By Phillip Whitten
April 6. THE University of Miami (Fla.) men's swimming and diving team has received a three-year reprieve from the death sentence levied upon it just one month ago by university officials. The men's crew team also was reinststaed. University officials initially cited Title IX as the reason for axing the men's programs.
The university decided to allow the program to continue in existence through the year 2003, when this year's freshmen will graduate.
Miami is consistently among the top 15 teams at the men's NCAA swimming and diving championships (it was 11th this year) and is generally regarded as the pre-eminent diving school in the nation. Eliminating the program would deal a severe blow to U.S. Olympic prospects in the sport of diving.
According to Bill Mitchell, a member of the swim team, the reversal was due to the publicity
that surrounded the university's shocking initial decision. He particularly cited Swimming World and swiminfo.com for drumming up support to save his program.
"We got a lot of publicity," Mitchell said. "Even CNN came to our practice and filmed a story."
"Many lawyers also volunteered to help us save our team including one of the original authors of Title IX and a lawyer who was instrumental in saving the Miami of Ohio team."
"We sent letters to all the alumni and people on the Board of Trustees for the University of Miami. We also
received help from the Office of Civil Rights, which was very upset that Miami had decided to cut some of its men's teams to be compliant with Title IX.
"Then, some of the parents came down and had a meeting with the Athletic Director and the university President to discuss a possible lawsuit.
"The last thing we did was to get petitions. Of the 8,000 undergraduates at UM, over 3,000 signed a petition expressing their outrage at the decision of the athletic department."
The athletic department now has decided to phase out the program. In fact, said Mitchell, "that may be unecessary in the years to come, with ratios changing yearly.
The next step is to make the reinstatement permanent. As I have written before, the swimming community and the Olympic movement must band together to fight these cynical attempts by university administrators to eliminate swimming and other so-called "minor" sports. By banding together and fighting, we have now been successful in saving both Miami programs. We should resolve not to allow one more program to be eliminated, and we should pledge to have already-cut programs reinstated.