Ron Neugent’s Eloquent Testimony Before Title IX Commission

(Ron Neugent, a 1980 Olympian and University of Kansas alumnus, decided to fly to San Diego to give testimony before the Title IX Opportunity in Athletics Commission. Ron has been incredibly vigilant and proactive over the past year, event though he doesn't have a child old enough to swim in college.

Ron is a professional who has taken hours and hours and hours—literally days and days— of his time giving it back to the swimming community, trying to save what is so dear to him. He had to cancel his patient load for a couple of days just to go to San Diego! This guy has put his money where his mouth is to do what he can for Olympic sports!

Here is his powerful testimony prseented to the Commission on November 20.)

"My name is Ron Neugent. I was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team and I swam at the University of Kansas in the early 1980s. I have served on the U.S. Olympic Committee Board of Directors and Athletes Advisory Council and am a former Vice-President of United States Swimming. I am currently an orthodontist in Wichita, Kansas and I teach four hours per week at Wichita State University.

In a three week period in March 2001, three Big 12 conference schools — the University of Kansas, the University of Nebraska, and Iowa State University — discontinued their men’s swimming & diving programs. In addition, Kansas dropped men’s tennis and Iowa State dropped men’s baseball. No women’s sports were affected.

Our men’s swimming & diving task force was told by the Chancellor and the Athletic Director at the University of Kansas that men’s swimming & diving could be reinstated if we raised $12.1 million to fully endow the program. We were given three months to produce $2.1 million, in cash, as a down payment to preserve the program. The men’s tennis task force was told to raise $6 million.

No help was provided by the Athletic Department or the University. Alumni groups that offered financial support to the University were simply turned away. Approximately 35-40 male student-athletes were told they needed to leave the University of Kansas if they wanted to continue their sports at the collegiate level.

Discontinuing the men’s sports may not be a violation of Title IX. But to require one gender to fully fund their programs to continue as collegiate sports, when the other gender is not required to fund their own programs, is discrimination in its purest form.

We now have no collegiate men’s swimming & diving programs in Kansas. Zero. We have no NCAA Division I men’s swimming & diving programs in Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, yet according to last year’s United States Swimming membership figures, we have nearly 4,100 (USA-S registered) male swimmers age 18 and under in those four states. These figures do not include high school boys who swim high school only (or boys in non-USA-S programs). Is it fair to tell our male swimmers and divers they must leave the midwest if they want to swim at the collegiate level, when their female teammates and friends can stay?

We hear these are tough economic times for collegiate athletic departments. We are told there is not enough money in the budget to support men’s Olympic sport athletic-educational opportunities. Men’s swimming at the University of Kansas, the University of Nebraska, and Iowa State University had survived the Great Depression and a World War and had provided more than 75 years of athletic-educational opportunities. And now suddenly they are gone.

As a twelve year old, my heroes were the swimmers on the University of Kansas men’s swimming team. We don’t have those heroes in our state now.

In Colorado Springs Dr. Leland asked "about schools that have dropped men’s sports due to cost allocation" and "whether universities might be hiding behind Title IX as a way to move dollars into their revenue sports budgets?" At Kansas, the combined budget of men’s swimming & diving and men’s tennis was approximately $650,000 during the 2000-2001 school year. Eliminating these programs helped increase the football program budget from $5.4 million to $6 million in 2001-2002.

I am concerned that university athletic departments are eliminating programs and moving toward the minimum number of sports required for NCAA Division I membership. Eventually, women’s sports will be affected. Athletic-educational opportunities are being eliminated, but with fewer sports it becomes much easier to continue to fund the "arms race" in revenue sports.

As a healthcare provider, I am concerned about the health effects of reduced athletic opportunities. We are already hearing reports that the incidence of diabetes and childhood obesity are increasing at alarming rates. We need to be working to provide more athletic opportunities for our future generations.

As the commission prepares its report, I would ask that you consider two recommendations.

First, limiting roster size or roster management has no place in collegiate athletic programs. Roster size should be determined by the coach, the number of student-athletes interested in participating, and the budget of the program – period. Roster size based upon proportionality eliminates educational opportunity for males and females. Don’t deny non-scholarship athletes the benefits learned from collegiate sports.

Second, I would ask that you ask Secretary Paige to strongly recommend to the NCAA to increase its minimum number of sports required for Division I membership. We must have NCAA requirements that raise the bar. Individual athletic departments will not do this on their own. This requirement would expand opportunities for males and females, and help control the "arms race" as funding is reallocated to the expansion of programs.

The Olympic creed states " The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part. Just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle." Let’s work to preserve and expand athletic-educational opportunities so that the male and female youth of our country have the opportunity to learn from the struggle.

Thank you.
Ron Neugent

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