By Jim Sheehan//USA Swimming President | Monday, March 2, 2015
As I am sure many of you are aware, there is a lot going on in the world of college sports. One of the most prominent areas of change is in the level of funding that scholarship athletes can receive. The phrase used for this change is "full cost of attendance" and it is very accurate in that there will be some significant cost increases to universities. In order to manage those cost increases, universities will need to either come up with additional revenue or cut other costs. It is the latter that could be a very real threat to college scholarship swimming.
Eliminating college scholarship swimming would be a huge mistake. There are nearly 9,000 swimmers at the Division I level who positively enrich their university communities, mostly at significantly higher levels than other sports teams. Swimmers are notorious for having the highest team grade point averages on campus. Taking it one step further, approximately 70 percent of Division I swim programs have a student-athlete who goes on to a C-suite job.
When moving on in their careers they look seriously at hiring others from their alma mater, their college affiliation is referenced in executive biographies and they give back financially. Swimmers learn positive life skills through the sport that help them in the water but also succeed in life.
Our international achievements could also be seriously affected. A significant number of our Olympians trained and competed in college scholarship programs and the loss of that opportunity could have a negative effect on the level of success we have enjoyed over the last several Olympic Games.
USA Swimming sees the threat to college scholarship swimming as a challenge to our three core objectives of Build the Base, Promote the Sport and Achieve Competitive Success.
To meet that challenge, an initiative was approved by the USA Swimming Board of Directors at the February meeting to work with the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) and American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA) on a program to protect and preserve college scholarship swimming. CSCAA Executive Director Joel Shinofield will direct a large portion of his time by working in-depth with swim coaches, athletic directors, conference commissioners, student-athletes and others.
Joel will help them understand the issues and provide guidance on how to increase revenue, help fund their programs and build advocacy in support of swimming at their universities. He will share best practices and help swim programs boost their alumni relations. USA Swimming support will take the form of funding and providing communications resources, among other areas, for an initial period of three years.
How many of you have swimmers in high school thinking about the possibility of competing at the collegiate level? In our country, we always say that anything is possible and that we all should dare to dream. We need to protect that dream. Swimmers at the College of Charleston had their dreams die this month as they swam their last dual meet ever. The swimming program was cut due to expense considerations.
I can't overemphasize how important this initiative is to our sport. By taking these actions, we are taking serious proactive measures to preserve the future of scholarship swimming.