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Swimming : NCAA Cutbacks Could Put U.S. in Slow Lane

May 29, 1987|Tracy Dodds

College swim coaches are doing some frantic lobbying on campuses across the country, trying to explain to athletic directors, presidents and chancellors the crushing effect a piece of proposed legislation by the NCAA would have on the sport and the national team.

A proposal expected to be voted upon when the NCAA Presidents' Council meets at the end of June in Dallas would limit college swimmers to just 26 weeks of training during the school year, from Oct. 1 to April 1. It would also, in effect, eliminate training over the holidays, since any done then would count against the 26-week total.

College swimmers would not be allowed to train with their college coaches over the summers, either, which would undermine the entire club system.

It also would cut scholarships from 11 for men to 10, and from 14 for women to 12.

Said Darrell Fick, associate coach at USC: "The Russians and the East Germans will be glad to hear about this!"

Richard Quick, U.S. Olympic coach, is doing all the lobbying he can from his office at the University of Texas.

"There is absolutely no question that these changes would hurt our Olympic teams," he said. "It would be devastating.

"We'd better do some quick lobbying and let these people know what they're doing to our sport, because I think we're up against a mob psychology. The presidents are on a cut-back, cost-cutting crusade and I don't think they're really interested in hearing how these things might affect some of our Olympic sports.

"I'm afraid we've been lumped in with some of the other sports, when the reasoning doesn't apply to us."

The NCAA presidents are interested in cutting costs, reining in some runaway, excessive programs, and putting the emphasis back on the student role of the student-athlete.

But as Quick pointed out, pools have to be maintained year round anyway. The coaches are paid year round. Swimming is an endurance sport, so the swimmers are going to train year round, possibly on their own but more likely with their coaches, finding a way to circumvent the rules, which certainly wouldn't add any control by the institutions.

And swimmers' grade-point averages are always among the best in any athletic department. Quick calls swimmers "the shining lights for the NCAA in the area of academics."

"These rules would defeat the purpose of everything they're attempting to do," Quick said. "As far as giving the swimmers time to go to school--you'd end up trying to cram a year's training into a few weeks.

"If they want to cut costs, let's suggest some other ways, cut some of the waste. For example, instead of cutting scholarships why not limit an athlete to three recruiting visits instead of five, and limit the number of times a coach can visit a recruit. Why not eliminate off-campus recruiting visits?

"There are other ways."

The proposed rule would severely handicap college swimmers during the last months of the school year--from the end of the NCAA meet until school is out and they could begin working with their club coach, and that would have to be a different coach.

That could be mean two months or more of trying to work out on their own.

"We can't have that in 1988," Quick said. "Actually, we can't have that year to year. I don't understand a rule that would keep an athlete from maximizing his potential in an Olympic sport."

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