'One-time expansion': Coaches want NCAA to create an extra spot for Lia Thomas at national championships

The College Swimming Coaches Association urged the NCAA to adopt changes to qualifying for the national championship to provide accommodations for transgender swimming Lia Thomas.

The change would add one additional slot to prevent a biological female from losing a participation spot from Thomas.

The College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) is pressing the NCAA to add an additional slot ahead of its national championship slated for March.

The proposed initiative to expand the participation cap is designed to manipulate a playing field that gives a spot to transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas in the female division while keeping the same number of biological women in the competition, The Washington Times reports.

The CSAA tweeted the announcement Jan. 20, citing the number of women in the competition as a concern. 

The proposed change for a “one-time expansion” of the slot numbers follows the NCAA Board of Governors’ Jan. 19 decision to adopt a “sport-by-sport” approach for setting policies on transgender athletes’ competition eligibility. 

Accordingly, the CSCAA announcement condemned the actions of the NCAA and accuse the organization of “abdicat[ing] leadership.”

“The NCAA’s previous policy on transgender participation, while pioneering, was outdated and yesterday’s decision is a missed opportunity to lead this important discussion,” the statement said. “We call on the NCAA to engage with its members, community leaders, medical and mental health professionals, and NGB’s to craft a solution that embraces inclusivity while also ensuring a level playing field.” 

In addition to the proposal, the CSCAA affirmed its support of Thomas, stating:

“The CSCAA stands with the Ivy League, the University of Pennsylvania, and Penn Athletics in support of Lia Thomas’ right to compete. We further condemn the hatred that has been directed at Ms. Thomas and feel it has no place in the sport of swimming and diving.”

Thomas made a splash in competitive swimming in transitioning to the women’s team after competing for three years in the men’s bracket. Controversy rocked the waves of collegiate sports after Thomas dominated the competition at a December meet, setting two records in the 200-meter freestyle and 500-meter freestyle events. 

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Recently, the swimmer has come under fire after accusations of colluding with another transgender athlete at a Jan. 8 meet to deliberately throw the race. 

The conflict has sparked protests from athletes and professionals across the field. 

Former University of Southern California Head Coach David Salo expressed his dissent to the conflict on Twitter, responding to the CSCAA:

“Stop suggesting an opposing view to this issue is hated, bigotry, or some kind of homophobia. We need to protect women athletes and Women’s sports. Decades of advancement for women athletes is at risk.”

Salo told Campus Reform that the policy ignores that three female swimmers will still be impacted during the championship should Thomas advance to the final.

”Should Lia Thomas qualify to swim in the championship final and win any of those events, the woman displaced from the rightful win, the woman displaced from the championship final and the woman displaced from the consolation final are each negatively impacted- unfairly.”

Salo continued to address how the controversy regarding transgender athletes participating in women’s sports.

”Frankly, in support of women’s athletics, biology at birth should dictate the rules of competition. Transgender athletes should, by all means, have the right to participate in sport and compete, but not at the expense of birthright women Designated “Open” competitions might be the solution.”

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USA Swimming referee Cynthia Millen resigned from her position due to the direction the sport is pursuing. UPenn swimmers considered a boycott of the final home meet, but hesitated due to “fear that it would keep them out of the Ivy League championship.”

Additionally, Campus Reform spoke with a number of female athletes who summed up the situation as being “unfair.”

“In general, the top percentage of times are faster for male swimmers than female swimmers,” Saint Louis University swimmer Ingrid Rosko told Campus Reform. “There are exceptions to that rule, but there is a physiological difference there that can be seen in the overall performance of athletes.”

The women’s championship meet is scheduled to take place in Atlanta, Georgia, between March 16-19. The men’s division is set to follow the following week.

Currently, there are 281 qualifying spots designated for the women’s division individual women’s events that will be filled based on “A” standard times and event-by-event selection.

Campus Reform reached out to the CSCAA, the NCAA, and Salo for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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