One of the most critical threats facing Olympic sports programs in the United States is the continuing elimination of collegiate programs. As NCAA Division I schools ramp up funding for football and basketball, modestly funded Olympic sports programs suffer and some are even eliminated. This is not just a problem for swimming, but for many Olympic sports, and because this is a multi-sport issue I have long held the belief that the U.S. Olympic Committee needs to step into the fray. Finally, this is happening and while there’s a very high mountain to climb I believe that we have reason for hope.
At its’ most recent convention, the NCAA agreed to create a joint NCAA/USOC Task Force to study the status of Olympic sports programs at NCAA institutions and develop recommendations designed to protect and expand future opportunities for American athletes and coaches. Cynics may say this is but one more study group put in place and keep the complainers at bay, but I believe the timing is right for well-thought out recommendations to receive serious consideration. New leadership at the NCAA and the USOC, along with a growing public perception that college athletics are in need of serious study and reform are creating the sort of moving and fluid environment in which substantive changes can occur.
The NCAA/USOC Task Force is being chaired by Jack Swarbrick … and there could not have been a better choice. While you may not have heard his name before, be assured that Mr. Swarbrick is a major player. He was instrumental in engineering the relocation of the NCAA from Overland Park to Indianapolis and he is exceptionally well thought of in the highest circles of NCAA leadership. As an attorney, Mr. Swarbrick has worked with numerous sports groups, including many NGBs and he has a deep understanding of our business and the issues involving Olympic sports. A visionary, with a rare appreciation for details and process, Jack Swarbrick is the ideal leader for this effort with the capability of being the catalyst for change.
Giving me additional hope are the Task Force members themselves, who are serious and respected professionals holding positions of influence within both the NCAA and the USOC. They include:
- Richard Bender, Executive Director, USA Wrestling
- Herman Frazier, Director of Athletics, University of Hawaii
- Ron Galimore, Senior Director of Men’s Programs, USA Gymnastics
- Andy Geiger, Director of Athletics, Ohio State University
- Ian Gray, Student-Athlete, University of Nebraska
- Larry James, Director of Athletics, Richard Stockton College of N.J.
- Courtney Johnson, Student-Athlete, University of California
- Kyle Kallander, Commissioner, Big South Conference
- Cheryl Levick, Director of Athletics, Santa Clara University
- Peter Likins, President, University of Arizona
- Bill Martin, Director of Athletics, University of Michigan
- Jean Lenti Ponsetto, Director of Athletics, DePaul University
- Andrew Valmon, Head Coach, Track & Field, University of Maryland
- Jon Vegosen, Legal Counsel, U.S. Tennis Association
- Chuck Wielgus, Executive Director, USA Swimming
The Task Force will begin its’ work later this summer. The goal is to have a report ready for presentation to the NCAA and the USOC by September 30, 2005. The Task Force will adhere strictly to the charge given to it by the NCAA and the USOC. It is worth noting in this regard that the focus of the Task Force will not include a consideration of the merits of Title IX. While the impacts of Title IX are likely to be relevant to the Task Force’s deliberations, consideration of the merits or scope of the law as enforced and proposals for the modification of the law or its enforcement are not. Personally, I believe this is a most important consideration because it means that the Task Force will have to search for market driven recommendations, and I believe that in so doing we will have the greatest opportunity to construct recommendations with the best chance for actualization.
I intend to be an active Task Force participant, and I encourage members of the swimming community to share their ideas and recommendations with me, which I in turn will share with the Task Force. I will be most attracted to those recommendations that are positive in nature and have definable action steps that can lead to true change.