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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Cedric Dempsey is a respected athletic administrator who made his reputation largely by breathing life into big-time football and basketball at Arizona, where he has been the athletic director for 11 years. But as the NCAA's newly selected executive director, Dempsey must tune out some of the big boys and listen to the true victims in contemporary college sports—the wrestlers, gymnasts, swimmers and other athletes in so-called minor sports whose programs are being choked off by budgetary shortfalls and entitlement legislation.
Consider the numbers. In 1980 there were 374 collegiate wrestling programs; this year there are 265. In 1981, 90 schools had men's gymnastics programs; today 36 do. If this trend continues into the 21st century, both sports will face extinction. The numbers are bleak for men's swimming as well. There are 157 Division I men's programs, down from 180 a decade ago.
What's happening is clear. Administrators don't have the guts to face down the football and men's basketball programs, the golden calves of athletic departments, nor do they have the means to accommodate the legal concerns of gender-equity proponents without cutting elsewhere. So the bottom-line assassins either ax wrestling, which has no women's counterpart, or cut a men's gymnastics or swimming program in favor of adding (or keeping) a women's program. Women's gymnastics and swimming programs have increased, albeit slightly, over the last decade.
"We are trying to accommodate groups that have been traditionally underrepresented, and that's good," says Max Urick, who recently took over as athletic director at Kansas State after 19 years in the same position at Iowa State. "But we're doing it the wrong way. In effect, we're creating a whole new disenfranchised class.
"Athletic administrators today stand with one foot in the business circle and the other in the athletic circle. But as soon as a sport doesn't make money, all of a sudden we're supposed to forget about the athletic part, just be a business and get rid of the sport. That's not how universities are supposed to function."
In his new charge Dempsey must listen to people like Urick.
Darryl Strawberry is in hot water for insensitive remarks (page 16) he made about last week's devastating fires in Southern California, not the first time that the Strawman has suffered from foot-in-mouth disease. However, we feel that the young millionaire, a former New York Met outfielder who now plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers, has often been misunderstood and truly wants to be, as he once said, "the type of person not to hassle things." To that end, here is our attempt to interpret a few of Darryl's more memorable lines.
?What Darryl said: "I'll punch that little redneck in the face."