Responses Coming into About Syracuse Swimming Cuts

PHOENIX, Arizona, June 12. RESPONSES continue to come into about the Syracuse cuts. Recently, reported on the fact that men's and women's swimming and diving at Syracuse were being cut in favor of women's ice hockey, according to an article in The Post-Standard.

The responses have been flowing in as news gets out about the cuts.

To contact us about this story, please click here.

If you wish your comment to be published, please note that in your e-mail.

Here are some of the thoughts of our readers. Check back often to see other responses as they come in:

It saddens me to learn of the decision to cut swimming at Syracuse University after more than ninety years of success and tradition. I was an assistant coach at Syracuse for three years early in my career and had the opportunity to serve under Coaches Jon Buzzard and Lou Walker, both of whom are Syracuse alums and who have been the only head coaches of the program for almost fifty years — a remarkable achievement and evidence of program continuity.

At that time in the late 1970's, there were four young coaches who had the chance to be a part of that remarkable program: John Leonard, the ASCA Executive Director, who has done more to advance coaching worldwide than anyone; Guy Edson, his key assistant at ASCA who has assisted countless young coaches in their professional development; Tim Welsh, men's coach at the University of Notre Dame and one of the most respected coaches in the country; and, me. The "Syracuse influence" has shaped all of us significantly.

I pledge to be on the front line of trying to get this decision reconsidered, and ultimately, reversed. This is too good of a program, in so many ways that matter, to allow it to die without the swimming community rallying behind the effort. That effort begins today for me.
Dale Neuberger, President of United States Aquatic Sports and former assistant coach at Syracuse from 1979-82.

I swam at Syracuse and graduated in 1973. Jon Buzzard was the coach then. I just talked to him last week, and he already had news of this.

Swimming there changed my life. Swimming there wasn't about sport, it was about life. Swimming is a tradition at Syracuse. (Current head coach) Lou Walker swam with me. He was a year younger than me, and he has been there a long time. When I think about my experience during my time there, there was always an open office. Going to the pool to talk to Mr. Buzzard at any time of the day was a life saver for me. I had a family member die when I was a freshman, and I would not have gotten through it without that support. I loved to swim, but was a scrub swimmer back then. By the time I left, I was a school-record holder. It wasn't about that, though. It was the opportunity to have that environment where your coach cared more about you as a human being – the sport was a bonus.

I imagine, knowing Lou, he has certainly taken that same role. Lou came through the same process. He had the experience through Mr. Buzzard like I did. To see Syracuse spending the types of money on basketball and football there, and to drop a sport that has been there since 1915 that isn't about sport, but about life, is a huge loss. I wouldn't be where I am today, not that I am great, without that Syracuse experience. It is one of those pass it on kinds of things with Syracuse swimmers.
Guy Edson, Technical Director of the American Swimming Coaches Association

This is a decision that defies logic. To cut two teams in which there is a great deal of student interest and replace it with one team in which, even in the Northeast, there is minimal student interest makes no sense. While it is admirable that the athletic director (Daryl Gross) is interested in improving the school's performance in the NACDA Cup, what should be primary in his calculations are the student-athletes – not abstract points. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.
Phil Whitten, Executive Director of the College Swimming Coaches Association of America

Thank you for the story. I'm a parent of one of the swimmers on the team. My daughter was a freshman last year and just got the news today of the program being discontinued.

She had a fantastic first year, loved the program and the team. A terrific experience and it seems such a shame that such a great program with the history that you describe will be discontinued. Please keep me looped in on any news that you hear. I'll certainly be one who would rally for support to keep the program. I know they don't have the greatest facility, but I've even swam in the pool and it seems to me that a possible need for a new pool is not a reason to kill a great program. How about some pool repairs and hanging on to tradition?!?
Steve Schumacher Father of Katelyn Schumacher, Irvine, CA

I swam for Syracuse from 1994-96 and am very upset at the recent news. The slow demise of college swimming is unfair as AD's try and win national championships in sports with minimal competition or to keep the bottom line. It is no mystery the pool at Syracuse is not up to par with that of Missouri, Texas, or Michigan – but I seem to remember Miro Vucetic and Jamie Secor making the most of the pool to qualify and score at NCAA's. The pool is a pathetic reason to cut a program. I would understand cutting the program if you had tried everything in your power to make it the best it could be and failed. This was hardly that at all. I have nothing against women's hockey at all – just do your job Mr. Gross and be an Atheltic Director not an Athletic Follower.
Kevin Mann Syracuse Grad 98.

