While there are only a handful of swim meets going on this week, as most teams have hunkered down into their winter training, college football is deep in the mire of 43 college football bowl games: usually-competitive matchups between teams with the best records at the top level of NCAA Division I football.
The 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship will take place on Monday, January 9.
That includes the three games that make up the College Football Playoff – the national championship of the Football Bowl Subdivision of college football (albeit not a formal NCAA Championship event).
A reader, coach Greg Temple noticed something interesting about Saturday night’s semifinal games: for the second-straight season, all four participating teams in the College Football Playoff sponsor both men’s and women’s swimming & diving programs.
In the first seven seasons of the CFP, there was never a year where all participating schools sponsored varsity swimming & diving programs (let alone both men’s and women’s programs). Top-tier football schools like Clemson, Oklahoma, and Oregon disrupted those patterns in the early years of the CFP.
College Football Playoff/Swimming History
A few interesting things stand out here. One is that none of the 59 schools that sponsor only a women’s swimming program have ever qualified for the College Football Playoff.
In general, a higher-than-average number of CFP teams (24/36) sponsor both men’s and women’s swimming & diving teams. With such a small sample size, as well as a connection between teams making the CFP in multiple years, it’s hard to make any broad-sweeping conclusions.
But it does, in one way, make sense that schools with robust Olympic sports programs, including swimming & diving, would do well in football. Maintaining Olympic sports programs, rather than reducing departments to the minimum to comply with NCAA and Title IX regulations, implies a financial health that also can drive success in major sports like football and basketball.
Sometimes that’s a result of quality management by the athletics department; sometimes, that’s a result of lots of activity by a few high net worth donors, or lots of activity from large student bodies.
Every team on this list did sponsor both men’s and women’s swimming programs at some point or another. Oklahoma dropped swimming in 1985, blaming, in part, the lost revenue from having only five home football games for a stretch in the 1980s.
The Oregon swimming team (along with gymnastics) was cut by Bill Byrne a year later in 1986, who blamed an NCAA “major college” requirement to add men’s and women’s indoor track & field and women’s golf programs. Byrne went on to work as AD at both Nebraska and Texas A&M, schools that have swimming & diving programs.
Washington cut its swimming & diving programs in 2009 (after threatening to cut them in 2000), and Clemson dropped swimming in 2011 and their women’s diving program in 2017.
|Team 1||Team 2||Team 3||Team 4|
|2014-2015||Alabama (M&W)||Oregon (No Swim)||Florida State (M&W)||Ohio State (M&W)|
|2015-2016||Clemson (No Swim)||Alabama (M&W)||Michigan State (M&W, since cut)||Oklahoma (No Swim)|
|2016-2017||Alabama (M&W)||Clemson (No Swim)||Ohio State (M&W)||Washington (No Swim)|
|2017-2018||Clemson (No Swim)||Oklahoma (No Swim)||Georgia (M&W)||Alabama (M&W)|
|2018-2019||Alabama (M&W)||Clemson (No Swim)||Notre Dame (M&W)||Oklahoma (No Swim)|
|2019-2020||LSU (M&W)||Ohio State (M&W)||Clemson (No Swim)||Oklahoma (No Swim)|
|2020-2021||Alabama (M&W)||Clemson (No Swim)||Ohio State (M&W)||Notre Dame (M&W)|
|2021-2022||Alabama (M&W)||Michigan (M&W)||Georgia (M&W)||Cincinnati (M&W)|
|2022-2023||Georgia (M&W)||Michigan (M&W)||TCU (M&W)||Ohio State (M&W)|
2022-2023 Bowl Games and Swimming/Diving
The FBS bowl system at large is fairly representative of swimming sponsorship as well. 3o out of 82 teams participating, about 36.6%, sponsor men’s swimming. That’s compared to 37.4% of schools across Division I athletics (based on 2020-2021 official sport sponsorship data from the NCAA).
FBS bowl teams do slightly better in women’s swimming: 64.6% of them sponsor a women’s swimming program, as compared to just 54.3% of total NCAA Division I institutions.
|Bowl||Team #1||Men’s Swimming?||Women’s Swimming?||Team #2||Men’s Swimming|
|Sugar Bowl||Alabama||Yes||Yes||Kansas State||No||No|
|Fiesta Bowl (Semifinal)||TCU||Yes||Yes||Michigan||Yes||Yes|
|Peach Bowl||Georgia||Yes||Yes||Ohio State||Yes||Yes|
|Cotton Bowl Classic||Tulane||No||Yes||USC||Yes||Yes|
|Rose Bowl||Penn State||Yes||Yes||Utah||Yes||Yes|
|Bahamas Bowl||UAB||No||No||Miami (OH)||Yes||Yes|
|Las Vegas Bowl||Oregon State||No||No||Florida||Yes||Yes|
|LA Bowl||Fresno State||No||Yes||Washington State||No||Yes|
|Lending Tree Bowl||Southern Miss||No||No||Rice||No||Yes|
|New Mexico Bowl||BYU||Yes||Yes||SMU||Yes||Yes|
|Frisco Bowl||Boise State||No||No||North Texas||No||Yes|
|Myrtle Beach Bowl||Marshall||No||Yes||UConn||No||Yes|
|Famous Idaho Potato Bowl||Eastern Michigan||No||Yes||San Jose State||No||Yes|
|Boca Raton Bowl||Toledo||No||Yes||Liberty||No||Yes|
|New Orleans Bowl||Western Kentucky||No||No||South Alabama||No||No|
|Armed Forces Bowl||Air Force||Yes||Yes||Baylor||No||No|
|Gasparilla Bowl||Wake Forest||No||No||Missouri||Yes||Yes|
|Hawaii Bowl||Middle Tennessee State||No||No||San Diego State||No||Yes|
|Quick Lane Bowl||New Mexico State||No||Yes||Bowling Green||No||Yes|
|Camellia Bowl||Buffalo||No||Yes||Georgia Southern||No||Yes|
|First Responder Bowl||Memphis||No||No||Utah State||No||No|
|Birmingham Bowl||East Carolina||No||Yes||Coastal Carolina||No||No|
|Guaranteed Rate Bowl||Wisconsin||Yes||Yes||Oklahoma State||No||No|
|Holiday Bowl||Oregon State||No||No||North Carolina||Yes||Yes|
|Texas Bowl||Texas Tech||No||No||Ole Miss||No||No|
|Cheez It Bowl||Florida State||Yes||Yes||Oklahoma||No||No|
|Duke’s Mayo Bowl||Maryland||No||No||NC State||Yes||Yes|
|Gator Bowl||Notre Dame||Yes||Yes||South Carolina||Yes||Yes|
|Music City Bowl||Illinois||No||Yes||Mississippi State||No||No|