Archive for Wednesday, April 4, 2001

KU SWIMMER TURN TO REGENTS

April 4, 2001

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"The regents have said they will discuss our concerns -- that's my understanding," said Ron Neugent, a swim-team alumnus who swam in the 1980 Olympics and is a member of the KU Athletics Hall of Fame.

Earlier this week, the former swimmers who call themselves the KU Swimming and Diving Task Force, sent the regents copies of a letter to KU Athletics Director Bob Frederick, asking him to postpone plans to drop the men's swimming team after the 2000-2001 season.

In exchange for the delay, the group said it would try to meet fund-raising demands outlined in an earlier letter from Frederick.

Without the delay, the group, said its fund-raising efforts are doomed.

"Few donors are willing to give to a program that's officially dead," said Tom Bowser, task force member and co-captain of the 1968 swim team.

Bowser said the group will have little trouble raising $100,000 by July 1. But Frederick has said he needs $740,000 cash and solid pledges for $1.36 million to sustain the swim team.

Frederick has said the money is needed to offset projected deficits in the athletic department's budget.

Task force members bristled at Frederick's response. The group's latest letter reads, in part: "Does anyone want us to warm the ocean while we're at this? We are friends of the university and friends of athletic department, not televangelists!"

The group also said "several big and long-term contributors" have warned that disappointment over the university's handling of the swim-team decision will likely harm Kansas University Endowment Association's upcoming capital campaign.

Frederick issued a statement Tuesday, defending the department's expectations.

"In fairness to our student-athletes, we must solve our financial challenges more than one year at a time," the statement read. "Our timetable was created so that they can pursue other opportunities, and because we cannot begin a fiscal year with a deficit."

Frederick's position was bolstered Monday, when Iowa State University announced plans to drop its men's swimming and baseball teams after this year. Nebraska last month announced it was cutting its men's swim team.

Attempts to reach regents chairman Clay Blair and vice chairman Jack Wempe were unsuccessful. Past chairman Bill Docking declined comment but confirmed talking to Neugent. Docking's cousin, Gordon Docking, is an active member of the task force trying to restore the team.

Dick Carter, spokesman for the regents' office in Topeka, said the swim team's future is not yet on the agenda for the board's April 18-19 meeting in Manhattan.

-- Staff writer Dave Ranney can be reached at 832-7222.

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