I see Daryl Gross'(AD) thinking as shortsighted. Syracuse University and its surrounding areas need to adopt a "Field of Dreams" attitude. "If they build it, they will come." At this point, you will not get National Level competitors without the facilities. Once you get those competitors, you will create more interest, more high level meets would come to the area; bringing more prestige to the University and awareness to the community about swimming.

The University and surrounding community is in desperate need of a decent swimming facility. Rochester has one in Webster, and the Buffalo area has University of Buffalo, Erie Community College with 50 meter stretch facilities where they host National, Regional and State level meets. Not too bad to travel for meets, but you can't practice there from Syracuse.

It seems that Daryl Gross does not want to invest the money in the facility that would bring that level of swimmer to the school. The colleges and universities getting these swimmers have the facilities. He seems to realize that where football and basketball are concerned. I realize the spectators of those sports bring in big money to the college and that in turn brings in the students and so forth. However, take a look at the average grade point of swimmers.

Swimmers tend to be very good students. When those numbers come out yearly as to what athletic teams are graduating their athletes and at what grade points, you can bet that swimmers will be at or near the top. These people will often give back when they feel they have been taken care of during the academic/athletic years at college. With the upcoming Olympics, swimming will again be a forefront topic.

Daryl Gross is missing a peak time to raise awareness for the needs of a championship facility. My brothers swam in that pool for the Syracuse Chargers when Jon Buzzard was there 30 years ago. New pool or not they and their team mates were able to swim at a national level. I agree with Guy Edson when he said that swimming is a way of life. I can say without hesitation that being a swimmer requires more dedication than almost any other sport. It is a life skill. You take that work ehtic into your life after the competitions are over. Isn't that something we expect from our educational institutions?

By the way, how many people in their 70's do you see playing football and basketball? Now ask that question of swimming.
Kristen Benson Robinson Manlius, NY

Hi, my name is Dani Stein and I am currently a swimmer at Syracuse and have been informed of the terrible news. I just finished up my sophomore season and will be a junior in the fall, meaning I will just come short of finishing out my four-year college swimming career. I have been discussing with my coaches a plan for next year, and we plan to do everything in our power to have the best season of all of our careers next year and we plan to do everything we can to appeal the Athletic Department's decision.

It is definitely helpful to see articles popping up on the Internet in support of our team; I never knew so many people cared about our tightly-knit team that consisted of just nine female members and a small men's team last season. I am a very concerned team member and I can speak for all of us when I say we plan on banding together for our last season and going out with a bang. Any support we can get is awesome and we really appreciate it. And thank you for informing the swimming world of our story!!!
Dani Stein

It is another sad day for collegiate swimming. Having watched my alma mater, St. John's, cancel swimming a few years ago, I can understand the loss to the Syracuse alums and Lou Walker whom I swam against. Somewhat understandly, money is an issue. The NCAA already regulates colleges and student-athletes from their recruitment through graduation in many ways including monetarily. How about establishing spending caps in sports like football and basketball so that schools can fund their other programs?
Bob Sorensen Head Coach, Men's Swimming New York University

As the former club coach of Syracuse swimming standout David Sargalski (Big East Swimmer of the Decade and Olympic Trials Qualifier) and the current coach of Natalie Mazzetta, who was just awarded a full scholarship to attend Syracuse for swimming, I can't believe what I am reading. This isn't even another case of Title IX backfiring, this is just the result of an Athletic Director who wants to brag about his programs, even if they are not in mainstream sports. To drop a program rich in tradition because a women's hockey team would rank higher nationally (because not many colleges have teams) seems so childish I shouldn't have to comment on it. Why not drop Syracuse football and basketball for curling or bocce? For that matter, why doesn't the school drop it's math and science programs in favor of majors in whittling and mime? Certainly Syracuse's academic departments would be ranked higher in those disciplines. This is a "Gross" injustice.
Jon Levine, Head Coach, Aquabears Swim Team

I'm a current student at Syracuse and I am a part of the team. The news of this cut strikes me as extremely premature especially given the current status of the team. This news comes following a year in which the men's team had four dual meet victories and only one loss. At the Big East Championships this year, the men's team had only one senior and no juniors score points. All other individual points came from freshman and sophmores. We are a very young team with another strong class coming in. We had a good year and will be even better next year and in the years to come.

