PHOENIX, Arizona, September 16. PHIL Whitten, the Executive Director of the College Swimming Coaches Association of American, called on Saturday for Syracuse University Athletic Director Daryl Gross to resign. Gross, of course, is the man behind Syracuse cutting men's and women's swimming and diving after this season. Here is the release from the CSCAA highlighting Whitten's comments.
The Executive Director of the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) called for the resignation of Syracuse University Athletics Director, Dr. Daryl Gross today. Speaking in Phoenix, Dr. Phil Whitten, who is also a member of the Board of Directors of Equity in Athletics, said that Gross "has demonstrated a shocking disregard for checking his facts and a breathtaking lack of competence."
Gross has called for cutting the nearly century-old swimming programs and replacing them with a women's ice hockey team. Saying that he was "all about winning championships in every sport", Gross cited, incorrectly, losing records as a reason for his decision. "What's more," Whitten said, "Gross had evinced a total lack of respect for the wishes of the student body. The arrogance of this man knows no bounds," he added.
"Gross has treated the US Olympic head swimming coach – a former colleague of his at USC – as well as prominent alumni, longtime donors and supporters of SU athletics, distinguished faculty members and parents of current student-athletes with utter disregard, meeting with a handful of swim team supporters under conditions guaranteed to produce nothing of substance. Proposals and initiatives generated were essentially ignored with all, including the student athletes, receiving a form letter rejecting all suggestions.
In addition, Whitten charged, Gross, "also failed, over a period of months, to answer the phone calls or letters of Syracuse alums who are internationally prominent in swimming circles and athletics in general., There was no opportunity presented to discuss their practical proposals to raise the funds needed to fund the swim team during an additional three year period, allowing the freshman class that committed to the program the opportunity to complete their tenure at the school. The potential to fully endow the program was also met with indifference.
The internationally recognized alums included Frank Comfort and John Leonard. Comfort recently retired from coaching at the University of North Carolina after winning more dual meets than any other college swim coach in NCAA history and after endowing more than 30 scholarships. Leonard is the Executive Director of the American Swimming Coaches Association and former head of the world swimming coaches' organization, FINA.
Gross stated a thorough study had been conducted on what it would take to achieve national success in swimming and diving at SU. Stating that you can't win championships training in SU's 25-yard pool built in 1949, he concluded the price would be prohibitive, citing a cost of "$35 to $40 million" just to build a modern facility.
"Wrong on every count," Whitten countered. "First of all, coming from the University of Southern California, Gross should know that you don't need a palatial pool to win titles. Coach Peter Daland proved this repeatedly. Secondly, Gross demonstrated indifference that an exceptional 50-meter pool is located at Nottingham High School, less than two miles from SU, where the team could contract with the school district to train, a strategy numerous universities around the country currently use. Finally," Whitten said, "the $35 to $40 million figure for a new natatorium is completely bogus, conjured out of thin air."
Continuing, "I independently asked the CEO of Aquatic Design Group, the nation's largest builder of competitive pools, and John McIlhargy, USA Swimming's Facilities Project Development Director, what it would cost today to build a state-of-the-art facility at SU, similar to the beautiful new 50-meter natatorium recently opened at the University of Missouri. Randy Mendioroz, of ADG answered '$15 or 16 million' while McIlhargy estimated 'about $15 million' as well. An internal SU proposal dated 2001, puts the price tag in line with this at $14 million.
"It doesn't take much effort to bring SU's costs down by $20 to $25 million, " Whitten quipped. "Just two phone calls. One wonders why Gross's office failed to reply specifically to McIlargy's written proposal which he received the middle of August, much less investigate.
"If Dr. Gross is, as he says repeatedly, 'all about winning,'" Whitten noted, "he has a funny way of showing it." Outstanding coaches have been fired or forced to resign, remaining coaches reportedly are tense, wondering where the ax will fall next, the department is in total disarray, and Syracuse athletics is at one of its lowest points in history. Ironically, swimming is far and away America's most successful Olympic sport with swimmers having won more than one third of all U.S. medals. In addition, NBC Sports has announced that swimming will be the featured sport in it's Olympic coverage next summer.
"The first thing Gross did," said Whitten, "was fire the head football coach, Paul Pasqualoni, a highly respected coach-educator, who had won over 64 percent of his games during his 14 years at Syracuse, never having a losing season and, during the course of his career, beating virtually every major college football power in the nation, including Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas and Michigan, to name just a few."
Pasqualoni, who developed such NFL stars as Donovan McNab, was a stickler for emphasizing the 'student' half of 'student-athlete,' and was honored by the College Football Coaches Association and the NCAA for the outstanding graduation rates of his teams, which almost always exceeded 70 percent and one year was 100 percent.
Dr. Gross unceremoniously fired Coach P. when he had one year remaining on his contract. Ironically, while SU's football fortunes are in the doldrums, Pasqualoni was hired immediately by the NFL's Dallas Cowboys as the linebackers' coach.
What's happened in SU football in the two-plus years since Mr. ' I'm-All-About-Winning-Championships' took over the helm of Syracuse athletics? "Well," said Whitten, "the team went 1-10 – its worst record ever – in his first year, 4-8 last year, and is 0- 3 thus far this year, having been humiliated in its first three outings. "What abut SU's other two marquee sports – men's basketball and lacrosse?
"In 2006, the Orange round-ballers barely made it into the NCAA tournament, while last season was their worst in 25 years, as the once-proud Orange failed even to make the 65-team NCAA tournament. As for lacrosse, it limped to a dismal 5-8 record last season."
Whitten also accused Gross of ignoring the Athletics Department's own listing of the university's "biggest financial losers" in cutting swimming and citing finances as one of his reasons. The department targeted four sports as losing the most money in the department and the ones to be considered for cutting first should that ever be necessary: (1) lacrosse, (2) women's basketball, (3) men's track, and (4) women's rowing. Ironically swimming and diving don't even make this list.