Iowa City makes a splash for NCAA Championships


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When the NCAA searches for venues to host the men’s swimming and diving national championships, it considers a variety of factors.

Among them are facilities, campus environment, and the potential to increase exposure to the sport.

The latter is what separates Iowa the most from recent hosts, as the NCAA hopes bringing the championships to a fresh location will lead to an untraditional demographic.

“We wanted to bring one of the top meets in the world to Mid-America,” said USC men’s and women’s head swimming and diving coach Dave Salo, a member of the NCAA swimming and diving committee. “Florida, Texas, and California are typically hotbeds for the sport, but a lot of great swimmers come out of the Midwest as well.”

Texas hosted the championships last season, marking the sixth time in the last 20 years a site in that state has hosted the event.

Other places in the Midwest, such as Indianapolis and Minneapolis, have also frequently hosted the event over the course of the last 20 years.

To NCAA championship manager Mary Berdo, Iowa brings a breath of fresh air to a sport that has recently held its biggest event in many of the same locations year-after-year.

“All of what Iowa has to offer provides a new experience for our student-athletes,” Berdo said. “That’s the most important thing.”

Berdo, a Washington, Iowa, native who played basketball at Iowa from 1996-2001, oversaw the committee but had little to do with the selection process.

Once it was determined the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center met the requirements for hosting, Iowa was one of the obvious choices to host.

“It was built recently and has never hosted,” Berdo said. “The committee loves to see that; they try to reward institutions for investing in their facilities.”

But it’s not just the exceptional facilities Iowa has to offer student-athletes and swimming and diving fans, the campus atmosphere is also an attractive aspect for committee members.

“It’s compact, easy to get around,” Berdo said. “Traffic is not an issue like it might be in bigger cities, where campuses are spread out, and there is no shortage of hotels and restaurants.”

After a successful hosting of the Big Ten championships in 2012, Iowa put itself on the map as a potential site for swimming and diving events for years to come.

“I think this enhances the sport greatly by taking the NCAA brand to a new place,” Iowa assistant director of event management Matthew Getz said.

He expects the championships to be a success because of the facilities, campus, and the general hospitality of Iowans — which together can provide a memorable experience for athletes from around the country and world who otherwise never would have visited Iowa.

It also brings a level of competition in swimming and diving that Iowa has not seen before. Young aspiring swimmers and divers in the area will get a chance to see firsthand the best athletes the sport has to offer.

If all goes as planned, Iowa could be looking at a nice spot in the rotation of hosts the NCAA traditionally travels to for its swimming and diving championships.

For a university that hasn’t hosted and national championship in any sport since wrestling in 2001, it’s an opportunity for leverage with the NCAA. The championships will take place from March 26-28, 2015.

“Once the NCAA sees how well the championships go, it gives us a sort of bargaining chip if we want to host another championship in any sport,” Getz said.

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