Is swimming & diving a priority at UNCW?
Published: Thursday, September 8, 2011
Updated: Thursday, September 8, 2011 01:09
UNC Wilmington swimming meets don't draw thousands of fans. Sammy C. Hawk doesn't step his oversized, fuzzy shoes into the Seahawk Natatorium. And there isn't a place where UNCW students can clamor over free T-shirts tossed by teasing faculty.
It's just what happens to this non-revenue sport.
The revenue-generating programs at UNCW—the men's and women's basketball teams—have all those luxuries, while the swimming and diving programs are among the perhaps neglected Seahawk sports.
"I don't think you're ever going to get that in your non-revenue sports, such as swimming, track and field, soccer," coach Dave Allen said. "Those sports are never going to get the attention that a basketball program has here."
But, if any program deserves more recognition, the swimming and diving teams make a strong case. They've been the definition of stability and consistent success with 10 men's CAA titles and four on the women's side.
In an era where collegiate coaching jobs resemble a game of musical chairs, Allen has been the only head coach both teams have ever had. Call it unusual; call it remarkable. It's longevity at its finest. No other Seahawk sport can claim that feat—not even the money makers on campus. Both basketball programs have had nine head coaches each.
The men's and women's swimming teams are two of the most dominant mid-major programs in the country, evidenced by top-25 appearances in the final CollegeSwimming.com mid-major Division I polls of the 2010-11 season. The Seahawk men grabbed 10th place and the women were in 14th.
And they're doing it all with the same pool since the inaugural 1977-78 season and less than half scholarship funding.
NO LAUGHING MATTER
Todd DeSorbo couldn't help it.
When Dave Allen was asked if the UNCW swimming and diving programs are fully funded, DeSorbo laughed. The four swimming coaches—Allen, DeSorbo, Tiffany Clay and Marc Ellington—are all crammed into one office where elbow space can be an issue.
So, about four feet away, the fifth-year assistant coach couldn't help overhearing the question, and he couldn't help but laugh at the idea of Seahawk swimming programs being fully funded.
Sure, he was smiling as he reclined in his chair and broke out into brief laughter, but it's no laughing matter.
"We're getting further and further (away) every year, because the cost of the school keeps going up," Allen responded after exchanging smiles with DeSorbo. "Right now, I think our men's team is probably around 30-40% funded. And the women's team is probably around 40-50% funded. We've got a ways to go."
Those percentages are on the in-state level. If the program wants to go out-of-state to get new players, they use more money on a scholarship than if they scour North Carolina for talent.
Since the beginning of Seahawk swimming, Allen has stressed the importance of getting the programs fully funded at least on the in-state scholarship level. Will it ever happen?
"In my lifetime? No," Allen said. "That was always the goal for all programs to be fully funded, and I've heard it for 34 years and I don't think we'll get there."
Any increase in scholarship budgets is hard to come by. "We haven't really had an increase on our men's scholarship budget since about 2003," Allen said. "To say we're going to get an increase, I certainly wouldn't want to hold my breath on that."
And, if getting fully funded on the in-state level isn't ambitious enough, Allen said, "If we want to compete against the big boys and girls, we're going to be fully funded on the out-of-state level, as well.
"But that's not going to happen here," he continued. "This school just doesn't have those type of resources and/or they're not willing to give those type of resources to a sport like swimming and diving."
IN NEED OF QUALITY
A UNCW tour guide led a prospective student and his family outside of King Hall. As he narrated the campus surroundings, he told them, "We don't have a lot of facilities, but we don't need a lot. We need more equipment."
That's indicative not just of the Film Studies department building, but of the entire university. And it holds true for the Seahawk swimming and diving programs.
The general UNCW consensus asks for quality over quantity.
While Allen admits a new, longer pool will eventually have to be constructed, he's content with the size of the pool and diving tank in the Seahawk Natatorium. It's the quality of those that raises concerns.