Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Our New Fearless Leader?

Oh crap...

Does anyone else smell that smoke? Can an aquatic sport actually burn to the ground?

Mark Emmert is the new head of the NCAA. Anyone remember who he is? He was the President of the University of Washington when they cut their swimming program during it's most successful year ever. I know he wasn't in charge at the time, but didn't UW also refuse to allow the Goodwill Games pool to be built on campus for free back in 1990, forcing it to it's location in Federal Way? And then they used lack of facility as an argument to cut swimming multiple times before it was finally killed for real?

Ummm... I can't help getting a little Han Solo vibe when I say it: "I have a bad feeling about this."

A quote from an article about his hiring:

The NCAA distributes nearly 96 percent of all revenue back to member schools, Emmert said.

"The most important issue is to recognize the NCAA does in fact engage in a variety of activities that generate revenue, the basketball tournament being the most dominant one of those by far," he said. "That's not inconsistent at all with the goals and values of the NCAA."

"The question is, what do you do with those resources? If those resources are deployed toward advancing the values and interest of intercollegiate athletics and student athletes, I don't see an inherent contradiction there at all."

Uh... yeah. I don't either unless the wrong people are deciding the priority list for what sports see the benefit. So far, the "values of the NCAA" is the part I am struggling with. Right now it almost seems that if a sport don't make money, it ain't got no value. If they had expanded to 96 teams in the men's tournament, I would have thrown up. There would have been almost half as many TEAMS in the championship for basketball as there are SWIMMERS in the D1 swim meet. Ouch. It's a good thing that was never a real possibility.

According to John Leonard on the MSS, when he talked about combining the men's and women's NCAA meets and possibly expanding the meets to allow conference champs with B cuts, former NCAA leader, Myles Brand, was an "enthusiastic supporter" of meet expansion and the idea of a temporary pool to host a major championship.
I have a feeling that Mark Emmert is not going to be on board at all.

I think that when most people listen to Mr. Leonard's proposal, they stop listening as soon as one of his 5 points rubs them the wrong way. Listen carefully to what he is proposing. He says that the NCAA has "listed swimming as an endangered sport." The proposal is amazing and it goes right along with what we have been arguing about here all week. We need MAJOR changes like this to help our sport survive.

I hope that when the CSCAA votes next month, the stubborn coaches who like things the way they are don't politic and shut it down. This proposal is the first major thing I have heard in a long time that can take us in the right direction. Anyone who has a problem with "the girls invading the boys meet" is being selfish and is not really weighing out the positives. They are not thinking about the well-being of the sport as a whole.

I see the ASA U meet getting more popular every year. Lots more swimmers will have nowhere else to swim if we keep heading in the direction we are now.

Watch John Leonard's proposal here. Yes, the entire thing. Then use my comments section to shoot holes in it if you can.


  1. hells yeah... check out this link. very relevant.

    Excerpt: "Let's talk about the financial arms race in college sports. It's not just at the University of Kentucky (basketball coach John Calipari) or at Alabama (football coach Nick Saban), it's also at Butler, which dug deep to pay basketball coach Brad Stevens to stay.

    The arms race is like the weather: Everybody complains about it, but nobody is able to do anything. The bottom line is, everybody in the power conferences wants to win, and the only way to win is to spend money on big-name coaches and pricey new athletic facilities.

    Again, consider Butler, humble, mid-major Butler, hardly an Oregon or a Texas. Imagine the public backlash if athletic director Barry Collier had said, "Look, we have limited resources and we're just not in the business of paying coaches a million bucks a year.'' They would have needed to build an alligator-infested moat to keep the protesters away from Hinkle Fieldhouse.

    The genie is out of the bottle. And for all the lip service school presidents offer about limiting the arms race, the bottom line is, nobody is willing to unilaterally disarm.

    Nor does Emmert seem inclined to use his NCAA bully pulpit to call for universal disarmament.

    It's unlikely Emmert will effect any significant change because that's not what the member schools want him to do. The school presidents are the bosses, not Emmert. If the presidents wanted serious change, they'd hire a revolutionary figure. But they want more of the same. More money, mostly.

    The NCAA president can talk a good game, but he can't play it. That's not a knock at any of the previous four NCAA presidents or Emmert. The problem is, he's a cop without a gun. Or, in this case, an enforcement cop without subpoena power or the necessary staff to keep cheating schools in line.

    What's Emmert's plan?

    Basically, it's to maintain what has been done already..."

  2. I'd be surprised if ASA U didn't shrink significantly in the upcoming year.

  3. john is wrong! swimming will never be as big as football, baseball, basketball"."
    I don't think we can handle being big like that, and we have great values because we are not caught in the "big" glory bs hole.

    The meet is already to long and boring! combining men and women makes it more boring. Having more swimmers makes it a longer more boring meet. Track and field suffers the same consequences.

    Maybe they should switch to a three swims meet, like trials. Narrow the field to just top 8 before we show it on TV, the rest of the swims will be available on the web.

    The rest is great.

  4. What I'd really like to see is the professional ranks reinvesting more money back into the NCAA, and I think to some extent we see that with the youth levels. In other countries, the pro teams have to build their own farm systems from the time the kids are 10 or 12. In the US, the Universities take care of that for us. Nobody will be able to force them to do it, however, and I'm not sure they'll do it on their own. They'd probably rather switch to the international model and have complete control, and be able to raise their athletes their way.

    Anyways, I'm willing to give Emmert his chance. Bad rep. at Washington, but I don't know enough background on the situation to judge him solely on that. Brand was a great president, but he like to pump a lot of sunshine, and promise a lot of initiatives that weren't necessarily feasible. Maybe a hard-line, conservative, financial guy like Emmert will be good to control the arms race.

    Furthermore, swimming needs to stop trying to put itself up against football and basketball. Any swimming argument that begins with "but football" or "in basketball" is a loss from the get-go. We all know that swimmers work very hard, and deserve lots of recognition, and are phenomenal athletes, but we can't get such big heads that we think we can take on the true big boys of sports. We need to find a way to work WITH football and basketball, rather than try and steal a piece of their pie. I think the end goal of a COLLEGE swimming overhaul needs to be to give more swimmers an outlet to continue their swimming career, reach their full potential and get a subsidized education, not to try increase the number of hundred dollar handshakes, add to the number of zero's on our coaches salary's, and the amount of "swag" our swimmers get. Those kind of changes need to come at the behest of USA-Swimming and FINA, not the NCAA. As long as the new prez keeps that in mind, I think the sport will do fine.