By Jason Marsteller
SYRACUSE, New York, July 17. TODAY, Swimming World Magazine received several passionate letters from Harold Auer, a member of Syracuse swimming from 1946-50, regarding the Syracuse swimming and diving cuts, as previously reported here.
Auer details a time in the history of the programs when they were in as much peril as they are today. In January 1947, a fire destroyed the Archbold Gym, where many of the school's teams competed, including the swimming and diving programs.
The fire is a strong part of the tradition of the entire Syracuse University Athletics Department as leaders stood out at the time to make sure that the programs impacted remained in tact. At the time, the men's basketball team (which recently won the NCAA Division I National Championship in 2003 and is the crown jewel of the department) nearly died due to the fire.
However, resolute Orangemen like Auer as well as basketball players like Billy Gabor decided that they would endure. The swimming and diving team swam a complete "away schedule" during the time period, while the basketball team played in the old Armory and at the State Fairgrounds.
Those involved in the current crisis must make their best efforts at saving such a storied and historic program like swimming and diving. While the athletics department at Syracuse may not be inclined to do so, while diverting its attention to basketball, football and a possible introduction of women's ice hockey, the swimming and diving community needs to rally behind Syracuse University. There are not a lot of programs with more than 100 years of tradition behind them, and losing these programs only serves to cut at the core of the swimming and diving community.
Here are copies of Auer's letters sent into Swimming World Magazine for added inspiration:
Auer's Letter to Swimming World Magazine
July 13, 2007
Dear Mr. Marsteller,
Enclosed are copies of the letters I sent to Dr. Nancy Cantor, Chancellor of Syracuse University, and Dr. Daryl Gross, Athletic Director … Note the dates. As I indicated to you, I have not, as of this date, received a reply to either letter. I am appalled by this, as I am the very act of discontinuing the varsity swimming teams.
As I also told you, these two individuals are NOT Orangemen. They are mercenaries, brought in to "mind the store," not to run it into the ground. I am in disagreement with the direction that appears to be the one in which they are taking Orange athletics.
I am told that student-athletes from 14 countries and most of the United States have been able to experience Syracuse University because of its swimming and diving teams. Sadly, this would cease to be the case if the present plan goes into effect at the conclusion of the 2007-08 school year.
And, what happens to the Walkers? Lou has been there as a swimmer and a coach for well over half his life. He can't retire until he's 55. He is now 53, and the planned date of the execution will find him one year short of 55.
What can a few "voices in the wind" do to show these people that you cannot DO folks that way? We can't do much other than what we have done, to write letters, make phone calls, make our sentiments known.
It is our only chance that the media, which is Swimming World Magazine, the Syracuse Post Standard and like publications which make our case known, and the University's Board of Trustees to act to save our sport's life.
I certainly thank Swimming World Magazine for its efforts to date in this regard. One can only hope that it will do some good.
SU Class of 1950
Varsity Swimming 1946-50
Auer's Letter to Chancellor Cantor
June 10, 2007
Dear Dr. Cantor:
This letter comes to you in response to the letter dated May 31, 2007 that Dr. Daryl Gross sent to many alumni who were varsity swimmers at Syracuse University and who were strong supporters of the team after graduation, announcing his intention to discontinue men's and women's swimming and diving following the 2007-08 season. I was one who received it, and was devastated by it.
I was Class of 1950. I came to Syracuse in 1946, one of many veterans of World War II, on the G.I. Bill, not on a Grant-In-Aid. I was there to pursue a degree in Physical Education and to participate in varsity swimming. I was there at the time of the Archbold Gym fire, although the swim team was in New York City for a meet with Fordham University when the blaze actually occurred. We were told of it immediately upon stepping off the train on our return, the following day. We were certainly affected by it since we were then faced with having to consider options, one of which was to transfer to another school if we were to continue to be swimmers. It was the initial reaction to the unfortunate turn of events – all indoor sports were being spoken of as being shut down. However, we were of the opinion that we could keep the team going. I can recall that my two roommates, Paul McCabe (later an All-American, now deceased) and Brent Clark (now retired from the DuPont Corporation, living in Northeast Maryland) went to our coach, Ted Webster (also an All-American at Syracuse and deceased, as well as a Letterwinner with Distinction for whom the present pool at Archbold Gym is named). It was our intention to convince him not to disband the team, that the entire team was willing to undergo any hardship, trial and tribulation necessary to keep the team going. If he would just locate venues at which we could practice and re-schedule all our home meets to the schools against whom we were scheduled to compete, or to other suitable venues, we promised him we would do it, and the team would continue. We were that determined that the team should not die in that fire.
