In the CWPA Is the Tail Wagging the Dog

Richard Hunkler PhD.
Water Polo Planet

[Preface for 2012: When I first wrote this article there were 187 Club teams and 35 Varsity and today there are 256 Club teams and 37 Varsity teams. How can the CWPA create more varsity teams when it spending so much of their time and effort rescheduling club teams. They say one picture is worth a 1000 words. Well, what about six pictures that are linked to to six rescheduling articles. All you have to do is click anyone of the pictures and it will take you to the rescheduling of a CWPA Club Conference. All six of these changed schedules occurred in the first week of the club team season.

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Similar to women's baseball during World War II the CWPA Varsity Teams need a Commissioner of its own. A Commissioner who will give his undying attention to managing just varsity teams and a Commissioner who is actively trying to add varsity teams and not club teams. I really believe that being a Commissioner of both the Varsity Teams and the Club Teams is a conflict of interest. This conflict is hurting Varsity Teams way more than the Club Teams and this is evidenced by the fact that over this period of time there was only 2 Varsity teams added while there were 69 Club Teams added.]

(Preface for 2008: This men's season one of the CWPA varsity teams had too many play dates on their schedule. Thus the school had to file a petition the NCAA to see if they could play in a CWPA Divisional Championship. Several varsity coaches telephoned the Commissioner to learn the status of the petition and he was late in getting back to them. Could that have been because he was too busy solving problems for the Club Teams?

When I was the volunteer President of the of conference I spent about 75% of my time working with the club teams and about 25% of my time with the varsity teams. This must still be the way it is in the current CWPA. What is ironic about this is the club teams do not have to pay any more dues than the varsity teams even though most of the administrative time is spent on club teams and not on varsity teams. There are more club teams than there are varsity teams but if there were an equal number of club and varsity teams the Commissioner and/or his staff would still have to spend more time on the club teams because that is the nature of the beast.

CWPA coaches don't you think you deserve a Commissioner to spend 100% of his or her undivided time on the varsity teams similar to way the Commissioners of the MPSF and WWPA do. I have decided to rerun my article "In the CWPA Is the Tail Wagging the Dog?" because of the reason raised in the second paragraph and the reasons raised in this article which spell out why the CWPA varsity teams need a Commissioner and conference of their own. The article was written in 2006 and yet most of the reasons given in the article are as viable today as they were when the article was written.)

Before the Conference came to be called the CWPA, its primary concern was for the varsity teams. The club teams were important but they always took a back seat to the varsity teams. Varsity teams were always given the most attention and they were given the best referees. The reason for this was that the club teams at that time were not too reliable. Club games were canceled at the last minute because they could be bumped from their own swimming pools by others whose priority for the use of the pool was higher. Club teams also forfeited a number of games for a variety of reasons none of which could be used by varsity teams at that time.

I know all this because I was President of the league for six years, and I always felt as if I were spending an inordinate amount time rescheduling the days and times for club team tournaments. I am not the only one who did this. Dick Russell and Shelly Rothman did the same thing because Dick was the President before me and Shelly was President after me. In those days all teams, both varsity and club, did not pay any league dues; however, they did pay for the referees. Thus, Dick, Shelly, and I were not paid and we did all this work because of our love for the game of water polo. This is not to imply that a person who gets paid for doing what we did could not and/or would not 1) love water polo as much as we do; or 2) do the job as well or better than we did.

We placed the varsity teams first because the teams that finished first and second in the Men’s Varsity League Championship received bids to the NCAA Water Polo Championship. The club teams also had League and Eastern Championships but at that time they had no Club National Championship. At the advent of the CWPA and the hiring of a Commissioner, Dan Sharadin, both the varsity and club teams were charged league dues that included the referee fees up front. Dan has worked miracles with the CWPA because the number of canceled club games has come to a stand still, the number of club teams forfeiting games are few and far between, and the number of club teams has risen faster than a dead grass fire on a prairie. There have been improvements in the varsity side of the league as well.

