Fate of swim, dive team yet to be determined
October 8, 2009
UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen and Athletic Director Rick Bowen are in the process of deciding whether the swim and dive program will continue after this year.
On Sept. 22, there was a meeting between Van Galen, Bowen and Head Coach Bill Henderson.
“They asked me if just before Thanksgiving break was ok to make the final decision. I want the decision to be made as soon as possible, but also a fair [one],” Henderson said.
This will be tough for the new recruits whose tentative date to visit the campus is set for Nov. 13. “The current swimmers have to make a decision about their future as well,” Henderson said.
In early June the Karges pool broke down and the executive council consisting of Van Galen, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Gregg Heinselman, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Fernando Delgado and Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Lisa Wheeler decided against using money to repair the 52-year-old facility and bring it back up to use.
After that decision was made, Bowen contacted River Falls High School about the possible usage of their pool for this year’s team. The time slots available to the UWRF team were 5:30 a.m. and 8-10:00 p.m.
The team started their season Sept. 14 and began training at the high school. The swimmers are currently being divided up with half training in the morning and the other half in the evening slot.
Meanwhile, Bowen is looking into what the future of the team is.
“Rick Bowen is looking into whether or not the swim team should be continued until a new facility is built on campus,” Henderson said.
If all goes well, the new Health and Human Performance recreation building will be completed by spring 2012 and would open in fall 2013. However, the pool was taken out of current plans for the facility because the plan was $14 million over budget. The estimated total cost for the project is $74 million; the pool originally represented $13.5 million of that. Therefore, the pool will not be a part of the new facility and it would have to be built later on.
“My guess would be, at best six years,” Henderson said when asked about when the University may have a pool on campus again.
Henderson doesn’t see money being a major factor in the decision to continue or discontinue the team.
“The cost to send both teams to River Falls High School would be between $13,000 and $15,000 a year. The cost to run the Karges pool, with heating, chemicals and staffing is even more than that,” he said.
Henderson also spoke highly of the members of the team and the overall success that the program has had.
“Last year’s team had a 3.18 GPA as an average for the men’s side and a 3.0 GPA on the women’s side. We operate on the lowest budget in the conference at 40 percent of the others. We are putting 40 athletes out there to represent the University at a fraction of the cost other teams are,” he said.
The team has helped reduce the financial strain on the University as well.
“When we go on a trip, we take the school’s van instead of a bus. We dropped a meet in Oshkosh because the bus costs were going to be too expensive,” Henderson said.
Henderson believes the team has persevered in a competitive conference with tough circumstances working against them and that the move to the high school pool has proved beneficial to the team.
“The move to the high school has been quite a benefit to us. Unlike the Karges pool, it has a diving board. We are competitive; we do very well against the teams we swim against regularly. This year’s team is the biggest [17 men, 22 women] and strongest it’s ever been. We’ve grown, gotten better despite a lot working against us,” he said.
UWRF junior Joshua Anderson has been a member of the swim team for three years and has been a competitive swimmer for nine years.
“Our team has been using a pool that was built in 1957, so for the athletic department not to be prepared for it to breakdown is ridiculous. The campus pool should have been rebuilt or at least remodeled 20 years ago.”
Anderson feels strongly against the discontinuation of the team.
“If the swim team were to be suspended it would be the end of the whole team’s swimming careers, and would be almost impossible to rebuild the team to what it has become,” he said.
Alyssa Adair, captain of the women’s team, is an 11-year competitive swimmer and senior at UWRF. Like Anderson, she feels strongly about the continuation of the program
“Since we compete at a D3 level, we are all doing this because we want to. No one is giving us money to swim for their college, and it is not the only reason we are at college. Swimming may be considered an extracurricular activity, but for our team, swimming is a part of who we are,” she said.
Tyler Campbell, a captain of the men’s team, believes swimming is the best part of being at UWRF.
“[We] are all willing to make a sacrifice of swimming at a different pool if it means we can continue to have a team. The swim team is asking for support so we can continue to be a part of UWRF athletics,” he said.
In a letter that was sent out to the parents of the UWRF swimmers and divers, Van Galen included his thoughts and information on the situation.
“There have been no decisions made regarding potential changes in UWRF swimming, including the possibility of suspending the swimming program,” he said. “In fact, there have been no substantial discussions about changes to the program, and it would be irresponsible for me (or others at UWRF) to make a decision on the future of UWRF swimming without adequate information and a fair and
If students want to show support for the continuation of the swimming and diving program here at UWRF, Henderson believes they need to voice their opinions now.
“Voice your opinion to the Student Senate,” he said. “This decision will have a profound effect on a lot of people, including members of the team, myself and those I consider bringing onto campus as recruits.”
The Athletic Committee met Wednesday to hear the opinions of community members, students, faculty and staff on the potential discontinuation of the team.