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Opinion

Suspension of swim, dive team evokes emotion, advice for students

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May 2, 2014

I have always had confidence in myself, and perhaps too much of it. In first grade while my mom’s back was turned I jumped into the deep end of the swimming pool despite never having taken a swimming lesson in my life.

However, this is not a story of how I learned to swim. I panicked and began awkwardly flailing my arms and was saved by a fully clothed man who jumped into the pool, swam all the way from other side of the pool and heroically scooped me up. Ever since then, I have avoided being around water that is over my head.

I have covered all 18, now 16, varsity sports at UW-River Falls. Out of those 18, I will admit swimming and diving was not my favorite. I would rather spend a Saturday afternoon at the football field, watch basketball or grab a pretzel with cheese and catch a hockey game.

My lack of enthusiasm at the time for swimming and diving is something I now regret. After meeting members of the team this year and seeing how they have faced adversity in the most professional way anybody could imagine I have turned into a UWRF swimming and diving super fan.

After a year of seeing what this team has gone through there is no better way to describe how I feel about the fact that the program is suspended other than saying that it sucks.

I have covered the UWRF swimming and diving team all year. I have been to meetings, heard from Athletic Director Roger Ternes and athletic committee members, have met members of the swimming and diving team and their coach Mike Bollinger.

First, the team was almost suspended before the season started when the athletic department could not find a coach, but the team rallied together and found a coach on their own. Then only days after finishing their season at the WIAC meet they were informed that their team might be suspended due to the campus-wide budget cut and the affect that it was having on Athletics’ budget.

After a public town hall meeting, where many people came together to show the team support, I thought to myself there was no way the team could be suspended. There was a movie-like feel to the whole thing and I thought to myself there has to be another solution. All year I have waited for that fairy tale turnaround where everything was going to work out in the end. Sadly though, life does not always come with fairy tale endings and of the 31 members that were a part of the program, Bollinger who was in his first year coaching and any incoming freshmen coming to swim or dive will not have a team next year.

I will never share my opinion, at least on paper, about if I think the right decision was made because that is not my place. My job this year has been to be neutral and report the facts. I see both sides. On one hand the athletic department just does not have the money and yes we all know the team does not have their own pool on campus. On the other hand, the swimming and diving teams stand for everything that the campus wants to see in not only its student-athletes but in all of its students.

David Zaske, men’s swimming and diving captain, was voted to be the president of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee for next year but now without a team that committee will lose what would have been a great leader to have as president. Zaske along with the other captains of the swimming and diving teams always kept the whole team informed throughout the whole process and always had members of the team at meetings in support.

I think the problem lies more within the system than it does with the actual decision. Athletics has already taken across the board cuts the past couple years. By suspending the swimming and diving program a big chunk of money could be saved without hurting every single program. The problem is now at least one swimmer is transferring and four incoming freshmen will no longer be coming to UWRF. That tuition money is more than what will be saved by suspending the program but is not something that could be taken into account when making the decision.

Andy Samberg said it best in his Lonely Island song “I Threw It on the Ground” when he sang, “I ain’t gonna be part of your system.” Too bad we all have to be a part of the system.

I would encourage the members of the swimming and diving team to stay professional as they have the whole year through this situation even though it is a sad outcome. There is no doubt in my mind every one of those individuals is going to go far in life and I want to personally wish them all the best and thank them for opening my eyes to another sport, even if I cannot personally swim myself.

Ryan Tibbitts is a freshman majoring in journalism. He loves all sports but obsesses over his Packers.