As I said above I believe that Dan has done a great job with the CWPA. Maybe, in fact, he has done too good of a job with the league? Possibly the league has become too large, with 187 club teams and 35 varsity teams, to accommodate both varsity and club teams? Sometimes, I would imagine, when a league tries to treat varsity and club teams separate but equal it just doesn’t work out well for either. Yes, I said separate and equal. How can a league not treat club and varsity teams equal when it is a fact that club teams bring in much more revenue to the league than varsity teams?

Since the clubs have more teams, generate more revenue, and have their own National Championships, maybe they should be treated better than the varsity teams in the CWPA? Of course, as long as there is a NCAA Water Polo Championship, I will believe that the varsity teams in the CWPA should be treated if not like other varsity teams then certainly better than club teams in the same league. Because there are more minor league baseball teams than there are major league baseball teams does that mean the two types of teams should be treated equally?

Do you think that the varsity teams in the MPSF would agree to have club teams in their conference? What about the MAAC, SCIAC, or the WWPA? I will change my mind concerning the belief that varsity teams should be treated better than club teams in the CWPA when a majority of the club teams workout with double practices six days a week and workout during fall and spring break! You say this goal is unrealistic and can’t be accomplished. Well, at Slippery Rock when both the men’s and women’s water polo teams were clubs we did it. You must remember that varsity water polo is not a club or a hobby or a social gathering but it is a serious sport that provides coaches good paying jobs, some players a means to getting a college or university degree, some referee away to earn extra money on the weekends, and fans a first rate high quality game played by dedicated athletes.

The argument as to who should be treated better in the CWPA for me is moot. I no longer want the varsity teams to be treated better because what I want is to have two truly separate leagues – one for the varsity and one for the clubs. Only in this way are the eastern varsity teams going to get their due. A separate varsity league can concentrate on things varsities need to do – among other things, hire first level referees, make certain that these referees understand that they referee the games the league assigns them not just the games they wish to referee, can be concerned with recruiting not more teams but more varsity teams, can use the Mikasa ball that the overwhelming majority of varsity teams are using in their conference play, and design ways to create more and better competition among the eastern varsity teams.

What incentive does the CWPA have to help schools save their varsity programs? Most varsity teams started as club teams so when a school drops a team from a varsity status the team usually becomes a club again. Since the CWPA is the only league in town for club teams, the new club team joins the CWPA. It is my understanding that both varsity and club teams dues are generally based on the number of games a team plays. If that is true then when a school drops a varsity water polo team the water polo community loses another varsity team they can ill afford to lose and the CWPA gains a club team. If the new club team plays as many games as it did as a varsity team then this gives the CWPA a net loss in revenue of zero?

When Grove City College dropped the men’s varsity team I was told the CWPA did nothing to try to save the team. Dan Sharadin says this is not true. (Dan was sent a copy of the article for his comments 16 days before it was posted.) When Salem International University dropped both the men’s and women’s varsity teams I was told again that the CWPA did nothing to try to save the teams. Dan again says this is not true. Finally, when Slippery Rock University dropped both the men’s and women’s varsity teams and I was pleading for everyone to send a letter to the President and the Vice President no one from the CWPA office sent a letter. Dan says he did correspond with the President and when I asked him " Did you correspond with the current President of Slippery Rock who actually cut the programs or did you correspond with a previous President", Dan flat out refused to answer me. All I know is If this would have happened five years ago, maybe even three years ago, the CWPA Commissioner, Dan Sharadin, would have been camped out on the Athletic Director’s door step trying desperately to persuade the Athletic Director to save the school’s water polo varsity program.

My title says it all because treating club and varsity teams equally, regardless of the reason, to me is similar to the tail wagging the dog. Like I said in one of the above paragraphs I don’t want the varsity dog to once again wag the tail in the CWPA but rather I want the varsity dog to stand up for himself or herself by having its own league, and I want the clubs to have their own league so that it too can be a top dog. To me this is a win – win situation and as you well know these kinds of situations do not come along very often. Hopefully, one of the varsity coaches can become similar to a Bill Mazeroski who hit the home run for Pittsburgh to win the 1960 World Series and this coach can hit a home run for eastern varsity water polo.

Email Coach Hunkler at [email protected]