Today the coaches at the USTFCCCA convention in San Antonio voted 221-169 in favor of swapping the 1500 for the mile. The vote is still subject to NCAA approval.
The proposal to change the 1500 to the mile is a recommendation for consideration to the NCAA Division I Sport Committee.— USTFCCCA (@USTFCCCA) December 18, 2015
Today's vote will now head off for approval by the NCAA Track and Field/ Cross Country Rules Committee, which does not meet until this upcoming summer. This means that a formal switch to the mile definitely will not take place in 2016. But it could be coming as soon as 2017.
Â“It will not go in place this year. It has to go through NCAA process. It could, depending on actions taken by the appropriate committees in the NCAA be instituted for next year,Â” USTFCCCA CEO Sam Seemes said. Seemes notes that the proposal will also have to wind through the NCAA Division 1 Track and Field/ Cross Country Sport Committee.
Â“The first indication of whether youÂ’ll see the mile be a primary event for 2017, youÂ’ll probably see that mid- to late-summer because thatÂ’s when those committees meet," said Seemes.
He offered no estimation on whether or not today's vote means for sure that the switch from the 1500 to the mile is likely to happen, saying that, "it would be a total guess." However, Seemes says, "I think that the fact that the coaches supported it strongly is a big factor of the chances of it moving forward."
He cites the coaches support of last year's change of competition days split between the genders as an example of the Sport Committee moving quickly on a vote like the one passed today in San Antonio.
Yesterday I wrote that I didnÂ’t think the voters at the annual convention would swap out the 1500 Â—the metric mile used for all international competitionÂ— for the mile since the IAAF doesnÂ’t accept mile times for Olympic qualifying purposes. But with the change being implemented at the earliest in 2017, this wouldn't be an issue until 2020, and by that point the IAAF may take mile times for OG qualification since they started accepting them for the World Championships in 2015. And as Seemes points out, the number of athletes at the NCAA level that this would affect (since only 3 athletes have hit the IAAF standard in the 1500 during NCAA competition since 2010) is so small that it isn't a huge factor in the change.
"YouÂ’re talking about a minute number it would affect even if it never went through. I think that it's such a small number that it's inconsequential."
This entire effort was spearheaded by Southern Utah head coach Eric Houle, who laid out the proposal for an NCAA Outdoor return to a distance that America recognizes and can relate to. Houle cited Â“a decline in interest in Track and Field over the last 30-40 years,Â” as the primary reason to make the change after 40 years with the 1500.
Â“Everyone has run a mile, for time, at some point in their life,Â” Houle wrote ahead of todayÂ’s vote.
Seemes echoed a similar sentiment: "there has a been a feeling that the mile is something that the American public can relate to more than the 1500 meters. Just from a marketing standpoint, from an understanding the sport standpoint, I think that was one side of it.Â”
The tally was 221-169 in favor of the mile, with 17 voters abstaining. Back in 2011 when this topic was brought to the table by Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry, the count was 47-214 with 8 abstentions according to BBTM. The point of contention four years ago was that the mile was not being accepted by the IAAF for World Championship qualification, but that changed in 2015 with the governing body allowing mile times for the first time.
The mile is also taken as a qualifier for the U.S. Olympic Trials, but it is not for the Olympic Games, which is why I wrote that opinion yesterday. But it passed, and now the NCAA Outdoor Championships could soon join its indoor counterpart by contesting the mile. But it's not all high-fives and back slaps to everyone.
Some aren't exactly loving the idea of a switch away from the 1500.
Syracuse All-American Justyn Knight, who is Canadian, wondered why the NCAA would move away from a distance that is raced internationally:
Why make it a mile when the rest of the world is preparing for the 1500m at World competitions.— Justyn Knight (@justyn_knight) December 18, 2015
Two-time NCAA 1500 champion and current Nike pro Mac Fleet also wasn't loving a possible return to the mile, as he jokingly tweeted this response:
May as well change the other events to US system of measurement too. Half mile, 3 mile, 6 mile. That'll bring more fans in for sure.— Mac Fleet (@macfleet1) December 18, 2015
Former Dartmouth star Ben True, who represented Team USA at this summer's IAAF World Championships and runs professionally for Saucony, clearly doesn't agree with the concept that the mile is a productive switch for the NCAA:
2015 NCAA 1500 champion Chad Noelle of Oklahoma State shared a similar line of thinking to what I presented yesterday:
The Trials and Worlds accept mile conversions but Olympics don't, correct? That could be a problem for American milers trying to qualify.— Chad Noelle (@ChadNoelle) December 18, 2015
Admittedly, it would be odd for the NCAA to race a separate distance from the standard 1500 used for international (and national) competition. While any attempt to make the sport more attractive for the masses is undoubtably a direction to support, I'm not clear how much, if at all, a switch to the mile will accomplish this goal. The mile certainly is more widespread and known across the U.S. than the 1500, there's no debate there, but it also makes sense to stay at the distance that is raced in the Olympics and World Championships despite any potential gains of an audience. Plus, as shown above, several athletes are against the change, showing just how divisive this issue could become.