A Letter to Nebraska's President -- March 31, 2001
Dear Dr. Perlman,
I am saddened by the growing number of colleges and universities choosing to drop men's swimming and diving from their athletic programs. I understand and can appreciate budget constraints, but I have been informed (reliably, I hope) that Nebraska's men's swim budget (roughly $500,000) is less than 1.3% of its $39m athletic budget. Reportedly, NU's budget shortfall last year was less than $500,000. (If this is true, a little department-wide belt tightening may have accomplished the same as axing men's swimming). I don't know if capital improvements come out of this $39m budget, but I have heard that many new facilities and renovations have been made for other sports (e.g., a fancy new indoor track with hydraulically adjustable banked curves; new sky boxes for the football stadium, renovations to the outdoor track, construction of a new baseball complex).
Surely cutting men's swimming will not alone cure any budget ailments. In fact, given the Title IX implications of axing women's swimming, it is unlikely the women's programs will follow. With that in mind, I would hazard a guess that the savings in cutting men's programs will not be fully realized because any pool costs formerly budgeted to the men's teams will have to be allocated wholly to the women's teams. NU and KU faithful (some of the most faithful and supportive [yes, read $$$ into that] alumni around) were not even given a chance to save the programs.
I am saddened by the trend in general, but especially at Nebraska, which one of my high school swimmers, Raymond Brush, chose over many other fine institutions and swim programs which recruited him. I am aware of the problems encountered with the coaching problems at Nebraska, but it appears that Nebraska was willing to sacrifice an entire leg due to a bad toe or two.
Dr. Perlman, what frightens me is the perspective placed on this by the attitude exhibited by KU: "Support yourself, and set up an endowment to fully fund yourselves, and we'd be -glad- to reinstate swimming and diving" (and, I suppose, tennis). Is KU suggesting that ANY programs that don't support themselves with revenue will be sacrificed to appease to bean counters? Will you follow suit? I suppose biology and chemistry and other departments that bring in big research grants will have their existence justified, but what about other departments where research grants are miniscule or nonexistent?
I can't think of many Olympic sports that could support themselves. If colleges and universities in the United States continue dropping or downsizing these Olympic sports because people would rather build gold-plated football and basketball facilities, I guess we in this country will need to lobby for the inclusion of American football in the Olympic Games so that in the future, we can bring home the same medals that our swimming and diving teams used to bring home in the past. The collegiate programs have been the feeders of our Olympic teams, and to our Olympic success, to a great degree. The demise of American swimming on the world scene is guaranteed if these "cost cutting" trends continue. But at least we'll be able to have a filled football stadium watch Nebraska and KU play, UT and OU, etc.
It's a sad season for swimming, and a sad thing for Nebraska and Kansas. I hope that the considerable NU research grants will allow you to continue to offer European Social and Cultural History since 1815, Advanced Epistemology, and Beginning Sanskrit, and not have to burden the Athletic Department with their costs. It would be a shame to have to drop those courses, much less their departments, which might force students passionate about their pursuits to leave NU for other halls of academia.
Forgive the sarcasm, but I find it difficult to adequately express my incredulity and outrage over recent events. Please try to help others remember that not only is a mind a terrible thing to waste; so is a young person's trust and faith in the older generation, and institutions in general. There is something bigger at stake here than saving $500k or so. The namesake of the building that houses (housed?) the swimming and diving program would be outraged, I am sure, if he were still alive. I met Coach Devaney in 1971 and I can't imagine him allowing such a disgraceful (to the swimming community) thing to occur. He would have found a way NOT to cut any athletics programs at Nebraska. This is not the Nebraska I used to admire and cheer for.
I do not expect a reply. You have more important things to do. I just hope you will have read this far, and not have the apparent cold-heartedness perceived in other areas of the University.
Katy (TX) HS Swimming
President, Texas Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (TISCA: www.tisa.org)
President-Elect, National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA: www.nisca.net)
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