KU Swimmers, Still Fighting to Save their Team, Present Their Case to Board of Regents

By Phillip Whitten

MANHATTAN, Kansas. April 24. THE Men's Swimming and Diving Task Force at The University of Kansas presented its case for reinstatement of men's swimming & diving and men's tennis to the Kansas Board of Regents at a meeting April 19, 2001 in Manhattan, Kansas.

The presentation encouraged the Board of Regents and The University of Kansas to take a leadership role in stopping the national trend of eliminating male Olympic sports educational opportunities at the college level.

This is the presentation made by the KU Men's Swimming & Diving Task Force:

"Ladies and gentlemen, there is a very disturbing national trend to eliminate male Olympic sports educational opportunities at the college level. The University of Kansas decided to follow that trend recently, when it announced that men’s swimming & diving and tennis were being dropped. This decision ended over 75 years of swimming & diving tradition at KU and also ended the dreams of thousands of young male swimmers and divers to represent Kansas at the collegiate level.

A men’s swimming & diving task force, made up of ten swimming & diving alumni, has been working to help The University of Kansas understand why it is important not to take away these athletic-educational opportunities from the male youth of Kansas. We have proposed to the athletic department that all eighteen non-revenue sports can continue to provide educational opportunities, if all eighteen are involved in fundraising a small part of their program budget.

We have offered to have swimming & diving take the lead in demonstrating to the other sports how to be successful in raising funds, and also evaluating their program budgets to eliminate unnecessary expenses.

We are not asking for state monies or resources. We believe it is time to address the problem of funding non-revenue sports. In addition, we believe it is time for all non-revenue sports to generate a more significant financial contribution to their annual program budget.

The University of Kansas sees this issue in a different way. They have told us that for men’s swimming & diving to remain an athletic-educational opportunity at KU, we need to raise 2.1 million dollars in cash and pledges by June 30, 2001, and raise an additional $10 million over the next five years. This $12.1 million total averages out to over $2.4 million per year. When compared to the $3.5 million per year that the athletic department’s Williams Fund nets each year with full-time employees and an annual operating budget of approximately $480,000, you begin to understand the unrealistic scope of the demands to continue a KU program. In addition, no other current non-revenue sport at KU is required to contribute 100% of its program budget.

This is not just a men’s swimming & diving and tennis problem; it is an entire athletic department problem. Eliminating programs of opportunity to balance a budget is a "bandaid cure." We need a reasonable plan that establishes a foundation for future athletic department financial health.

Board of Regents, we propose to you that all programs (music, dance, drama, the arts, athletics, and extracurricular activities) at a university offer educational opportunities. It is not appropriate to just drop those opportunities, unless every reasonable method of trying to save a program has been tried and failed. This is the message that we have heard from KU supporters, Kansas residents, and swimming & diving alumni.

Right now, we have the opportunity for the Kansas Board of Regents, the state of Kansas, and The University of Kansas to step forward and assume a leadership role, to show the rest of the nation how to stop the elimination of male Olympic sports educational opportunities. Or, we can let The University of Kansas be a follower and allow it to follow the current trend of balancing a budget by elimination of opportunities. That second choice, and its path that leads inexorably to higher education mediocrity, is the reason that citizens of our state are fighting this decision so hard.

We do not want to be followers. We want our state to demonstrate to the rest of the nation that we believe it is important to offer male and female athletic-educational opportunities.

Please take the leadership role and help future generations of young male swimmers, divers, tennis players, and other Olympic sports athletes. Ask The University of Kansas to reinstate men’s swimming & diving and tennis, and evaluate all reasonable options to continue programs of educational opportunity at The University of Kansas.

Thank you."

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