Athletic director Bob Frederick met with the two teams last month and informed them that their sports were being dropped from the Kansas athletic program. "This is clearly the most difficult thing I've done in my fourteen years here," Frederick explains in Associated Press reports. It seems to me that it would be far more difficult for Frederick to write out checks totaling $600K every year to keep two rich-kid sports afloat that have about as much fan appeal in Lawrence as Truman the Tiger on Massachusetts Street (Larryville's downtown drag).
"We've reached a point where our expenses exceeded our revenue. We have to deal with that," says Frederick. Maybe the swimming, diving and tennis athletes at KU need a lesson in economics. Unlike their mommies' and daddies' credit cards, universities like Kansas have a spending limit and a budget.
Kansas swim team members Jeremy Howard and Cory Gallagher have posted a letter on the swiminfo.com Web site, saying that they would be willing to do without some of the luxuries afforded the swimming and diving teams. "The annual training trip taken by the men's swimming and diving team, accounting for over $75,000, would willingly be discontinued at the welfare of the program's future. Further excessive travel expenses include $300-plus airline tickets and $250-plus-a-night hotels," wrote Howard and Gallagher.
Since when did the University of Kansas get in the business of footing the bill so that student athletes like Howard and Gallagher could spend 75-large traveling the country, staying in $250-per-night hotels and finishing dead last in the Big 12 swim meet?
After he was informed that the sport was being flushed, a team official was quoted by Howard and Gallagher: "I could cut $100,000 [from the swimming program] without lifting a finger." This is the fiscally irresponsible program that the swim team is asking Kansas alums to save with donations? The swim team should have lifted a finger or two before running the program into the red. How in the hell do you spend $300K a year on a sport that uses less equipment than a game of checkers? Some swim trunks and a nose plug, and you ought to be good to go. Heck, if you ask Coach Roy nicely, I'm sure he could get Nike, Adidas or Speedo to fork over some swim panties and a handful of corks. Then all you need is a sack lunch and a thumb to travel the conference.
Ross Nwachukwu, the Kansas men's first-year tennis coach, says he's hurting. "I wish that the athletics department could have found a different solution to its financial problems," Nwachukwu tells the AP. "This hurts so bad. It's not a selfish hurt because it hurts each and every one of the young men."
No one has been hurt by the school's decision to lance these two dying sports. Frederick has offered to continue to fund all the athletes' scholarships until they complete their undergraduate degrees or five years of studies. In other words, the free ride continues for these students who don't bring a dime into the athletic budget. Frederick also has stated that he will work tirelessly to help any of the tennis or swim team members transfer to other programs -- where they can learn to tie sweaters around their necks and towel off with a washcloth.
In the 1960s and '70s, students across the United States cried out publicly in protest of the war in Vietnam and the racism that threatened to dissolve our country. Maybe it's a sign of progress that the college students today in Lawrence have nothing more than tennis and swimming to concern themselves with. But more likely it's simply a sign of Lawrence.