Readers of my blog might automatically assume I have a vendetta against football, Athletic Directors and the NCAA in general. I do not. I have issues with the "arms race" and the apparent disregard for the value of sports that don't bring in money that inherently comes with it. From the perspective of a mid-major, non-revenue sport alumni, the current trends we see all too often in the modern sports landscape go against everything the NCAA is supposed to be about. More money somehow leading to less opportunities is in juxtaposition of the ideal of creating educational opportunities through athletics. Cutting sports makes no sense when college athletics has so much more money than in the past.
I posted recently about Mark Emmert becoming the new leader of the NCAA. It worries me not only because he is coming from a major school who cut swimming, but also because some quotes from his initial press conference can be taken as a statement about the "arms race." He basically acknowledged that he understands why it is a philosophical concern for the institution but that he doesn't really see a problem with it.
I contacted Ryan Stratton, one of the leaders in the fight to reinstate Washington Swimming, to see what his take is on the former UW President becoming head of the NCAA. I asked if swimmers should be worried. He basically put me in my place by saying that my reaction might not be the most appropriate course to take if we want to make a real change. His wise response is here:
I've always had a lot of respect for him. He certainly didn't insist that UW keep their swimming programs, but he has always been a promoter of college athletics, within the context of a quality higher education.
There have been a few people asking similar questions or insinuating that perhaps he played a bigger role in the UW decision, which I don’t believe to be accurate. I have not had any personal conversations with him, so I really can't provide too much insight. I have no reason to believe that he would not work to maintain and enhance the goals of the NCAA, which is to provide opportunities for student-athletes to compete at the collegiate level. He has been successful at every position he has held and I think he will be successful at the NCAA.
The swimming community (and other non-revenue sports) should target an awareness campaign so that he understands the challenges we face. Putting him on the defensive before he starts can only work against us. Perhaps his work at the NCAA will help him realize that the decision that he supported at UW was a poor one. Swimming should serve as an example of how to be both a student and an athlete, which is currently a struggle for higher-profile sports.
Kudos, Ryan. Thank you for giving us another angle from which to see this. If all of the non-revenue sports could get together and take on what you suggest, maybe someday it could lead to real action at the national level. Thank you for letting me post this.
I can't help but still worry about our new leader, but Ryan is right. A hostile reaction from the beginning might only serve to hurt our cause.