Now here’s one that’s hard to swallow. The UCLA Athletic Department began construction on their $10 million aquatic center on June 30. And who benefits? According to UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, providing “more aquatic opportunities for our teams, clubs, faculty, staff and students is going to be a win-win situation for everyone.” Everyone except for men’s swimming and diving.
UCLA eliminated men’s swimming and diving teams in 1994. This is after they produced 16 Olympic Gold Medalists, 41 individual national titles, and a team title in 1982. The new center will feature a “Champions Wall” showcasing these past UCLA aquatic accomplishments, but for some of us, it’ll punctuate the death of those programs where the scars still remain after 14 years.
UCLA offers only one aquatic sport for men – water polo; and three for women – water polo, swimming and diving with no plans on the horizon to bring back the dropped men’s teams.
The new aquatic facility is being made possible by a lead gift of former student-athlete Tod Spieker and his wife Catherine. Spieker, an All-American in 1969, swam for the Bruins from 1968-1971 and is now a Master’s competitor. Spieker said, “Quite frankly, it was an easy decision for us to make this gift. The benefits I received as a student-athlete at UCLA have assisted me throughout my adult life. Now that we are in a position to give back, we want to see those same benefits provided for current and future Bruin student-athletes.”
Can’t help but wonder if the subject of an endowment to bring back UCLA men’s swimming was ever raised. That would have been a true gift of giving back to the sport. Arizona State University donors raised $1 million in two months to reinstate their men’s swim team. If UCLA chose to endow their men’s swimming and diving program (rather than build a multimillion dollar aquatic center with the Spieker name splashed across it), would adding more male athletes at UCLA scream noncompliance under Title IX?