If we’ve reached a certain point in the NCAA season, you might have started to wonder what the mother of crap NQS is, so here we go.
NQS stands for National Qualifying Score. This score determines which 36 teams advance to the regional championships and which teams are out.
The qualifying score is calculated by taking a team’s top six scores from the season, of which at least three must have been scored on the road, removing the high score, and averaging the remaining five. So yes, of all the 10-13 meets from the regular season, only five actually end up counting while the rest are rendered entirely pointless.
Here’s an example of calculating the qualifying score using Oklahoma’s 2022 season, which reigns as the highest NQS ever recorded.
In bold are the six highest scores achieved by Oklahoma during the season. Three of them were scored on the road, so that requirement is fulfilled. (When it’s not, a lower road score must be used in place of one of the higher home scores).
So now, all we have to do is drop the highest score—the 198.475 from meet 9—and average the remaining five bold scores. That leaves Oklahoma with a season NQS of 198.140. This same process is done for each team, they are ranked, and the top 36 continue their seasons at one of the 4 regional championships locations.
The ultimate function of a qualifying score is to maintain the status quo. It allows teams that started the season poorly (or had a weird horrendous meet) to drop all their bad scores and maintain a ranking more befitting their quality at the best of times, rewarding peak ability and by effect punishing those teams that were more consistent but had lower ceilings. It also prevents teams with one random giant score—or extremely fictional home scoring—from using those scores to pad their rankings too much.