The Mile and the NCAA: A Major Opportunity
USTFCCCA Convention this week in San Antonio votes on the Mile being run again at the NCAA Outdoor Championships
By Bring Back the Mile
December 18 update: The USTFCCCA coaches voted in favor of the proposal to run the Mile at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships 221-169 with 17 abstaining. THANK YOU! Next up the NCAA...
Since we launched our campaign in 2012, we have succeeded in raising the profile of the Mile in the United States and around the world, however, there exist major opportunities for the Mile to play a more impactful, engaging role in growing our sport amongst the hard core fans and the general public alike. A major opportunity is in play this week in San Antonio, TX as the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) vote on a proposal to race the Mile at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. The proposal was put forth by Coach Eric Houle of Southern Utah University (SUU) who experienced first hand the power of the Mile in 2010 when star athlete Cam Levins (CAN) broke 4 minutes in the Mile, a first for SUU, that produced a major media story for the school.
Coach Houle wasn't the first to bring this to a vote however. In December 2011, just prior to the launch of Bring Back the Mile, Coach Pat Henry of Texas A&M, one of the most decorated coaches in the NCAA coming off of Men's & Women's NCAA Outdoor Championship titles, also put forth a similar proposal. Unfortunately, it was defeated by a wide margin with one of the major arguments against doing so was the fact that the IAAF did not accept Mile times as qualifiers for World Championships (outdoors). As you'll learn below, not only is that not an issue to begin with, the IAAF, in 2015, recognized the Mile as a qualifying distance for the World Championship 1500m outdoor event.
The Mile will not "save" Track & Field, but this simple, low cost change will certainly generate and boost exposure, coverage and engagement for the sport across the country. The Mile can make a positive difference and create a foundation to welcome fans back to our beloved sport. NCAA coaches have an opportunity to do the right, best thing and push this proposal through. Below are many of the reasons why they should vote yes.
The Mile & America
There is no doubt that the Mile is one of the most important events in the U.S. for the sport, the media and the general public. We began Bring Back the Mile with the insight that the 1500m is essentially only covered in the U.S. during national championships and especially during the Olympics, yet the Mile continues to appear regularly in articles across the country throughout any given year and for all levels of competition (high school, collegiate and professional). In short, Americans "get" the Mile not the 1500.
Why the Mile and the NCAA?
The Mile has been a 1500 meter qualifier for recent U.S. Olympic Trials and USA Outdoor Championships.
The Mile, for the first time, became an official 1500m qualifier for the 2015 IAAF World Championships (outdoors).
The return of the Mile for the men and first women’s NCAA Outdoor Championships Mile race would add to the media and sport's interest and coverage: The last outdoor NCAA Mile champion was Eamonn Coghlan (Villanova), 4:00.06, in 1975, while the NCAA has not contested a women’s outdoor Mile championship race.
Professionally, prize money available to athletes for just the Mile has increased from under $139,000 in 2012 to over $364,000 in 2015 or 2.6 x more money available for Milers. This is one of the unique events in the sport professionally outside distance road running (5K - Marathon) that continues to grow in prize money and sponsorship dollars, a good sign for post-collegiate Milers.
The Mile continues to be run at many major international meets, including 4 IAAF Diamond League meetings. The same is true at many major High School invitationals/races such as Arcadia and adidas Grand Prix.
- Since 2012 there have been 88 U.S. athletes that have broken 4 minutes in the Mile for the first time (average of 22 a year) and 53 or 60% of those were collegiate athletes. Many of these first-timers received unique media sub-4 mentions in the local newspaper and/or collegiate team website, while the equivalent 1500m time (3:42) would not garner any attention or mention unless a school record.
BBTM Interview April 2015
But there was nothing more talked about in Fayetteville during those two days of the national championships than the fact that nine people ran under 4 minutes in the semifinal at a collegiate championship to make the final of the Mile. So I think there is some substance to that alone. There wasn’t anyone in that building who didn’t understand what just went after those two semifinals. - USTFCCCA Chief Executive Officer Sam Seemes
The 1500m & the NCAA
Since 2010, no woman has hit any IAAF World Championship or Olympic standard in NCAA competition.
- Since 2010, only three men have hit IAAF World Championship or Olympic standards in NCAA competition.
The Mile is the key to promoting the sport at ALL levels: no other event gets such regular media and general public interest and “buzz” and has a still resonating and understood “Roger Bannister moment” such as clocking sub-4 minutes. It is time for the NCAA coaches to support bringing back the Mile for the outdoor NCAA Championships like its indoor Championships. This would be good for the sport and well-received in the media (applauded and widely covered) as well as throughout the sport and beyond.
In short, as the above shows, there is no good / solid reason for the NCAA to keep the 1500 over the Mile for its outdoor Championships. Vote YES on the proposal to Bring Back the Mile!
Proposal: Change 1500 Meters in Outdoor Track & Field to the Mile
Eric Houle, Southern Utah University
Track & Field has experienced a decline in interest with major TV markets, which has and will continue to affect interest from potential athletes, spectators and athletic administration. How athletic administration determines the value of this sport, beyond just the cost effectiveness it brings to an institution, is ultimately the motivation for this proposal. Interest in Track & Field is and has been on the decline for the last 30 years. Bringing the Mile back to outdoor Track & Field would be one step toward reversing this decline of coverage, interest and support.
All sports try to relate to their audience and/or modify the rules of the game to keep interest in that particular sport. This proposal deals directly with the audience. Everyone has run a Mile, for time, at some point in their life. To allow the audience to experience and watch our top collegiate men and women running that same Mile will not only increase interest in the sport, but it will also inspire the next generation of athletes, audience and TV marketers. In addition, the IAAF agrees with the need to run the Mile. They now allow qualifying into the outdoor World Championships using the Mile, also an official record distance.
Coach Eric Houle says:
“We have witnessed a decline in interest in Track & Field over the last 30 to 40 years. With today's collegiate landscape so dynamic, we need be aggressive to halt this decline to prevent the possible demise of our sport. My hope is that, at this year's convention, we begin to make small changes that could yield big results to slow down, stop and eventually reverse this decline.”
Vote Yes to bring back the Mile for NCAA Outdoor Track & Field! It is time.