After initially cutting eight varsity sports, including men?s and women?s water polo and swimming, Slippery Rock University has reinstated the women?s aquatics teams in compliance with the Title IX federal law at least for now.
In 2006, Slippery Rock dropped the sports in an effort to save $350,000. After the women?s teams sued, the Pennsylvania university settled the lawsuit with an agreement to set aside $300,000 to be used for women?s sports over the next three years. Title IX, the law the women?s teams cited in their suit, is a controversial federal law that seeks to provide equal opportunities for women and men in collegiate and high school athletics.
?[The teams] are thankful for the opportunity,? said Jim Yeamans, coach of the school?s swim and water polo teams. ?They fought for what they believed in.?
As a result, the women?s aquatic and field hockey teams have been reinstated. Money also has been allocated for improvements to the women?s locker rooms, equal availability of medical and training personnel and facilities, and equal compensation for coaches of women?s teams.
The aquatic teams aren?t necessarily here to stay, however. Yeamans said the school is still planning to eliminate the teams by keeping women?s field hockey and adding women?s lacrosse, based on the argument that those sports are less costly to maintain.
The decision to cut aquatics concerns many in the industry. ?We are saddened to learn that a university with the rich history of Slippery Rock as an Eastern water polo power would consider discontinuing its varsity program,? said Christopher Ramsey, CEO of USA Water Polo Inc. in Long Beach, Calif. ?Vast sums of money are spent on collegiate sports. ... It would be short-sighted not to reallocate funds to keep these two dynamic Olympic sports.?
John Leonard of the American Swimming Coaches Association said a university will spend its money in sports where more than just the school?s population is involved. ?Make sure the program is valuable and [that] the larger community, not just the faculty and students, expresses ... it?s a program we value,? said the executive director of the Fort Lauderdale-based group.
The one silver lining is that the school?s aquatic academic program wasn?t affected, as Yeamans and others feared might happen. Bob Ogoreuc, assistant professor of physical education, noted that the number of students in the aquatics minor was up. But he is concerned about keeping the aging pools open. ?My goal is not to lose any of those and to maintain ... the direction of those programs.?
Title IX, passed in 1972, caused many men?s college teams to be cut nationwide to make room for women?s teams.