Déjà Vu or Trail of Tears Revisited

Richard Hunkler, PhD.
Water Polo Planet
02/15/08

You would think that a President at any school would want to save the sports that attract intelligent student athletes who at their own peril showed such character, fortitude, and courage by filing a Title IX suit to save their sports and to cause the school to spend more money on women’s facilities, equipment, and scholarships. But not at Slippery Rock University because President Smith couldn’t wait more than a few  weeks to place their sports back on the chopping block and read how “decisive” he was in his reasons for cutting Women’s Water Polo and Swimming.

SRU Swin Team 07

In a December 6 front page article in the Butler Eagle it appears that President Smith of Slippery Rock University has changed his mind for the third time as to why the Women’s Swimming and Water Polo Programs should be eliminated. The first reason he hinted at was that the swimming pool was condemned when in reality it had just been certified by the state agency that oversees swimming pools in PA.

The second reason was that it would cost too much to fix a ventilation problem in the swimming pool. The ventilation problem in the pool has needed to be fixed for over 20 years, so why all of a sudden does it need to be fixed at that point in time. Is it so the President can have a legitimate reason for deleting the Women’s Swimming and Water Polo Programs? Besides eventually the pool will have to be fixed because it is an integral part of the aquatics academic program, one of the best aquatics programs in the state. 

Now the third reason is because these two programs are not competitive enough, which is simply not true. First the Women’s Swimming program has had over 100 All Americans which is more than a two thirds majority of each of the remaining varsity sports have and their won/loss record is better than the majority of the other varsity sports. The Women’s Water Polo Team has had over two dozen All Americans. In 1990, ’91, ’92 finished 3rd in the United States Water Polo National Women’s Collegiate Championship; in ’93 and ’94 finished 2nd; and in ’95 finished 1st. The first team in the US outside of California to win a men’s or women’s Division I National Collegiate Water Polo Championship and their win/loss record is better than a majority of each of the other varsity sports. The USWP Women’s National Water Polo Championship is now the NCAA Women’s Water Polo Championship. Thus, it appears the real reason President Smith wants to eliminate these two programs is because a majority of the women filing the Title IX suit against the University were on these two teams. It appears not to be a rational reason but possibly a vengeful one.

When talking to the Athletic Director, Paul Lueken, at a Slippery Eels swim meet I told Paul that it appeared that President Smith was a very vindictive person and he replied “I wouldn’t want to cross him”. The ironic twist in this whole sorted Sportsgate affair was the fact that to get Slippery Rock University Title IX compliant with the correct number of male and female athletes President Smith, Athletic Director Paul Lueken, and the States’ Team of Lawyers had to use the number of women on both the current Women’s Swimming Team and Women’s Water Polo Team to make it happen. Since they are cutting these two teams this year, how will they still be Title IX compliant?

SRU Water Polo Team 07

What is really sad is that this heroic effort by the Women’s Swimming and Water Polo Teams will never be able to benefit from one solitary dime toward better facilities, better equipment, and more scholarships. The women sports at Slippery Rock who refused to be a part of the Title IX suit will reap the maximum benefits. Isn’t that always the way it happens? To the women’s sports who refused to be a part of the suit I say “You missed out on the chance to do greatness for a few pieces of silver”, and to the women’s sports who stood tall I say “After what you have done the world is safe in knowing there is a younger generation in this world who does not only dream of greatness but who reaches for it as well”.

Finally, President Smith told Jim Yeamans the Water Polo Coach the last time he cut water polo that he didn’t receive more than a half-a-dozen emails complaining about the water polo cuts. We know that is just not true because the majority of people who sent an email complaint to him about dropping the programs also sent me a CC: of the email. I received over 200 email copies. Since this is a done-deal sending another round of emails would be fruitless because President Smith appears to be in a perpetual state of denial about the evil deeds he does. History and tradition to him is simply the number of old buildings he can tear down to become new buildings on which to carve his name.  He appears to be more interested in bricks and mortar than people. I would like to end on a positive note by saying the current women in the photos and all the women and men who have played for me have been the “wind under my wings”. You will go down in sports history as the Teams that did more with less. Thank you and I love you.