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California and the West

Nearly Nude Water Polo Calendar Stays Afloat With a Bit of Cover-Up

Sports: University will allow publication of team project to raise funds, but a couple of swimmers will be 'wearing' fake swimsuits.

November 22, 1998|SALLY ANN CONNELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SAN LUIS OBISPO — The Cal Poly men's water polo team will get to put out its nearly nude calendar after all. At least with the help of some strategically placed computer graphics.

A compromise of sorts has been struck between the team and sports administrators at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo after two weeks of controversy over the calendar. Its single photo showed 22 helmeted players with water polo balls in place of their missing Speedos.

The photo will stay the same with the exception of two men standing on the end who, in the words of one administrator, had the water polo balls "inappropriately placed." Those two will get some computer-generated help in the form of fake swimsuits to cover up peeks of pubic hair and body creases.

Water polo club President Matthew A. Landre, 21, has mixed feelings about the deal, particularly because his image will be shielded by one of the fake bathing suits.

"I've been telling them that the people who come out to watch us play see a lot more than they see in this picture," Landre said. The team's general sentiment seems to be that being nearly naked is an inalienable right of water polo players.

"It's part of water polo culture," said David R. Breinham, 21, goalie and club treasurer. "We're already in Speedos. It's not a big step to this. If you're afraid to show off your body, you're not going to go into water polo."

Like teams at many other universities, Cal Poly's water polo squad must raise funds to stay afloat. The team's coffers were drained to attend the Collegiate Water Polo Assn. national championships two weeks ago in Ohio. And what the team's fund couldn't cover, students made up with their own cash.

Breinham hopes to earn money with the calendar, which is a parody of the Time magazine issue of 1996 showing summer Olympians in the nude.

When hints of the controversy spread, the original, unedited picture of the 22 naked players made its way to the Mustang Daily, Cal Poly's newspaper.

The photo's humor seemed lost on the first level of administrators who oversee and help fund recreational sports at Cal Poly. They worried about precedent, envisioning a whole host of naked team calendars and Web sites, team members said.

The sports administrators didn't want to be quoted on the subject and referred an interview request to higher officials.

Soncia R. Lilly, executive director of the Associated Students Inc., which oversees all clubs on campus, conceded that the students did feel some pressure to change the photo but said that a swimsuit cover-up was never directly ordered. And no decision had been appealed to her, she added.

"This has been blown way out of proportion," she said. "We have the brightest students here at Cal Poly. It was very smart for them to take this and run with it. I think this is a marketing strategy. The recommendation was made that you can send the same message with Speedos, but they said our people were being negative."

Team member Erin M. Gill, however, said the school's recreational sports administrators wanted to quietly stop the calendar. "It's their decision which brought the bad publicity, and they are blaming it on us," said Gill, 19.

Expected to be available on campus this week, the $5 calendar will be produced in poster form with the picture and all 12 months on one large sheet, said Breinham, a business and marketing major.

Students maintain that they always planned a re-shoot or a little creative enhancement to hide the problems that will now be addressed with the computerized suits. The picture still has a certain gritty realism compared to underwear and perfume advertisements that prove how nudity sells. These buffed-out students sport plenty of body hair, and there was no makeup or body oil used at the shoot.

Team President Landre doubted that the guys would have gone for a more Calvin Klein look. "Well, we're not doing it for the glamour," he said.

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