As far as a new pool goes, sure one would be nice, but we're doing pretty well with what we have. Splitting up this team will be like splitting up a family, and all of this with not so much as a warning that such a huge decision was being made? How can so many years of tradition be cut out seemingly on a whim?

We all know that Syracuse sports have been down under Gross (worst football record, lacrosse team misses playoffs for first time in 25 years, basketball misses the tournament), but will cutting swimming for a sport that has little interest fix all that?

I hope that something can be done to save this program as I know that it means so much to all of us on it and those who have come through it.
Ryan Corcoran

I would just like to start out by saying that the support my teammates and I have found from people within and outside of the swimming community has been staggering the past 48 hours. I believe that the amount of people affected by this decision was definitely overlooked by my school's Athletic Department.

As I told the Athletic Director (Dr. Daryl Gross) in my e-mail to him, "You are not just cutting out one team of 30 members, you are breaking this university off of a large community that fully supports their swimmers." Our main support is coming from this amazing community.

I created a 'Facebook' group supporting the cause last night and already 315 people have joined to show their concern. That to me is enough reason to stick by my team. We have all banded together as a collegiate swimming program to fight this thing until the end. Whether this is our last year or not, it will be the most memorable and historic season in our own swimming careers.

As fellow teammate, Dani Stein, and I have reiterated to our teammates, this battle can't be won by emotions, but by facts. The facts are as stands: this appeal will be made by shear power in numbers, dedication, camaraderie and moral integrity; components the swimming community DOES NOT lack. It will be difficult to ignore our voice. Though I would love to continue on about everything that has been going on, my main goal with this letter was to thank everyone for their current and ongoing support. Go 'Cuse.
Peter Gollands, Junior Syracuse Swimmer

I was shocked and saddened when I learned the news a few days ago. I just graduated from Syracuse University in May. I was a part of the team sophomore year through senior year. As a freshman, I attended St. John's University where I also swam. But, as many of you know, the swim team there got cut also. So this is all too familiar to me.

Coming from another country the team really became my family. We helped and encouraged each other through practices and through life in general. I am deeply thankful to all of my teammates.

I think it will be a huge mistake if the Athletic Department, headed by Dr. Gross, continue on with their plans of cutting the swim team. The team is young and will only become stronger in the future. I think it shows a lack of respect for them as people and as true competitors. They, as I did, have devoted their life to this sport we love.

I am also baffled that they didn't even notify the swimmers personally. They had to read about it or hear about it from other places just like I did. That's just another sign of mistrust.

The team knows that we might not have been fighting for the top three places at the Big East Championships, but still, we fought for ourselves, our teammates, our families and our school. Apparently that wasn't enough.

I still believe in the programme and most of all in the swimmers. But Dr. Gross stopped believing a long time ago. Take West Virginia as an example. They did not place high in the Big East either a few years ago, in fact, Syracuse beat them in dual meets a couple of years ago. Then they made some changes to their programme and now they are highly competitive again.

Maybe if Dr. Gross tried to help the team instead turning his back on the swimmers, he would be surprised to see what they are capable of. When I transferred to Syracuse my sophomore year I was sure what happened at St. John's just would not happen again. Syracuse, a school and a swim team with long traditions and hard working swimmers and dedicated families and friends supporting them. I thought we were safe. But oh how wrong could I be. I'm proud to say I have been a part of the team. We're gonna keep on fighting.
Anette Hoye

Hi, my name is Sarah Manning and I am a current member of the Syracuse swim team and am going to be a Junior in the fall. A few of my teammates have already written in, and just like them hearing about the news from a local newspaper came as a complete shock. I have never felt so betrayed and angered in my life.

The way that our Athletic Department chose to handle this situation was classless and unprofessional. As there is no good time to do something like this, there are better times and during the summer is not one of them. Not only do we all have to deal with this alone since we are spread across the country and elsewhere, our hands are tied to take any action toward our swimming careers for the next year. After the statement that was released yesterday, the only people I trust now are my coaches and my teammates, who I will give all my support to.

