Testing the water: Athletic program not ruling out swim team for USI

Dennis Marshall

USI’s 25-meter swimming pool gets lots of use – but not by swim team members.

Until recently, swimming has not been a popular sport among Division II schools in this area, and few schools in the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) had intercollegiate swim teams.

No competition means no incentive to form a team, but now the GLVC has eight schools with swim teams.

According to Camelia Trahan, GLVC assistant commissioner, the inaugural GLVC Swimming and Diving Championship will take place Feb. 12-15, 2014 in St. John, Ind.

Universities expected to compete include Bellarmine, Drury, Indianapolis, Lewis, Maryville, Truman State, Missouri-S&T and William Jewel, according to GLVC Commissioner Jim Naumovich.

“The addition of men’s and women’s swimming and diving to the GLVC gives us instant credibility as one of the nation’s top swimming conferences, as our members have earned numerous national championships and top-10 rankings,” Naumovich said in a press release. “Most importantly though, our members are now able to bring their swimming programs under our umbrella and compete against one another for the right to be GLVC Champion.”

The establishment of a swim team at USI would require extensive planning, especially when it comes to funding.

“Now that some of the new schools in our league have swimming and few schools are adding swimming, it kind of changes the landscape a little bit,” Jon Mark Hall, USI director of athletics,  said. “From the funding side of things, you look to see what kind of scholarships you would want to put into the program to be competitive and what kind of operating expenses you would have to have to be able to be competitive – travel dollars, equipment and that kind of stuff.”

There would also be the challenges of recruiting swimmers to a new program and hiring a coaching staff.

“If we had the funding to hire a full-time (coach), it would probably be a really attractive job for some people who want to start up a program from scratch,” Hall said. “This is ‘no strings attached,’ so to speak.”

When it all comes down to it, though, money could mean the difference between having a team and not having one.

“Right now is probably not the best of times, with the landscape of the budget situation,” Hall said. “But I think we need to at least look into it … so when or if funding does become available … we would be able to move one way or the other.”

Dave Enzler, USI director of reaction and fitness and former University of Evansville swim coach, said, “I think there is the potential in this area for a very strong USI swim team, no question about it.”

Despite USI’s lack of a swim team, the pool still gets plenty of use. Monday through Friday, the pool is used for open swimming and classes for the kinesiology and sports department.

Some athletic teams use the pool to take some of the stress off the athletes’ legs, and Memorial High School practices and hosts dual meets at the pool for about three months of the year.

Enzler said swim classes for children are also offered by the Division of Outreach and Engagement.

“I would not say the pool is packed, but it is certainly utilized,” Enzler said. “If the university were to start up a team, there are more than a handful of swimmers that go to school here who could certainly be part of a varsity team.”