Swim team out of hot water

Florida A&M University’s compliance problems have forced the athletic department to reinstate the women’s swimming team.

The team was cut from the athletic program earlier this summer along with men’s swimming, men’s tennis and men’s golf to relieve the $485,000 needed for the teams to compete.

When the women’s swim team was removed, male athletes became the majority of student athletes on campus, which violates Title IX.

Title IX, part of the 1972 Education Rights Act, specifically prohibits inequality in gender representation in sports among other things.

The Title IX violations are just one more problem on the growing list facing FAMU’s sports programs.

“We have no more Title IX issues than most schools,” said Rosalyn Dunlap, FAMU’s assistant athletic director for compliance.

“It’s all about money. We, operationally, must get more dollars so that we can take care of all of our equipment, scholarships, travel and staffing needs,” Dunlap said.

Athletic Director E. Newton Jackson announced the initial cut of the four sports on June 30, just nine weeks before school began.

The team was shocked by the decision.

“It was a big blow to them (the team) and their lives have been changed because they came back thinking that they would be able to swim,” said Mark Howell, former swimming and diving head coach.

Despite the setback, Howell said the group was determined in its training.

“They have been practicing on their own to keep up conditioning in hopes that they would be reinstated,” Howell said.

With no set schedule or time frame on the official return of the women’s swim team, the dates of some details regarding the reinstatement are still sketchy.

“I have not really been involved once they cut the program,” Howell said. “I lost my job and my contract so I had to make other arrangements to pay my bills. I will not be returning if they reinstate the team.”

Without a coach, some team members question the legitimacy of the reinstatement announcement.

“The question is if they reinstate the team, would they continue to recruit and handle it properly as far as coaching or would they wait for another reason to cut it,” said Dominique Thorton, a senior sociology and psychology student from Houston.

Thorton has been swimming for FAMU since her freshman year, but she will not be returning this season.

“Reinstatement means more to the swim team than myself personally because I need to graduate,” she said.

Dunlap, who was hired on Aug.1, said she has ideas for improving compliance. However, funding will always be an issue.

“The real thing we need to do in this Title IX situation is expanding to offer more women’s sports…but for that we need money,” she added.

Howell said the department could also stand to improve their planning and communication since there is so little information about the terms of the women’s swim teams return.

“My initial reaction was could it have been prevented before making such a brash decision, Howell said. “I talk to Dr. Jackson daily and we’re still on good terms. So I understand the reasoning behind it, but I just wonder was there a better way.”

Contact Robbyn Mitchell at famuannews@hotmail.com