USOC Concerned About Future of NCAA Olympic Sports

Feb 6, 2014; Sochi, RUSSIA; USOC chief executive officer Scott Blackmun addresses the media in a USOC leadership press conference during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Main Press Center-Pushkin Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Courtesy: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In an article written by swim dad Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports today, United States Olympic Committee (USOC) CEO Scott Blackmun told Forde that he was legitimately concerned about the future of Olympic sports at the NCAA level.

“We are, candidly, very concerned. We’re not against giving college athletes much-improved medical care, four-year scholarships, full cost of attendance. Our concern is that the inevitable impact of these changes is coming down on Olympic sports. We’ve seen estimates that athletic departments will have to spend an additional $2 million to $3 million per year to cover these costs. That’s the cost of operating two or three Olympic sports programs. If you’re looking at your options, they are: raising more money or cutting more programs. If the answer is the transfer from the men’s gymnastics program to fund these mandates, men’s gymnastics is in trouble.”

– USOC CEO Scott Blackmun

As has been previously expressed by American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA)’s John Leonard and Swimming World contributor George Block, the threat is definitely there for Olympic sports throughout the entire NCAA landscape.

With revenue sports athletes attempting to unionize to turn scholastic athletics into a minor league professional sports system, to the larger college football-driven athletics departments trying to enhance how much they can compensate what is supposed to be an amateur athlete, sports like swimming are being left to find new alternatives.

The threat has hit so close to home within the sport of swimming that USA Swimming took unprecedented steps to fund a position at the College Swim Coaches Association of America to the tune of $125,000 a year to help the CSCAA find ways to save college swimming as we know it.

“USA Swimming needs to take more of a role in promoting college swimming,” USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus told Yahoo Sports. “We’ve always been a little reluctant. We’ve seen our role as supporting club swimming. … We felt it was time for us to get involved in a supporting role. Those of us who care about Olympic sports realize they are at greater risk than they ever have been before.”

While there has been a steady decline in NCAA Division I swim teams, with programs like the College of Charleston being cut at least once a year, it is only a matter of time before the floodgates are opened on college programs getting cut unless they can find a way to fund themselves.  The arms race in big time college sports, that includes more than $1 billion in broadcast rights fees for the men’s basketball championship tournament is not going to end. And, the athletes that help NCAA programs make this type of money are demanding a cut of the proceeds.

The primary question is just how far different Olympic sports will go to remain a part of the NCAA system.  Forde also reports that the CSCAA has fielded suggestions of changing the NCAA Championship structure into a dual meet tournament that is friendlier to television.

“Swimming coaches have even discussed changing the format of their championships into a three-week, tournament-style series of dual meets (more TV-friendly) to crown a champion.”

Yes, what was once an April Fool’s Day joke on, is being seen as a potential way to help solve college swimming’s revenue issues.

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  1. avatar
    Joe Black

    You know how much money these schools bring in via endowments, TV deals, merchandising and marketing? These large institutions are spending millions upon millions of dollars on pretty much anything they can just to not show profit to lose their non profit organization status. That’s probably why Olympic sports have survived as long as they have. Example. The University of Texas built a medical school, 3 buildings and a new upgrade to the tower. The last one is estimated to cost $370 million. These universities can pay coaches millions of dollars and starve their athletes. They give money every where else instead of to their own athletes. The $2-3 million added expenses to these institutions just helps them hide how much profit they are actually making. Despite them claiming they are “not for profit.” It is a non profit business. The ones who can’t take care of their athletes are just slave owners. They make way too much money off their athletes. The 2-3 million is chump change.

    • True of a handful of institutions. The majority are just hanging on and will pay dearly. Ignorant to assume this is widespread among universities.

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