The point is there is no legitimate reason to cut our program and the members of the team and supporters are trying to do everything we can to either reverse this decision or at least make the Athletic Department realize they made the wrong one, and not to let any other student-athletes go through this in the future.

I have never been a part of a team I have been more proud of and we are going to band together to make our last year ever as a sport at Syracuse University the best it can possibly be. Thank you for getting our voice out and helping us to be heard.
Sarah Manning, Junior Syracuse Swimmer

I'm a Masters swimmer with the club that trains at Northwestern University. Northwestern is comparable to Syracuse in size and type of school. The men's program came in sixth at NCAAs this year with a small team. Northwestern has made the kind of commitment necessary to compete at the highest D1 level. I suspect Syracuse could so if it wanted to. The process is certainly not a short term undertaking.

I understand, but am disappointed by, the desire to take the short-cut to having another competitive D1 sports team. A lot of the blame seems to be laid at the feet of the Syracuse athletic director, and I suppose certainly much of it should be. The kind of support necessary to commit to growing the swimming programs at Syracuse (I've seen figures of $35-50 million for a new facility) has to come from the university's administration and broader community as a whole, not just the athletic department.

Northwestern's success in swimming has its roots probably 20 years ago with the construction of the Sports and Aquatics Center and the hiring of Bob Groseth to head the men's program. That long-term commitment has paid off with top-10 NCAA finishes for the men's team the last three years. Northwestern's women's program is definitely on the upswing as well, sending five swimmers to the NCAA championships this year.

This recap of Northwestern's success is not to crow about it but to show that a small, academically-elite school can be successful at the upper reaches of NCAA swimming. That sort of commitment doesn't come just from the AD hiring a couple good coaches and walking away.

After about 25 years away from swimming (and having never swum at the collegiate level) I took it up again at 50 as a form of exercise I could do for the rest of my life. My son plays hockey as do many of his cousins. Their hockey careers have already ended or will, in all likelihood, end when they graduate from high school. My brothers-in-law all played hockey at either the club or D1 levels in college. Only one still plays and coaches. Hockey is hardly a lifetime sport for most people.

From a practical standpoint it seems to me that swimming provides greater lifetime opportunities for its participants, whether it's personal fitness, coaching or continued participation at a high level (note Dara Torres' and Amanda Beard's recent forays back into swimming at the international level with the aim of making the 2008 Olympic team).

It's a shame that Syracuse has decided to end its swimming programs. Hockey is fun to watch, but personally, if I had to choose I would be in the water instead of in the stands.
Skip Montanaro Evanston, IL.

It has been a very difficult 48 hours for those of us that are part of the Syracuse Swimming Community. I cannot begin to express the gratitude I feel for the concern and support that all have shown for my son, Peter, the swimmers on the team and the Walkers. I am proud to have been part of this exceptional sport of character and integrity these past 13 years as Peter developed into the extraordinary scholar athlete he is today.

I implore anyone out there that can provide us with strategies for procuring financial support to fund the existing program until at least the signed freshman graduate, to please contact Swimming World Magazine with their suggestions. Also, please sign the petition. A large population of support will be difficult for the Athletics Department to ignore. It is my hope that Swimming World Magazine will continue to place the petition and any updates at the head of their web page on an on-going basis. [Editor's note: We plan on it.] They have been wonderful about disseminating information to all of you and providing unrelenting support to the cause. Heartfelt thanks to you. Respectfully submitted.
Lynne R. Gollands

Although I am not a swimmer at Syracuse University, I am a student who enjoys watching the swim team compete throughout the year. I am extremely disappointed in the athletic department, not only because they made this rash decision on a whim and left many student-athletes with no where else to turn, but for the disrespect they showed when it came to informing everyone. To let the local newspaper be the first place anyone, including the swim team, saw anything regarding this issue is completly unprofessional and cowardice. It seems that Dr. Gross has no real reasons that make any sense for why this decision was made, and I believe we can show him that. I feel for the entire swim community as a whole and I hope that we can all band together to try and reverse this decision.
Matthew Perry, Junior at Syracuse University

