In an interview with Cincinnati.com, 2010 50 freestyle NCAA Champ Josh Schneider revealed that he is not confident that Cincinnati swimming will be around much longer. That’s because, prior to this season, the Bearcats were informed that all scholarship funding to their program would be cut.
Schneider, who earned a full-scholarship after his sophomore year, was quoted as saying “It’s almost like cutting off the blood to your heart. You’re going to die slowly. That’s pretty much what the program is going to do. I hope not, but you can’t have a successful team without scholarships. It’s just not going to work.”
Although his metaphor might have been slightly graphic, his point is clear. You can’t run a successful division 1 athletics program without scholarships. I predict that he is likely correct in this statement, despite the opinion that has been bandied about on blogs and message boards that simply cutting scholarships is the way to prevent the slew of swimming programs that have been cut. Many people are of the opinion that struggling swimming programs can model themselves after the relatively successful club swimming model. It’s clear, to this writer at least, that there’s no way to field a successful team at the division-1 level without scholarships. For an athletics department that’s already struggling financially, the resulting lack of success will make for an easy decision to fully remove the program.
Either way, the theory will be tested over the next few years, as the last scholarship athletes graduate out of the program, at which point the entire roster will consist of essentially preferred walk-ons. The decision to cut scholarships couldn’t have come at a worse time, as Cincinnati swimming was at it’s highest point since 1946, the last time they had an individual swimming national champion (Charles Keating in the 200 breaststroke). Now, head coach Monty Hopkins will have to hit the recruiting trail double time to try and carry this momentum forward, even without any scholarships.
Although Schneider harbors no ill-will towards the UC administration for the decision (“business is business”), many see this as the continuation of irresponsible fiscal decisions by the athletics department, that includes sinking lots of money into a basketball program that was once the crowned jewel of the University, but has been hemorrhaging money since the very public departure of star head coach Bob Huggins.
Schneider is optimistic, though that the athletics department will reverse their decision, in light of recent success.
“I think they will be able to get it back,” he said. “I don’t know how long it will take. If not, they’ll have to cut it. They’re just waiting for it to implode.”