Tuesday, April 04, 2006

NCAA Championships For Men (Still) Must Die

This is the month that the NCAA will close out comments on the Pac-10's proposal to make men's heavyweight rowing an NCAA sport and hold a vote. This, then, could be the month that ends IRAs and a lightweight national championship. A reader, Emily (the long suffering coach's wife), said in a comment that "Rowing as a whole seems not to fit into the rules of NCAA very well." I agree with this statement. When I asked Tina Krah of the NCAA what the NCAA's sponsorship of women's heavyweight rowing has done for that category, she said that it's given them a chance to win an NCAA championship (circular argument) and has aided in continuing to grow the sport at all levels (absolutely true, but for women's heavyweights ONLY; in fact it may be helping to shrink it at other levels). She then says, "The fact we have a championship in all three divisions shows there has been growth in the sport." Well, we always had championships at different levels - Dad Vail, ECAC, IRA - so that seems to be no change to me. There was nothing in this answer that would suggest NCAA sponsorship is good for rowing except growth, but given that it's come at the expense of the other segments, I would say that growth has been bad for rowing. In fact, it cheapened women's heavyweight rowing as evidenced by how it's been the butt of jokes made by student newspaper editorial writers about how easy rowing scholarships are to come by.

The Pac-10 previously voted to limit men's heavyweight scholarships to 5, and the NCAA proposal seemed to be somehow tied to that, since the proposal calls for only 5 scholarships as an NCAA sport (heavy women have 20). This article from USC discusses the proposal. Of course, I'm only interested in this proposal because it's a potential IRA killer and therefore a women's lightweight championship killer. It seems to be a big to-do because a few Pac-10 coaches are angry that their conference limited their scholarships. Because of that limit, all Pac-10 coaches support the proposal, even though not all supported the Pac-10 scholarship limits. There is a lot of whinging about the Ivies hiding scholarships as grants-in-aid. Well, that's overblown, and because of the academic requirements the Ivy recruiting pool is much smaller than everyone else's. The only way I can explain this proposal is that the Pac-10 wants everyone else to follow their self-imposed scholarship limit. That's a poor reason.

Whatever the heavyweight motivations, this is bad, bad, bad, for lightweights. When things like this happen and exclude a segment of the sport (in this case men's and women's lightweights) it splits the sport apart. The NCAA doesn't understand the sport, doesn't understand how it operates, doesn't understand that it's a strength sport, doesn't understand it's traditions, and certainly doesn't understand lightweights. Either everyone goes NCAA or no one should go NCAA. The Pac-10 worries that the ECAC won't want to relinquish control of rowing. I say please, ECAC, don't relinquish control. The ECAC seems to be no particular friend of lightweights, but at least rowers are in control.

Petition against this proposal, vote against this proposal. This proposal will give the NCAA more power and a greater opportunity to marginalize lightweight rowing. The vote will soon be held and, as this article implies, the NCAA seems to be in favor of it. I know there are many coaches opposed, and there are many who haven't decided to do anything about it yet. Well, now is the time.


Emily, the long-suffering coach's wife said...

I wanted to add that I don't think that there is any way that men's rowing will grow as a result of NCAA status. Men's rowing is on the decline for the same reason as women's rowing is on the incline-- Title IX. The reason that women's rowing is booming is it is quick way to gives women's sports a lot of money. (Hey an Empacher 8+ and a new boathouse costs tons more than any other piece of equipment that jumps to my mind.) I thnk that is great that women's heavyweight rowing is getting the influx of $$.

I don't think suddenly being a part of the NCAA is going to cause large schools like OSU and UVA that are developing exciting women's heavyweight rowing to counterbalance large basketball and football teams, to wake up and decide to put millions of dollars on men's rowing. Talk about a waste of precious reasources that could go to money making squads like the football team (I'm only being slightly sarcastic).

Yea to NCAA said...

Why would making Men's Rowing an NCAA sport kill Light Women's rowing? IRAs would still be there for the Light men and light women and for the schools that don't get invited to NCAAs. (BTW, a National championship race for light women only affects 3 schools anyway, because only Princeton, Wisco and Radcliffe ever win).
The chance for athletic departments to win an NCAA title is huge. It means something to ADs that "IRA Champion" does not convey. Being an NCAA sport would level the playing field, and allow state schools to compete with Ivy league schools. Not because the state schools would be able to have scholarships, but because it would limit the amount of money that the Ivies could spend on scholarships for their athletes.
Personally, if it does end the IRAs, who cares? Maybe an alternate regatta could be staged that was in a different place every year. If such a regatta was on the west coast, the east coast schools could see what a burden it is to have to travel every year to the opposite side of the country. Schools like Cal or Washington could win the Ten Eyck every year, but it is too expensive for them to bring their whole squads like Princeton and Harvard can do.

JW Burk said...

IRAs are a heavyweight championship to which the lightweights are invited. No heavyweight championship, no IRA. It's possible, of course, that the lightweight schools could stage their own championship, but this makes my point - the NCAA is tearing apart rowing by taking regattas that were all inclusive, breaking them down, and forcing them to be staged separately. BTW, over the last ten years only four schools have won the IRA heavyweight men's championship, the same number of schools that have won the lightweight women's championship.

Ivies do not give athletic scholarships.

Your comment about who cares if the IRAs end again makes my point. The NCAA and the Pac-10 only care about their own events. That is understandable for the NCAA since they have no history in rowing and don't understand the sport. The Pac-10 schools, however, are rowing schools and should understand what makes rowing unique.