Is Parity for Men's Collegiate Teams a Pipe Dream?

Richard Hunkler, PhD.
Water Polo Planet

First we must decide what type of men’s parity is going to be discussed. Is it going to be parity among California men’s collegiate teams or parity among California and non-California men’s collegiate teams? I think it would be best if we talk about both types of parity because parity for men’s collegiate water polo teams, in my opinion, is not going to happen without both. At this point in time I do not believe we have any parity among California men’s collegiate teams or among California and non-California men’s collegiate teams. Furthermore I believe that many of the top California men’s teams are still better than many of the top non-California men’s teams. Chico, one of the Marx brothers said it best when he said in the movie Go West, “I would like the west better if it were in the east”.

In order to understand how to create parity for all men’s teams we are going to have to understand how we got in such a disparity among the teams in the first place. There are many reasons why this is so but I believe there are three primary reasons as to why it occurred and is occurring today. These reasons are as follows:

In addition to my three primary causes of disparity among men’s collegiate teams let’s add the words of Groucho another Marx brother who wisely said in the movie Horse Feathers, “Well, I thought my razor was dull until I heard his speech”.  The causes may be dull; however the solutions to these causes had better not be dull or uneventful because if they are then we might not get a chance to have another eight team NCAA Men’s Water Polo Championship or even to keep a four team championship.

The first reason, Head start, cannot be changed but it can certainly be viewed differently. Instead of viewing it as a “hares against the tortoises” possibility or as a “them verses us” situation, it should be viewed as a “we” arrangement. Both the west and east are in the same predicament because without the western teams there would be no NCAA Men’s Water Polo Championship but also without the eastern teams there would be no NCAA Men’s Water Polo Championships. When I view the Men’s Varsity Scores page on the WPP web site I see a heck of a lot of eastern teams going west but I see very few western teams going east.

Since only western teams are winning the NCAA Water Polo Championships, then it appears the philosophy of the western teams is that the vanquished get the spoils or the eastern teams must come west if they want better competition. Well in my view there are not going to be any spoils fairly soon unless we figure out a way to make the eastern teams more competitive with the western teams. Thus, we both have mutually benefiting goals and that is to keep the NCAA Men’s Water Polo Championship viable and to generate enough competitive teams to create an eight team NCAA Championship.

The second reason for the disparity among teams, Facilities, should not side track us into thinking we have to build new deep, 50 meter pools in order to attract more eastern men’s collegiate teams or, for that matter, more western men’s collegiate teams. What we need is not deep, 50 meter pools but what we need is a great deal more elbow grease in the form of people trying to get more men’s water polo teams at schools that already have swimming pools.

The USAWP used to have such a person to do just that and that person was Dan Sharadin, and Dan did a great job of not only creating new teams but also saving water polo programs that were on the bubble. What we need is a dozen or more Dan Sharadins to make this plan successful. It would be like spitting in the wind to try to get the NCAA to hire a person to do this job. Maybe we could get the new USAWP to hire a coordinator for this position or maybe we could get the American Collegiate Water Polo Coaches to help with some volunteer coaches? Let’s go out and blow our own horns and see if we can create some more men’s water polo programs If Harpo another Marx brother were a water polo player he would be honking his famous horn, “honk; honk; honk”. This translates into, "More Men's Programs!"

Because of Title IX you are going to say this will be too great a task to accomplish. How do we know that unless we actually try to do it? Wouldn’t you much rather go out with a bang rather than with a whimper?

The last cause for the disparity, Over recruiting, can be solved by the coaches and players themselves. Does one really need 28.4 players to sustain a quality program? What about 39 quality players for your program – that is what I call gluttony or excessive greed because all one needs to maintain a successful program is about 20 to 24 players. Twenty two players gives you two teams of seven and four substitutes for each team in practice and because of more injuries in the games of the elite teams we could let them havet 24 players.

This reminds me of the days when collegiate football teams had unlimited scholarships and football coaches would give players scholarships who they knew would never play a nano second for their team. They also knew that they would never have to play against them either. This is over recruiting and it may be good for the program but that doesn’t necessarily make it good for the player or the sport. Just think if every program were limited to 24 players that would cause at least 40 players from the Top 10 water polo programs to attend some other program. I believe this would first create parity among California teams and eventually parity among California and non-California teams.

I hated sitting the bench in every sport I played. In fact I loved playing water polo so much that I would rather have been a big fish in a small water polo pond than be a little fish in a big water polo pond. There are a number of excellent academic schools outside of the Top 10 water polo schools whose water polo programs would be dearly enhanced by these 40 players. If this would be applied to the over 50 schools playing men’s water polo then there would be over 220 players to help create parity in our sport. Do I believe that overall parity is a pipe dream, no, and furthermore I believe this is a worthwhile dream for men’s water polo? You see things that are and say, "Why?" But I dream things that never were and say, "Why not?" - George Bernard Shaw

Email Coach Hunkler at [email protected]