SU Athletics responds to swim teams

By Kyle Austin Daily Orange

September 27, 2007

Syracuse, NY (CSTV U-WIRE) -- A Syracuse University Athletic Department official gave a response Wednesday to a presentation made by two members of the men's and women's swimming and diving teams at Monday's Student Association meeting.

The presentation outlined the swimmers' plans to keep the programs alive, after they were canceled by the athletic department in June, primarily because of the need to build a new natatorium. No athletic department representative attended Monday's meeting, though they were invited by SA President Ryan Kelly.

Henry Wildhack, senior associate director of athletics, addressed the points made by swimmers Peter Gollands and Sean Ellis.

Wildhack said he met with Kelly before Monday's meeting to discuss the decision. He said the meeting with Kelly sufficiently addressed SA and that any concerns the swimmers had should have been brought directly to the athletic department.

Among the recommendations from Gollands and Ellis were to build a less expensive natatorium than the $30 million the university says a new pool will cost. They also suggested renting the facility at nearby Nottingham High School.

Wildhack said neither of those would be viable options. As for renting the facility at Nottingham, he said that could present scheduling conflicts, insurance and liability concerns and problems with the NCAA. He said the new facility that Director of Athletics Daryl Gross wants would cost $30 million.

Gollands and Ellis added that the swimming and diving athletes earned the highest cumulative GPA of all the 2006-07 athletic teams. They said the issue should have weighed in the athletic department's decision.

Wildhack acknowledged the academic success of the swimmers and divers, but he added that those are the expectations of every athlete.

"We certainly salute the men's and women's swimming and diving teams for their cumulative GPA," Wildhack said. "I think that's tremendous, I think that's fantastic. We didn't make our decision with that as one of the variables in the equation.

"Outstanding academic achievement is something that we certainly salute, we honor," he said. "Their names are on the appropriate plaques or are noted as they should be. What more can we do other than that? A kid comes to school to do very, very well. That's why they came here."

Since it was announced, the athletic department faced criticism for its decision to cut the programs after the upcoming season. Nearly 4,000 people have signed a petition to Gross on But Wildhack stressed the decision was not solely with the athletic department - input was taken from Chancellor Nancy Cantor, as well as members of the Board of Trustees.

"I think we've been very, very patient with people," Wildhack said. "We've been accused of being otherwise. I think that's unjust. We don't like the fact that the decision had to be made, but in the overall scheme of things, we feel that for the betterment of the entire athletics department this was the proper decision to be made."

The athletic department met with members of the swim team and parents in late August to discuss the decision, Wildhack said.

Wildhack also indicated that the athletic department decision is final.

"At some point in time, we have to put this issue to rest," Wildhack said. "That's a difficult thing to say, but we as a department have decided to move on. And I'm not sure that bringing issues to us is going to be of benefit to anyone anymore."

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