brad Shively’s crew from WashU that ranked 1st.  And the second was last year at the NCAA Championships when our junior backstroker received the Elite 88 award, recognizing the highest cumulative GPA among the participants.  A couple of great accomplishments that exemplify what d3 athletics are all about.  Where these ‘B’ cuts begin to interfere are the Caitlin Lohr’s and the Mike Harden’s of the world.  Two sprinters here at Olivet that earned Academic AAHM recognition because of their GPA and the fact that they had posted ‘B’ cut times during the 2009-2010 season.  Neither Caitlin nor Mike were invited to the National Championships last year and I mentioned them specifically because the 24.21 Caitlin went in her 50 last year and Mike’s 21.04 from a season ago are no longer provisional cuts.  If these cuts were in place last year two great student athletes that achieve at an incredibly high level both in the classroom and in the pool would not have been recognized.  I have a hard time with that.  And if this simple change could have that much of a potential impact on the program here at Olivet, I can only imagine its significance nation wide.

We can get to the second reason later…

Chris: The first and most important fact you need to know is that the NCAA’s financial resources are limited.  Money is needed for the meet, but also travel, lodging, and a food budget for each athlete.  Thus, the total number of athletes invited is limited.  For that reason, I must point out a very important truth, qualifying times need only be at a point where there are more athletes getting cuts than will be invited.

I counted the number of swims (including both prelims and finals) in each event from last year’s national meet that were equal to or under the current qualifying cuts.  I did not include relays because the NCAA has moved to the top 16 relays qualify.  I also did not include diving because to get invited it requires getting the same cut multiple times and a video, which is much more subjective.

The women’s results show that on average 9 swimmers were under the current A-cut and 27 were under the B-cut.  For the men, there was an average of 7 swimmers under the current A-cut and 24 under the B-cut.  Those numbers are not surprising because there are more women invited to the meet every year.

Usually for each individual event 18-22 athletes are invited (with that number usually closer to 18 than 22).  Considering those numbers, how many B-cuts should we be looking for?  I think it’s a guarantee that there will be many more B-cuts than individuals invited because Division III swimming gets faster every year.  In addition, there were enough swims last year to be under the new cuts not to mention with the new relay rule there should be even more swims coming from relay invited swimmers than any year before.

Based on these facts and numbers, current qualifying times are not too fast—they are in fact a great cut-off point.  Remember, it’s not about the cuts, it’s about the invites, and the managers of the meet must be wary of the probable swell of relay invited swimmers.

To be continued…

Chris Hamstra is the head coach of Alma College and Jake Taber is the head coach of Olivet College, both coming from the MIAA. Their arguments will be a regular segment of D3Swimming.com and we look forward to their submissions. If you have any suggestions for future topics, or comments on this topic, please comment below.

3 thoughts on “Are the ‘B’ Cuts Too Fast?? – Part I”

  1. I will side with Chris on this one. I feel that the cuts represent the overall talent that is in D3. I would point to the super suit year and all the records that people said would not be broke anytime soon and yet here we are with several conference and national records set the very next year.
    So my question back is do you want to swim and compete for Greatness or tread water in mediocrity?

    Please don’t misunderstand me that the above two athletes will be left behind if they don’t have time drops and they will not hold the same AA or AAH status but I don’t think the formula for the cuts looks at who will miss out. I believe NCAA uses factual data to set the cuts. Said athletes will have to work towards a new goal, is that really so bad….I don’t think so and I think it would help your program if they achieved it both ways it would show progress to you’re administration and recruits that you do your job well.

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  2. Can swimmers achieve All-American honorable mention status by getting a B relay cut and 3.5 GPA? If so, I’d say the biggest argument against the faster cuts is the relay times — not because there won’t be 16 relays but because fewer teams will get B cuts and have swimmers eligible for AAH status. If there is a statistical formula for B cuts, I don’t see how that formula was applied to relays given previous years’ times for the relays. I agree that AAH status is an excellent motivator and that it also should not be diluted but I don’t see how a B relay cut that might only bring in 17-18 relays in some events is appropriate. The B relay cut times seem to serve no purpose other than AAH status since members of the 17th ranked relay can’t use that B status for anything relevant to nationals (as far as I know). But they can use it for AAH status (I think). So I’d like to see additional swimmers have a shot at AAH through B relay cuts than under the current system.

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