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Sports

Focus on non-revenue sports

Stephen Hawkins Associated Press

GRAPEVINE, Texas — The NCAA and U.S. Olympic Committee are studying ways to preserve traditional Olympic sports at colleges.

A task force of the two organizations identified 11 non-revenue sports from the 39 NCAA championships it considered at high or moderate risk. Women’s and men’s gymnastics (61 and 17 Division I teams, respectively) and five other men’s sports: fencing (21), rifle (27), volleyball (23), water polo (21) and wrestling (85) were on the high-risk list. The figures were based on a 14-year period.

“We truly believe in the value of all these sports,” said St. Louis athletic director Cheryl Levick, a task force member and a former gymnastics and synchronized swimming coach. “While there is value in participating, you still have to pay for it. … Costs are up, dollars are down.”

Under an initiative created in the mid-1990s, an $8 million fund was established and distributed over two years to such programs. Task force chairman Jack Swarbrick said the goal this time is a long-term solution.

“We want to protect and expand opportunities for American athletes and coaches to realize the benefits associated with participation in college athletic programs in sports traditionally included in the Olympics,” said Swarbrick, a lawyer. “It’s not enough in the committee’s mind to stop the bleeding, but to heal the wounds.”

The 15-member task force, formed last May, met for the third time at the NCAA convention this weekend. Members will meet again in April in Colorado, and plan to issue a final report by Sept. 30.

The task force is receiving input from 43 national governing sports bodies. Recommendations will concentrate on raising money and ways to manage, regulate and market sports.

Hawaii athletic director and USOC vice president Herman Frazier, a 1976 Olympic gold and bronze medalist in track, said 85 of the 103 medals won by Americans at the Athens Games were by athletes from NCAA schools, either currently or in the past.

“At a time when we have ever-changing rules, we still fill most (Olympic) teams with athletes out of NCAA schools,” Frazier said. “Little did I know then how it would change my focus when I won the medals. I can’t begin to tell you how important the Olympics are.”

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