COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 11. AFTER years of ignoring the problem, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have finally decided to address the precipitous decline in Olympic sports, particularly men's Olympic sports, at the collegiate level. Today the two organizations announced the formation of the Joint NCAA/USOC Task Force to review the issue.
Particularly hard hit have been wrestling and men's gymnastics, which are now virtually extinct at the college level. Also greatly affected have been swimming and track and field, among others.
According to a press release issued today, the joint venture "seeks to explore ways to positively effect change by offering recommendations and solutions to curb the Olympic sports sponsorship regression."
This is a small, but postive step. However, the problem has not been a lack of good recommendations and solutions. The problem has been the unwillingness of some NCAA institutions to act on these recommendations and solutions as well as the NCAA's slavish adherence to political correctness on Title IX. Often the result has been a decrease in opportunities for men, rather than an increase for women.
The Olympic sports have also been impacted by the "arms race" in coaches' salaries on luxury seating in the sports of football and men's basketball.
The press release went on to state:
"In recent years, the elimination of sports programs by NCAA member institutions has disproportionately affected Olympic sports, prompting serious challenges for some National Governing Bodies dependent upon collegiate programs as a key source for future and current Olympic-caliber athletes. In addition, the sports decline has resulted in lost participation opportunities for NCAA student-athletes. Informal discussions on the future problems facing both organizations led to the creation of the task force, which is scheduled to operate for 18 months."
"This task force is an important step in stemming the decline of Olympic sports programs on NCAA campuses," said NCAA President Myles Brand, who heretofore has shown no public interest in this burning issue.
"bviously, colleges and universities are faced with significant economic issues with regard to athletics programs, but the benefits these student-athletes bring to campuses and the benefits many ultimately share with the nation on the Olympic stage should not be minimized when institutions make budgetary decisions.”
The USOC, too, has been strangely timid on this issue, which could have an enormous impact on that organization's effectiveness. Today, USOC Chief Executive Jim Scherr is quoted as saying: "America's colleges and universities play a vital role in the development of athletes and coaches who ultimately move on to represent our country in international competition.”
"The USOC and our National Governing Bodies are proud to partner with the NCAA and its member institutions in examining issues and developing solutions that will help preserve opportunities for Olympic sport at the collegiate level."
The task force includes 16 individuals with knowledge of both collegiate and Olympic sports. Each organization has selected the members to serve on its behalf. Though the date of the first meeting has not yet been finalized, the group is expected to meet no fewer than four times in person over the 18-month period.
None of the apointees has been amaong the leaders in the growing movement to address the issue, however there are some very good appointees on the list.
Swimming will be represented by USA Swimming's Executive Director Chuc Wielgus. Over the years, USA-S has not taken a leadership position on this issue, but in the past two years has demonstrated an increasing willingness to partner with oter organizations — Swimming World, ASCA and the CSCAA — to address the problem.
The group is chaired by Jack Swarbrick, a partner in the Indianapolis law firm Baker and Daniels. Swarbrick is the former chairman and a current board member of the Indiana Sports Corporation. Through the years, Swarbrick has also served as general counsel for several National Governing Bodies.
"The importance of this topic to both the NCAA and the USOC is reflected in the quality of the appointments each organization has made to this committee," Swarbrick is quoted as saying. "This is a committee of extraordinary talents and diverse perspectives, and I am honored to have been asked to facilitate its work. I am certain that the committee will be able to produce creative and substantive recommendations that will reverse the trend in the decline of Olympic sports sponsorship by this country's colleges and universities.”
Other members of the task force include:
|NAME |TITLE/INSTITUTION/ORGANIZATION |
|USOC Nominated | |
|Richard Bender |Executive Director, USA Wrestling |
| Herman Frazier |Director of Athletics, University of |
| |Hawaii |
|Ron Galimore |Senior Director of Men’s Programs, |
| |USA Gymnastics |
|Courtney Johnson |Attorney, 2000 Olympian in Water |
| |Polo, and USOC Athletes Advisory |
| |Council Member |
| William Martin |Director of Athletics, University of |
| |Michigan and Acting President of the |
| |USOC |
| Andrew Valmon |Head Track and Field Coach, |
| |University of Maryland and USOC |
| |Athletes Advisory Council Member |
| Jon Vegosen |Vice-Chair of the US Tennis |
| |Association Collegiate Committee |
|Chuck Wielgus |Executive Director, USA Swimming |
|NCAA Nominated | |
|Andy Geiger |Director of Athletics, The Ohio State|
| |University |
| Ian Gray |Vice-Chair, Student Athlete Advisory |
| |Committee |
| Larry James |Director of Athletics, Richard |
| |Stockton College of New Jersey |
| Kyle Kallander |Commissioner, Big South Conference, |
| |Chair, Olympic Sports Liaison |
| |Committee |
| Cheryl Levick |Director of Athletics, Santa Clara |
| |University |
| Peter Likins |President, University of Arizona |
|Jean Lenti Ponsetto |Director of Athletics, DePaul |
| |University |
NCAA colleges and universities have historically been the lifeblood in several sports that compete as part of the Olympic program. Of the members of the United States Olympic teams from 1980 through 2000, approximately 94 percent were in attendance at or had attended NCAA institutions.
The NCAA Olympic Sports Liaison Committee will also serve as a resource to the joint task force, serving as the catalyst to present any recommendations to the NCAA membership.