Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times wrote a very nice article yesterday on the demise of the UW swim team. Based on much research, Bob produced an excellent piece sharing the emotion Steve Kelley attempted to present earlier in the week.
I fail to agree with much of Kelley's article, though I understand its underlying emotion. My belief is the writer must share the entire story and history, or he fails to accurate portray how this situation has been bungled for the past thirty-three years. To lay it all at the feet of Scott Woodward is unfair, though he was accurately assessed as insensitive.
One point Bob states is the turn down of a free Aquatic facility at UW happened under the reign of Mike Lude, not Barbara Hedges. According to Lude, it was former UW President William Gerberding who turned it down.
While examining this situation, it is hard to imagine anyone doing more harm to an athletic program than William Gerberding. Here are just a few incidents that happened during his tenure.
- The forced retirement of Marv Harshman
- The forced retirement of Mike Lude.
- The refusal to defend football penalties.
- The forced resignation of Don James.
- The hiring of Barbara Hedges.
- The refusal of the King County Aquatic Facility.
(The refusal of Paul Allen's offer to rebuild Husky Stadium at his own expense in exchange for a 15 year lease for the Seahawks.) Editors note it wasn't Gerberding it was McCormick who turned down the offer fearing pressure from Montlake neighborhood groups.
To be fair Gerberding is regarded as one of the best administrators to have ever held the President's post at Washington. If you talk to any academic or someone who does not care for athletics they will tell you he was the best thing since sliced bread.
His huge shortcoming was his desire to de-emphasize sports at the University of Washington for no good reason other than a petty jealousy of Don James and the Athletic Depatrment as a whole. Gerberding retired in 1995 and the seeds he sewed are still having a major impact today.
The cornerstone of the athletic program has always been football. If you damage that cornerstone the whole department will eventually fall into a slow state of decay.
Getting back to swimming this is the third time it has been on the chopping block since 1975. You have to go all the way back to the days of Jim Owens and Joe Kearney to find the start of its slow demise. A weak football program has always been the root cause of discussions to cut an expensive sport that does not produce self supporting revenue.
The opportunities have always been present to save the swimming program and build a new facility. The will of the University no matter who was President or Athletic Director has never been inclined to do so.
Here is a link to a guest editorial in the Seattle Times by Chris Toomey that I think you all will enjoy.