PHOENIX, Ariz., July 14. AFTER the Rutgers University Board of Governors announced the decision to cut men's swimming and diving after the 2006-07 season, SwimmingWorldMagazine.com immediately hit the phones to get the reaction of the swimming community on the decision. Keep an eye on this story throughout the day for more reaction as it comes in.
Also, in the light of fair and balanced coverage, SwimmingWorldMagazine.com has included statements by both the Board of Governors and the Rutgers Director of Athletics.
What they are saying:
Rutgers Head Coach Chuck Warner:
“As of right now, we are here for the next year. That gives us hope for the future. Now, it is up to political pressure or financial changes to help men's swimming continue. It is not like we have no future or no hope right now. While other sports may have been a more logical financial cut, the committee decided to make a decision to cut men's swimming (as part of the six sports cut). There is some time now to see if the committee remains comfortable with that decision. We need the swimming community to stay engaged in the process of keeping men's swimming.”
Executive Director of USA Swimming Chuck Wielgus:
“This was disappointing news, but we are very hopeful that the situation will change. USA Swimming is prepared to assist Rutgers Swimming and the College Swimming Coaches Association of America in anyway we can."
Rutgers Director of Athletics Robert E. Mulcahy III:
"This action was an extremely difficult and painful one to make. Anytime you’re put in a position of denying opportunities for students, it’s a heartbreaking situation. Every student-athlete in our program is a valuable member of our athletic and university community.
"But this action is absolutely necessary when faced with our financial challenges. The decision to eliminate six of our athletic teams is part of the university-wide effort to cut costs in the wake of the recently adopted state budget, which significantly reduced funding for higher education and left Rutgers with an unprecedented shortfall of approximately $80 million that has resulted in position eliminations, layoffs, and reductions in courses and services offered.
"With a 30-sport program, Rutgers was one of a few among the NCAA’s 119 Division I-A institutions to offer 30 or more sports. Even with the reduction of six sports, Rutgers will continue to field 24 varsity sports, which, along with the University of Connecticut, is the most of any program that competes in Division I-A football in the BIG EAST Conference. The Rutgers intercollegiate athletics program will continue to provide opportunities for approximately 600 student-athletes in its varsity programs. By taking this action, we will become a stronger, more efficient program, and one that can better meet the needs of our student-athletes.
"There were many factors considered to determine the sports to be eliminated, including conference affiliation, facility restrictions, and compliance to the guidelines of Title IX. Only two of the six affected sports compete in the BIG EAST Conference."
College Swimming Coaches Association of America Executive Director Phil Whitten:
“This is extremely disappointing news, and ironic in that only yesterday Rutgers headlined its athletics web site with the fact that both its men's and women's swimming and diving teams were named CSCAA Academic All-American Teams for 2005-06. You have the Rutgers Board of Governors constantly talking about helping develop student-athletes. Yet, when it comes down to acting on those ideals, these guys are shown to be hypocrites.
“In the men's and women's swimming and diving teams, you have the two most successful teams at Rutgers in terms of both athletics and academics. Also, 40 percent of the student-athletes on the men's team were named BIG EAST Academic All-Stars. That is better than any other team in the BIG EAST. Yet, despite the ideals these people espouse, it counts for nothing in a crunch.
“It is also a very confusing decision. As I understand it, they will have eliminated six sports. The reason they cited is Title IX, based on proportionality. Rutgers has satisfied these requirements in the past by adding women's sports. However, they have now cut women's fencing as part of this decision. That undercuts their own argument.
“There is an obvious solution in that Rutgers could add a women's water polo team and the vast majority of the 25-30 student-athletes on the women's swimming and diving team would go out for it. This would come with no additional financial cost, since you already have a coach and facility in place. Also, the student-athletes that would be part of both teams would count twice just like track and field and cross country. There would also be more women on the water polo team than there are in fencing. The solution is in front of their noses.
“The encouraging part of the announcement is that all of the teams were given a stay of execution for one year. It wasn't publicly stated, but if the Title IX issues could be dealt with, and in the case of men's swimming to find a way to self-fund, the program might be saved. We intend to concentrate every means we have available to help save the program.”
Chairman of the Rutgers Board of Governors Albert R. Gamper Jr.:
"This inadequate funding combined with years of declining state support for Rutgers severely inhibit the ability of New Jersey's most comprehensive public university to fulfill its mission to prepare future generations of well-educated citizens and productive contributors to the state's economy. My fellow board members and I wish there had been a way to avoid these devastating spending cuts, but we were left with no alternative. These are serious reductions with serious consequences."
Suzie Thompson, Mother of Rutgers Junior Scott Thompson
“I don't like the way they did it at all. No one with any feeling about the decision was informed until it was too late. It would have been nice to have a chance to try to fix this.”