GCU coach uses basketball idea for new nat’l swim meet

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                </div>Can’t get into the post-season?  No problem, just create your own post-season tournament. If you strip it down to its basics, that’s what the head coach for the Grand Canyon […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Can’t get into the post-season?  No problem, just create your own post-season tournament.

If you strip it down to its basics, that’s what the head coach for the Grand Canyon University swimming program is doing.  But, in the process, he has hit on an idea that could really impact college swimming – and has gained early support from a number of other colleges.

Grand Canyon is just beginning the process of making the transition from Division II athletics to Division I.  That will take four years and, while the Antelopes are going through the transition, they are not eligible for the NCAA Championships when the regular season concludes.

So for the past few years, when Steve Schaffer first learned the small university in west Phoenix was considering a move to D-I, he began thinking about ways to provide his program with some sort of post-season competition.

He found the answer in basketball and football.

In a letter last week to member schools of the College Swim Coaches Association of America (CSCAA), he outlined his idea for an alternate post-season event to the NCAA Championships and explained: “In thinking about a possible solution, I looked at the NIT Basketball Tournament and non-BCS football bowl games as analogous opportunities in other sports for what I was looking to have for college swimming.

“Just like the NIT (National Invitation Tournament) provides a postseason showcase for the college basketball teams which aspire to make it to the NCAA Tournament, we could have a postseason meet that was for swimmers and teams aspiring to make it to the DI championships.”

That idea has become the CSCAA Collegiate Invitational and has already set a date and a location.  The new event will be held March 23-25 at the Rockwall ISD Aquatics Facility, located about 25 miles northwest of Dallas, Texas.  Schaffer felt a “high-class facility” was needed to host the event and he says that Rockwall, which was built in 2009, is one of the top swimming and diving facilities in the state.

The March dates were carefully selected to avoid any conflict with the NCAA tournaments, nestled in between the D-I women’s and men’s events.  And that way the new event wouldn’t extend the season past the D-I men’s meet.

NCAA rules will govern the new meet and only NCAA teams will be invited. Schaffer sees it as a way for D-I programs, or those in the transition process to D-I, to showcase their programs with swimmers who have Division I B cuts.  He says it would give the swimmers on the qualification bubble an opportunity to race at the end of March in a top venue.

He points out that this new national event has the potential to serve a large number of Division I schools, noting that only 37.8 percent of all D-I women’s programs and 38.1 percent of all D-I men’s programs placed at least one swimmer in the NCAA meet.

His letter to the CSCAA membership, inviting their teams to the new event, hasn’t had time for much response yet, but there has already been reported interest from Western Kentucky, Indiana University-Pudue University Indianapolis, Texas Christian, UNC-Wilmington, Duquesne, and Arkansas-Little Rock.

That’s in addition to Rice University and Incarnate Word, two schools that worked with Schaffer in putting together the event.  Incarnate Word is a D-II school that, like GCU, is transitioning to a D-I program.

Schaffer says the new event “will benefit schools that are trying to move their swimmers/programs to the next level.”

Oh yeah, it will also give his program some place to go, for the next four years, after the regular season ends.  That’s generally what you call a win-win situation.

And all it took was a couple years to build a new national event.

(Photo: GCU Athletics)