A Mom Testifies at the Town Hall Meeting of the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics

(In the last two months, the U.S. Secretary of Education's Commission on Opportunity in Athletics has been conducting "Town Hall" Meetings at various locations in the United States to hear testimony on, among other things, the cutting of men's programs in Olympic sports. On October 22, the Commission met in Colorado Springs. The following is the moving testimony offered by Bev Brandon, mother of a University of Nebraska swimmer.)

Comments Delivered by Bev Brandon
Colorado Springs, Colorado
October 22, 2002

"Good afternoon. My name is Bev Brandon. I have come from Fort Worth, Texas for the privilege of standing before you today to ask for regulations that protect women without harming men.

"I am not an expert. I've just come to share a personal story. I am a stay-at-home mom of two girls and two boys. I am a mouth and a mouthpiece who has personally heard from over 500 families concerning elimination of men's teams. 400 of those were alumni and friends of the University of Nebraska. 100 families were parents and friends of men's teams canceled over this past year. The consensus was that their sons and friends have been denied the opportunity they have trained a lifetime for.

"My son is one of those men. Graduating from high school ranked first in his class, Barrett received over $300,000 in academic scholarship offers. Barrett chose Nebraska; walked on to their swim team; and brought 12 academic scholarships with him.

"He was living his dream. Until….March 26, 2001, Barrett's freshman year. The Athletic Director at Nebraska canceled 80 years of men's swimming/diving due to 'budgetary reasons' and self-imposed sanctions.

"On that very same day, one of the parents offered a check for $250,000 to save the team. Nebraska didn't want the money. Nebraska even had an $8 million athletic donation from Alltel at that same time.

"This is not about money. Stakeholders are being denied opportunity to be part of the solution across the country. At Nebraska, we volunteered to raise $1 million to save the men's swim team. The chancellor said no and almost the entire swim team transferred. Personally, we didn't have the money for our son to transfer—it was too late to pursue scholarships, even admissions. He lost opportunity he once had and he lost best friends.

"I loved the movie 'Rudy'. You could say that Barrett was like a modern-day Rudy who was at the bottom of the pack. He was the base of the pyramid of swimming as a non-recruited walk-on. But you need a base for the pyramid to stand. And, we are talking about talented walk-ons who are just looking for opportunity.

"Barrett gave up 15 years of swimming and switched to triathlon racing. In just one year, he is at the top of the sport, qualifying for the ITA World Triathlon Championships in Cancun next month.

"I queried the Office of Civil Rights. In our day and time, how can a university eliminate only the men's team for budget reasons or for sanctions committed by both men and women? The OCR office responded: "We don't care if only the men's team was cut for sanctions because men are overrepresented at Nebraska. Whatever Nebraska needs to do to their men's teams to achieve proportionality, they can do it and we will let them."

"My response to the OCR Office in Kansas City was this: 'To me as a parent, that is reverse discrimination!'

"You hold in your hands the power to wield the authority to do what is right and to be fair to our men and our women. I represent hundreds of moms from the swim community. My husband, a high school track coach, represents the track community where he was a nationally ranked high school runner who had opportunity in college. We both have witnessed a growing consensus from our communities to free up Title IX from a gender quota. Our Olympic sports need critical mass to choose from. Instead, athletic directors are draining the Olympic pipeline by eliminating Olympic sports. We need to continue the rich tradition of the storied programs like Nebraska Swimming and Diving and not let those men's teams die.

"Every day, I drive my 11-year-old boy to swim practice on a USA Swim Team. He has a dream…his dream is to swim Division I at an Ivy League school. My hope is that when he grows up, there will be a Division I swim team or track team for him to walk on.

"I came 1,000 miles to ask for 21st century reform to one of the most powerful pieces of legislation for women. Let our sons play!

"Thank you. I appreciate the sacrifice you have paid to pull together this Commission, think out of the box, and make an indelible mark in athletic history to implement Title IX for the greater good of all."

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