NCAA, USOC Search for Solutions to Cuts

By Staff

Coaching Management, 13.1, January 2005,

In the past two years, collegiate track and field teams have joined wrestling, gymnastics, and swimming as Olympic sports with worrisome drops in sponsorship. In response, the NCAA and USOC have formed a joint task force to address the decline. The 16-member task force held its first two meetings this past summer and is planning to meet three more times before issuing a final report to the NCAA in September 2005.

"It’s an extraordinarily strong committee, and the sessions have been great," says Chairman Jack Swarbrick, a partner in the Indianapolis law firm Baker and Daniels and the former chairman of the Indiana Sports Corporation. "We’ve started talking about everything that touches on the opportunity to protect and grow Olympic sports at the collegiate level.

"We’ve cast a very wide net," he continues. "We’re talking about marketing. We’re talking about funding. We’re talking about communicating the value of these programs in the college and university setting. We’re talking about how existing rules and policies might be modified to help improve the finances of those sports. We’ve tried to bring as many ideas as we can to the table."

The task force began by identifying endangered collegiate sports, including track and field, and plans to start addressing specific solutions at its next meeting in January. "The most promising thing is that we’ve been able to get the NCAA and USOC to come together on this problem," says Andrew Valmon, Head Track and Field Coach at the University of Maryland and a member of the task force. "We can’t go to the Olympics and compete against the rest of the world if these two entities don’t work together."

Like an earlier NCAA/USOC task force, which lasted from 1995 to 2000, the current committee brings those responsible for U.S. Olympic efforts together with collegiate athletic directors, coaches, and administrators, who will present their recommendations to the NCAA membership. According to Swarbrick, the previous task force succeeded in creating conference-based grants to hold specific events, but was unable to produce sustained, long-term improvement in the health of the collegiate programs themselves.

"Temporary solutions aren’t what we need," says Swarbrick. "We need solutions that will make it easier for these sports to continue as collegiate programs.

"I don’t think there’s one solution, but I’m very optimistic that we can identify a number of things that can add to the vitality of these sports," continues Swarbrick. "The committee gives me great hope, both that we will produce some well-conceived ideas, and that its members will be very effective advocates for those ideas in their communities."

In another development at the NCAA, a proposal to reimburse schools for travel expenses for both indoor and outdoor track and field championships will be considered during an upcoming meeting of the Division I Track and Field Committee. Currently, schools can be reimbursed for only one of the two, which in effect makes indoor track and field the only national championship for which schools are not reimbursed.

The proposal will likely be voted on by the committee in the spring of 2005, and if passed, would be forwarded to the Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet in September 2005. If passed by the cabinet, the request would then go to the Presidents Council, which will finalize the NCAA’s 2006-07 budget in the summer of 2006. The last time a similar proposal came to a vote by the cabinet, in 2003, it was narrowly defeated.