As the mother of a Syracuse Swimming Alum, Team Captain and triple Syracuse record holder, (Lisa Wittich, 2006 grad and record holder in 500, 1000 and 1650 freestyle) I am shocked at the decision to close the swimming program in favor of woman's ice hockey. WHAT? Aside from the devastation this has caused for all the current swimmers and coaches, does this administration really think that women's ice hockey is a good idea? Will women's ice hockey be around 90 years from now, as swimming has been? My guess is NO! How many high schools have women's ice hockey programs compared to the number of schools that have men's and women's swimming programs? Who will be the athletes to feed into the program? They will surely be local and regional, not national, as the swimmers are now. As a 1979 Title IX graduate, (basketball, St. Louis U.) I am all about women's equality in athletics, but do we really need women's ice hockey at the expense of the time honored and noble sport of Swimming? HELLO ORANGE ~ ARE YOU LISTENING AND THINKING? No athletes work harder than swimmers. Poll the football, softball and basketball players and see who they have the most repect for when it comes to dedication and training. What team consistantly has the highest grade point average and best academic performance? Does ORANGE really think so little of these values as to eliminate them? Apparently so, and how sad is that!!!
Barb Wittich St. Louis, MO

Thank you for your article. I too was a member of the Syracuse University swim team (1997-2000) and I have the same feelings seven years later. The swim team at SU was my life, my family, my friends and my support. I made friends that I will have forever. We laughed, cried and often yelled in anger together. We swam mile after mile, ran, lifted, ate and breathed together. I am sad to hear of the events taking place. Lou is a great coach and I will forever miss his pool deck whistle (that still rings in my ears!).
Eliza Decker

My name is Susan Helmrich. I was the co-captain of the SU women's swim team from 1974-77. I was the first women's swimming scholarship winner in 1975, a women's athletic Hall of Fame inductee, and swimming at Syracuse meant the world to me. Lou was both a friend and a coach. Both Lou and Ellie put their hearts and souls into the swimming program and I cannot believe SU would cut a program that has changed the lives of so many men and women for decades. Why would SU want to cut, rather than invest in such an amazing program?

As for a women's hockey team – this makes no sense. I now live in California, where swimming is a way of life and ice hockey is relatively non-existent. According to Daryl Gross, he feels that SU cannot compete without building a $40 million dollar natatorium. This is not true – look at Yale and Tufts – not great pools – great swim programs.

Also, with or without swim programs, SU will have to step up and build a better pool just to compete with other schools – look at MIT and BU – new beautiful pools for the students at the school. Swimming, as a recreational sport is something that everyone in the university community can be a part of. I doubt one can say the same thing about ice hockey.

This is a very sad and stupid decision on the part of SU.
Susan Helmrich

I would first like to thank you for your help in allowing us to post these responses on your site.

My name is Sean Ellis and I am a junior on the Syracuse swim team. I am taken aback by this whole situation. Above all, the announcement of this travesty was handled very unprofessionally. In his teleconference, Dr. Gross rambled about servicing student-athletes. Why then was my phone call from the Athletic Department made by someone I have never met?

Dr. Gross has no interest in servicing his athletes; he couldn't place 30 phone calls to let our team know he was ending our collegiate athletic careers at Syracuse?

Our pool is perfectly fine for our use. We have never asked for a new facility. Aside from this, Syracuse will have to consider building a new campus recreation center in the near future if the school is to remain competitive in attracting students. Dr. Gross was not talking about building a new Natatorium. Such a project would cost far less than $30 million. Boston University was able to construct a new recreation center open to ALL students in downtown Boston for $30 million. This facility not only has TWO pools but numerous amenities for BU students.

I take great pride in representing a program that has been around for more than 100 years and such a great University. I have personally thanked Coach Walker for giving me such an opportunity. I hope the college swimming community will remain supportive in this matter.
Sean Ellis

I was disturbed to hear that my Alma Mater, Syracuse University, may be joining the growing list of universities that have cancelled their swimming programs. I have fond memories of the university and was a member of the 1982 Big East Championship swimming team.

Today, in my "spare" time, I'm a coach of a USA Swimming age group team and the head coach of a US Masters Swim Team in the Philadelphia area. Every week I'm around hundreds of swimmers of all ages and see first hand how important the sport is in developing healthy lifestyles and long lasting friendships. In addition, I have two daughters who are excellent swimmers and I hope that they can compete in the sport that they love through college.

