Years and years of training. Thousands spent on club dues and travel to say nothing of “Technical” suits. Why on earth would a swimmer, now with scholarship in hand, give it back? The answer is because swimming on the collegiate level is a team sport and any extra scholarship monies that can be found, can help land future swimmers. Remember that the typical scholarship for a deserving Division I women’s swimmer is less than $10,000 while the average for the men is closer to $6,500. Five percent here, five percent there and pretty soon you’re talking real money. Not big money necessarily, but big percentages that taken together can land a heavy hitter in next year’s freshman class.
So how often then is a swimmer asked to “give back” part or all of their scholarship to help bring in future recruits?
Gregg Troy of Florida says the answer depends largely on the philosophy of the program and adds, “You better ask around to find out this one.” In asking coaches, we found the consensus landing somewhere between “Very common” to “very rare.”
“This is a question most athletes do NOT ask, and SHOULD.” says Brooks Teal of NC State. “Some programs will not recommend renewal on some swimmers so that they may expand their recruitment of other athletes. Many foreign athletes require substantial funding and that can impact some members of the existing squad.
“It depends on the school,” said one Big East head coach. “In our program it is not very common, but it has happened before. Ultimately everyone makes sacrifices to make the “team” better.” One men’s coach also discussed that sense of sacrifice. “A part of building a team is having team members sacrifice time, emotional investment, and, at times, financial resources. Particularly in men's swimming, with 9.9 scholarships, it is commonplace for team members to offer scholarship back.”
According to one coach, “Some schools make it a ‘tradition’ for upperclass athletes to give back.” Just don’t tell that to guys like Stanford’s Ted Knapp or SMU’s Eddie Sinnott. Both admitted that the practice did happen and felt that it shouldn’t be allowed.
Denver’s Brian Schrader explained further. “Giving back scholarship is a slippery slope.” It is not something I think should have to happen, but it does, and I think the best way for it to happen is for it to come from the parents with the idea that they want to do something for the program if they have had a great experience with their athlete as part of that program.”
“In over 15 years of collegiate coaching,” added Ohio State’s Bill Dorrenkott, “we have had three athletes give back money and in all three, it was the athlete who initiated the idea.” Its an ethos that makes all coaches envious. Said one, “I have seen it done at other schools and wished I had signed that team-oriented swimmer for my school.”
While the answers varied widely, no coach acknowledged asking for money back as a standard practice. Explained one coach, “We would be very selective in who we might ask” said one. “They have to be able to handle it financially, have to be mature enough to not have their ego damaged, and ultimately place the team above themselves.”
At the end of the day, “it is totally up to the swimmer (not the coach) to give up the money, says Hawaii’s Vic Wales. Adds another, “When it happens, it’s only after the coach and swimmer and coach and parent have developed a better relationship, and know it won’t place a hardship on the family. It is never coerced.”
That brings us back to where we began – somewhere between very often and very rarely. Dorrenkott offered perhaps the best advice by emphasizing that recruits and their parents, “Should ask this question of each school you are interested in attending.”
What about you – what would you do? This week’s poll asks, “How much scholarship would you give up to help land the final piece of your relay?”
Have a recruiting question you’ve always wanted to ask a college coach? E-mail us. Want to ask a coach in person? Make plans for the latest CollegeSwimming.com Recruit Seminar set for August 3 in Minneapolis. Look for registration information next week.