Someone once joked with me that there is a section in the "secret Division 1 AD handbook" that outlines the easiest way to diffuse the uproar when you cut a sport. I think it goes something like this:
- Announce the decision to cut or terminate the non-revenue program on a Friday afternoon, preferably at the beginning of a three day weekend or at the end of a semester to ensure that there will be minimal attendance, thus proving your point that no one really cares anyway.
- Don't ever say the words "cut" or "terminate" in the meeting.
- Do not look anyone in the eye or be sincere in anything you say.
- Be careful about blaming budget crises or title IX for the cut, as it may lead them to think that all they have to do is raise money to bring their miserable little team back. Blame someone else; just be careful about presenting a problem that could be solved with alumni support.
- Dance around questions and don't make straight-forward statements in the meeting. Those are more effective in the newspaper.
- Make your exit as quickly and cowardly as possible. Get out of there before they start crying.
- Don't worry. Those big screen tv's in the football locker room are going to make all of this worth it.
Pragmatism didn’t play well with the swimmers who were still on campus at the end of the school term. Of the 59 men and women on the rosters, less than one-third attended the meeting. Phillips said email was sent to every swimmer to be followed by a letter detailing the university’s plan.
Read how it really went down in this excerpt from an "inside scoop" article from SwimUtopia:
“They told our coach to call a meeting on Friday night after finals, after which most kids had gone home. Of 65 swimmers and divers, there were probably 15 of us there to hear the news. Terry Don Phillips walked in and spent 15 minutes dancing around it, refusing to actually say the word "cut". He finally said after 15 minutes we are phasing out swimming. A swimmer raised his hand and said "So you mean your cutting us?" Terry Don finally came out with it after 15 or 20 some minutes.” Harry went on to say, “once the administration finally made their announcement the entire team and coaching staff was taken by complete surprise and was blindsided.
Now, those are the bad AD's. I understand that the above post is a harsh take. Not all Athletic Directors are cold and callous as I have played here and often the decision is not theirs alone. I understand that sometimes cuts do have to be made. I know an Athletic Director at a University who had been a program builder from the beginning and was forced to cut two teams during the last year of a great career. It was a very stressful time for this person and it was not easy. The orders came from higher up that it would be cuts and not an "across the department" shared budget decrease that would be enacted. This person fought to keep the programs that were eventually cut and it was heartbreaking to have to go through with it. Retirement came soon after.
I feel that with Clemson, as it was with Washington and their repeated failed attempts at cutting their program before finally ending it, these cuts are different. They can easily be viewed as cold and callous. They are against the spirit and ideals that the NCAA is founded upon. Terry Don Phillips was also the Athletics Director at the University of Arkansas when they cut their men's swimming program. In my opinion, that is no coincidence.
I do not have a vendetta against Athletic Directors or even the NCAA. There are some good people out there in these positions. People who understand the ideals of "educational opportunities through athletics;" people who feel that the more opportunities a school can offer, the better; people who understand the dangers of the "arms race" of college spending and the poison of modern sports marketing; people who value non-revenue sports as important athletic endeavors that help to create a positive college environment and help to send students into the world more prepared; people who were once athletes and coaches, who understand where those of us who still appreciate "pure" sports get our perspective.
Unfortunately, it seems, there aren't enough of them out there to put a stop to the madness. It seems that those people are being run out of our business and replaced by leaders not unlike the CEO's of major corporations; people who compete in a system of greed and bottom lines, rather than character building and fair play. If the ideals of the NCAA were upheld, those teams like Clemson, who are active in the community, who are outstanding students, who give their time and their hearts to represent their schools, would not be cut. At least not without some major crisis that forced it to happen.
As a coach, I preach that in sports as in life, the journey is more important than the destination, and that what you learn when striving for excellence is more important than the trophies and medals you earn as a result. Wouldn't it make sense for the people in charge of college sports to hold high that same ideal? The NCAA serves a high and noble purpose, and I feel I have to stand up and say that non-revenue sports are being pushed aside by something sinister that has corrupted a system that embodies an ideal that I hold sacred.
How does the commercial go?: