As almost 2,000 of you have read over the past week, the fight to save the Clemson men’s swim team is not yet dead. There are still plenty of people fighting behind the scenes on a daily basis to try and find a positive solution that will benefit both the University.
There were some fairly specific issues with those reports that we addressed in the previous posting. Among these, there were a few specific issues, related to the timing of the research and the accuracy and fairness of that research, that seemed to be the more troubling.
We wanted to give the administration the opportunity to respond to these questions. We were able to speak with Mr. Phil Grayson, who is an associate Athletic Director at Clemson. His main functions are working with strategic plan initiatives for the Athletics Department, so it’s obvious that he was heavily involved in the decision-making process that led to the planned demise of the men’s swim team. Grayson played varsity tennis for 3 years at Marquette before graduating from Indiana University-South Bend.
For the purposes of this specific posting, we will leave the responses with little commentary, aside from context, and leave it up to you, as our readers, to be the judges of the responses. Mr. Grayson can be reached via email at [email protected]. We still have not received responses to the discrepancies posed in our last article.
The Save Clemson Swimming & Diving group continues to ask that their supporters keep this issue at the forefront and contact administrators at Clemson voicing their support. Spread the word, share the issue with everyone in your address book, post your support to Facebook and Twitter, do whatever you need to do to keep the flame alive! A full list of contacts can be found at http://saveclemsonswimming.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=80&Itemid=75.
Q&A With Phil Grayson
BK-At what point did you, specifically, become involved in the process, just to give your responses some perspective?
PG-I became involved in this process in December, 2008.
BK-I’ve seen the report that the Athletic Department shared with the Board of Trustees, though that report seemed to have been prepared after the decision to cut the swim team was made. Can you share with me specifically what analysis was done prior to the decision in April of 2010?
PG-The rationale brief was provided to the complete Board after the announcement was made so all members would have a better sense of the information that was considered in making the decision. The analysis was simply a continuation of an ongoing discussion regarding the program’s competitiveness given the current facility. This issue predates the current administration and was based upon the changing landscape in college swimming (i.e., construction of 50-meter pools), and the University and the Department’s goals of having strongly competitive programs while maintaining a solid financial base.
BK-It seems as though a group, has compiled some quotes for a 50-meter facility that shows that it can be done much more reasonably than original estimates (including my assertions of costs of centers such as the ones at Florida State and Virginia). Obviously, you can’t commit to “if they raise XYZ amount of dollars, we’ll make it happen” without a lot more analysis. But with respect to some of these new, lower-dollar figures, is the University be willing to rework the financial viability and/or hear formal proposals for a new, donor-funded facility? (Editor’s note: pool construction companies have put an estimate for the construction at under $3 million, with operating costs around $200,000 per year, as compared to $10,500,000 and $900,000 figures that were cited in the report).
PG-No. We believe the facilities that are necessary to make significant changes in our level of competitiveness would require a level of financial commitment that has been made at places like Florida State, Greensboro and Christiansburg. We do not believe that a lower-cost facility would provide the same return.
BK-Mr. [Adam] Tepe’s notes from a phone conversation you and he had on June 18th state that you indicated that a similarly thorough analysis was done for several of Clemson’s underperforming sports. Was this simply a miscommunication, or did Clemson consider cutting other sports? (Editor’s note: Men’s and Women’s Tennis, Men’s and Women’s Cross Country, and Men’s soccer were other programs identified by Tepe as under-performing teams at Clemson).
PG-I haven’t seen his notes to read them in the proper context, but this was certainly a miscommunication on my part or a misinterpretation on his part. I do recall stating that all programs are evaluated annually, but Clemson never considered cutting other sports as part of this process.
BK-Were there any Title IX implications in the decision?
PG-Yes, the decision’s impact on our compliance with Title IX was certainly a factor that had to be considered.
BK-We’ve heard that Clemson intends to replace the swimming and diving programs with other teams. The one that’s been thrown around the most is women’s golf. Has any progress been made, thus far, to start that program or others? When can we expect to see the other programs on campus?
PG-Women’s golf would certainly be a fine addition to our program and it’s something that has been considered very seriously. There is no formal announcement regarding women’s golf, or any other program, at this time.
Clemson Head Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips also included the following statement:
As I presented to our swimming program last April, and have consistently stated publicly, the predominant issue in the decision to phase out our programs is our unwillingness to make the financial commitment to develop the facilities that we deem necessary to consistently compete at a higher level in the ACC and nationally.
This was the basis of my recommendation to our President and to the Athletic Committee of the Board of Trustees. These recommendations occurred months before the initial announcement. At no time did we consider or discuss any other sports regarding discontinuance. We did discuss sports that would be attractive to our sports mix, and have a strong opportunity to compete at a high level in a financially efficient manner.
The Rationale Brief as provided to Clemson’s Board of Trustees was a compilation of information that formed the backdrop for my recommendation. The document was prepared so the entire Board would be fully briefed.
Swimming is an outstanding sport that has tremendous young people participating. The swimming community is very passionate and we greatly admire and respect that fact. In no way does our decision reflect upon the greatness of the sport or the tremendous qualities of so many swimming student-athletes.