Further than that, we went to team members of other sports affected by the fire to get them to go to their coaches and make the same promise. There were young men who were on the basketball, boxing, wrestling and gymnastic teams who lived in the Irving Avenue pre-fabs (now long gone), as we did; so we had no trouble finding them. Convincing them was more difficult, but we finally succeeded. All sports continued, under great hardships; and some of the finest teams the University has ever fielded came out of that era.
Coach Webster was able to obtain practice time for us: two days a week at the Boys Club and two more at the YWCA; one more day a week at the YMCA; and every Thursday night he would rent a bus so we could go to Colgate and practice in a 25-yard pool (all the local venues were only 20 yards). The busses became "study halls" as we all took our books with us and did our studying going to and from Colgate. We also had all of our meets on the road for two years, including two "home meets" that first year at the Buffalo Athletic Club against Penn State and Canisius, both of which we won. We posted a 14-3 record those two years, during which we had other "home meets" at Colgate and Hamilton College. During my four years at Syracuse, we won 25 and lost only 8.
All of the forgoing is a prelude to my asking you to intercede with Dr. Gross in an attempt to convince him to reconsider his decision to discontinue a program of such a history, tradition and honor that at one time struggled so mightily to survive, and did. We went through so much, underwent such travail to keep the team going back in the late 40s. It seems like such a shame to wipe out all we did and what those who followed us did with one cursory stroke of the pen. A great university like Syracuse is has to be able to keep its swimming program, have a women's ice hockey team, and maintain all its other athletic interests as well.
It is not to be considered easy. What we did back in the 40s to keep our programs alive certainly wasn't easy. But, we found a way to get it done. Chancellor Tolley supported our efforts then. It is my fondest hope that you will support us now. It is also my fond hope that what made me an Orangeman will not perish, so that other young people may come to The Hill and experience becoming Orangemen and women through swimming and diving, as we did. Please give this your consideration.
Harold M. Auer
Class of 1950
Auer's Letter to Athletics Director Gross
June 12, 2007
Dear Dr. Gross:
Your letter dated May 31, 2007 in which you announce your intention to discontinue varsity men's and women's swimming and diving after the 2007-08 season was received. Needless to say, it caused a very negative reaction here, accompanied by a certain amount of puzzlement. My first reaction was to contact some of the former swimmers with whom I've remained in touch to see what their reaction might be, among them six former captains. Their collective reactions were all similar to mine. Two of them, John McGill and Ira Rimerman, indicated that they had made a trip to campus in order to discuss their concerns with you. Evidently, they were not about to dissuade you from your proposed course of action. I was told that my best option would be to write a letter to the Chancellor, which I have done. A copy of my letter to her is enclosed. I think it is self-explanatory and does not need to be repeated here. I was told by several people I talked to that I shouldn't bother writing to you, because, in their words, "He doesn't care." I find that hard to believe. You took the time and extended me the courtesy of a letter announcing your intentions. The least I can do is respond to your letter, even though that response is in disagreement.
Please read carefully my letter to Dr. Cantor and try to understand how the deep feelings over this issue come to exist. We persevered through a very difficult situation and remained loyal to our University. All we are asking now is that our University, through you and Dr. Cantor, remain loyal to us by reconsidering the decision to discontinue the entity that made us all Orangemen: the swim team. If you haven't already done so, I would ask that you go back through the records of the Athletic Department at the time of the Archbold fire and the few years immediately following. A way was found then and I feel that a way can be found now by which the swimming and diving teams can be kept while pursuit of your other goals for the Athletics Department can be consummated. There has to be a way. In my 43 years as a coach, I found that men of good will and good intentions can always find a way through difficult times, no matter what the obstacles may be. My wish is that you can be persuaded to try to identify a way in which the swim team may again survive, as it did in 1947.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter, as well as for your courtesy in contacting so many of us who care about the team and the University.
Harold M. Auer, Class of 1950
Varsity Swimming 1946-50
What are your thoughts about the Syracuse cuts? Feel free to comment on this story via Reaction Time links below.
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July 17, 2007. Thank you Harold Auer, Syracuse Swimming/Diving in the late 1940's, for your passionate correspondence this June/July to Syracuse University's Chancellor, and to the Athletic Director – who anounced the plan to eliminate SU's M/W Swimming and Diving program.
Thanks to Lane 9 for publishing these remarkable and compelling letters from Harold Auer, to his Alma Mater's Chancellor and A-D. I have now signed the petition that Syracuse swimmers and divers created, and that Lane 9 published; here's hoping that all readers will sign the petition too, and that Mr. Auer's letters to Save Syracuse Swimming are not in vain. Helen
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