It appears as if they won't be able to do that at Syracuse University. The same is true for the many other soon-to-be-college-age swimmers I coach. Evidently, SU wants to compete in sports in which they can regularly contend for NCAA championships. Rather than try to build the team, they chose to quit. That's the "winning spirit."

What a negative message to send to athletes of any sport. Did I break any NCAA swimming records? No. Was I part of something special 25 years ago? I'd like to think so. Did college swimming help me down the path to a happy, healthy, and successful life? Absolutely. Shame on Syracuse University for taking that opportunity away from others.
Robert Bonsall, Syracuse University Class of 1985 and Member of 1982 SU Big East Championship Team

I'm a native of Syracuse, and daydreamed about swimming for the then-called "Orangemen": they were our professional swimmers! Liz Vilbert, Scott Henry and many others inspired local club and school swimmers to ponder if we could scale similar heights. This inspiration will be no longer available to legions of local athletes.

I'm saddened to read Daryl Gross' assessment that efficiency (specifically monetary), local sports culture (we're a winter not a summer sports town), and Title IX compliance were cited. Real Estate is inexpensive in Syracuse if land acquisition was required for facility construction, and a national class facility at Nottingham High School is a bus ride away. Matter of fact, Nottingham hosted the Big East Championship not long ago!

Further, student recreation fees/assessments would cover a vast portion of operating costs and might be pledgeable against a capital construction/operating bond if the facility was large enough for intercollegiate and intramural groups to coexist. Add the numerous events that the pool could host to augment revenue, and I'd be very leery about the feasibility studies that buttress Mr. Gross' decision.

One needs to look south to Ithaca (specifically Cornell) to see how their men's team has thrived in a six lane, 25 yard pool! While Syracuse is a flashpoint for Weather Channel reports, our schools and communities are blessed with numerous indoor pools and outdoor bodies of water: we enjoy water other than in a frozen state!

Last, Gross' elimination of both swim teams while adding a women's hockey time will still create a net gain for women at the expense of men. Other prongs beyond proportionality are acceptable to meet the spirit of Title IX. I urge the Athletic Department to put a more creative focus on solving this, versus simply adding by subtracting.
Peter J. Sczupak, Managing Director and Partner, Oceanus Consulting, Inc.

Why not get hoards of alumnae (that's over 50 years of graduates) to contest the closing of the sport? Get them to donate money to the sport to keep it going for at least 5 more years? It seems that many Syracuse grads are very successful people in powerful places. I am sure many would be flattered if they were asked to help. Don't give up! The lessons of life from the sport of swimming are definitely worth saving.
Elaine Lund

Here's some more food for thought. I don't believe I'm mistaken about this. What team won the very first Team Title in the now venerable Big East Conference from ANY school in ANY sport? It was the 1979-1980 Syracuse University Men's Swimming Team. First ever. Not basketball. Not football. (As much as I love them both.) We were given the Championship Rings for this great team victory just a bit over a year ago on the 25th Anniversary of the Event.

(Many members of that team won it again in 1982, including Rob Bonsall who has posted previously on this subject. Dale Neuberger, also posting here, was on the coaching staff at that time.)

There's a LOT of history in the 90-year swimming tradition of Syracuse University that may be ending now. Just read the other posts here at Swimming World. Further, I personally have heard from at least a dozen people NOT represented here. And that's not including a number of those from other Universities with whom we competed so many years ago.

Believe me, I never had any illusions about my own personal level of athletic talent. But everyone on the men's and women's teams when I was there worked as hard as any athletic team on campus, or in the world for that matter. It's never any different for swimmers. Hours and many miles a day, often in the pool at 5:30 a.m. and again at 4 p.m. Or in the weight room. Or out running cross country. Often in the snow. Uphill both ways, as we now tell our kids. (Only we're not kidding.) And we performed. Athletically and academically. Year after year. Further, we were — and the current team and its members are — widely respected. (Not least for our stylin' haircuts.)

It is difficult to see the logic in this decision by the University and its Atletic Director. Or the timing for current team-members. It's too bad that so much is about politics these days…and so little is about people. That's why it's so great to see some of the names – past and present – in these posts. I'm proud to be associated with all of them, even if only in some small way.
Mike Wright Syracuse Swimmer 1979-84; Captain 1982, 1983 Once voted 'Ugliest Guy Ever at the Big East Conference Swimming Championships' (I hope it was the haircut)