By Ahrash Rastegar
A third year English Major at, Brandon Kang, and Julian Lawrence, a second year Engineering Major at UCI both were on the collegiate swim team, until the program was cut. Both men express their disappointment in the team being cut, leaving them with not future in swimming. Their athletics careers were ruined because of the lack of cooperation on behalf of the UCI administration as well as a poor decision to cut the swim team during the summer.
How long have you been swimming?
A:I started swimming since I was eight years old. My dad was a major influence in my decision to swim competitively—he swam up until High School.
How many hours a day did you competitively swim before coming to UCI?
A: I swam for about 6 hours each day. It was intense, but average for people who took the sport seriously.
Was it a passion of yours?
A: Yea, I hated waking up in the morning but it was worth it. I felt satisfied after practice. I guess I am really competitive
How was swimming in high school?
A:It was harder that college. High school swimming was kind of a joke compared to college. But, my club team was better. When I swam club, I swam with club people who would kick my ass all the time.
Were you able to find balance between school and swimming?
A: Honestly, I did what I could to get back by academically. I really had no motivation to study; I was riding on the fact that swimming could get me into college (as he chuckles). Honestly, though, I was so tired after swimming, I couldn’t do jack shit.
What were your options for swimming in college?
A: I got an offer from the Navel academy, UCSB and UCI. The Navel Academy tuition was free, but I had no real interest in going there. UCSB did not offer me much of a scholarship, so that narrowed down my options to the UCI program. The UCI program basically, agreed to make my tuition free.
This year we still get scholarships. But after that it got terminated.
The swim team gets about 40-50 grand. The program gets about 350grand to run the entire thing. Yet they were asking for 2.2 million to run the program. Women’s swimming was to receive more.
The people who get scholarships are the best swimmers?
A: They are the swimmers who show the most potential. Most of them don’t live up to their potentials. Brandon was close to people who did not have scholarships.
It depends how fast you are coming out of high school.
Now that there is no program anymore, how do you feel?
A: Julian :It was a real blow to me. I was planning on working really hard this year. And like, Brandon and me we were really set on this year. We have would really good this year-as a team-because of the incoming freshmen. The coach said he would work for free. It would cost the school virtually nothing.
A: Brandon: Expenses for trips though would cost money.
A: Julian: They don’t even have to pay for trips. We would have to pay for our own trips
If costs nothing to run, then why did the school get rid of it?
A: We will work for free. They petition to save to UCI swim team and the effort to raise money to save it was not recognized by administration. Everything could have been free this year. But they didn’t want to go back on their decision.
How did you feel when you found the team was cut?
A:I was completely shocked. Last year, when they said scholarships weren’t being raised, I knew something was up, but I never really processed it. We even got the forms to sign up for one more year, so I assumed we would have the team for at least one more year. Then, the coach called us out of the blue during the summer and told us the program was cut. It was weird to hear we were cut. Other teams such as track and field, I don’t understand why they didn’t cut them instead. I don’t know why we’ve been cut. We won conference three years ago. We were finishing in the top 3. Our swim team was ranked 33rd. When I came in we were ranked 30th.
What do you think about it?
A: Everyone on the team has been swimming for his or her whole life. I started when I was 5. We spend this much time doing the sport and we reached college and we reach a division 1 team.
Usually, when they cut a team, they tell you during the year, so incoming freshmen have opportunity to switch schools. But they cut it during the summer. That gave freshmen one month to decide what they were going to do. We had people come from everywhere and even from abroad. Some people, who decided to come here now, are forced to stay.
Do you think the students will transfer?
A:My whole class is gone( Class of 2011). Some quit school. Some left. Some are going to JCs and swimming for club teams to stay in shape. Most of the swim team has given up and moved on unfortunately. And if they are swimming, it is just recreationally. One guy transferred to UCSD another to Washington State, so a couple of guys left.
Some of the girls have tried and are trying to transfer. They received verbal consent from another coach at UCD but switching during the year is very difficult.
Julian, since you are younger, would you consider switching?
A: HA no. They no have I have nothing to offer. Some students are just going to Division II schools. The senior guys just get completely screwed. They have nowhere to go. Now there are guys who are just self-motivated. There is no more swimming for them. Even if they transfer to another school, unless you are planning to stay a 5th or even 6th year they don’t have that much time left. So basically, this ended their career and forced them to move on with their lives. You can’t really turn pro with swimming, so there isn’t much of an option. College is pretty much the end of the road.
So why did you swim?
A:I wanted to be a big shot swimmer. But you eventually realize that its not your whole life. But, you stay motivated, and work on dropping a better time.
Was it a big blow to you when you found out?
A: I wasn’t surprised. I thought it was coming. My coach told the swimmers that more money was coming, especially for the students who had financial issues. Then the swim team was cut. Even our coach foreshadowed but didn’t actually imagine it happening. I think we are one of the few schools to cut during the summer time. That’s why it sucked so much for UCI. For a little while you enjoy not swimming. But then you realize apart of your life was missing. Now that it’s not there at all what do I do? Since, our sport brought in money for the school, there was no reason to keep us really. Even though, were NCAA it doesn’t matter. We didn’t bring in revenue. Unlike football it has so much merchandise and following it’s worth keeping. But no one goes to a swim meet. I guarantee you no one at this school some people want to take our petition even further than Yudoff. It’s a never-ending ladder. The active swimmers are still trying to save the swim team.
Additional Questioning, Brandon Kang, October 14, 2009
Since the swim team has been cut, what does your future hold for you and swimming?
A: Me and swimming have broken up sadly. It was a rough break up but in the end we just couldn't live with each other. No, but really now I just swim for fun and recreation. I can’t swim for a NCAA division I team anymore and I couldn’t transfer to another school because not only is that a huge headache but also my parents had wanted me to stay in southern California. I love swimming and its a great sport that I’ll always be somewhat involved with but as far as competing, it seems I am forced to hang up my goggles.
What are you doing and what is the swim team doing to bring the program back?
A: Personally I'm not doing much to get the program back although there are many people who are trying to raise enough money to bring the program back within the next few years--hopefully. There is the anteater swimming and diving foundation (website http://www.anteaterswimminganddivingfoundation.org/) and most of the information and news can be found there as far as bringing the program back to UCI.
Do you think other sports should have been cut instead?
A: This question id rather not answer, for it would be a bad reflection on some of the sports at UCI; I have the utmost respect for all athletes and teams but to answer frankly, yes I do feel as if there are other teams that could have been cut rather than swimming and diving, however; such a decision is left to the suits and higher-ups and my opinion is of course probably and in all likelihood, biased.
Are you trying to keep up with swimming? Are there any alternatives for you besides NCAA swimming? Or was the college your only outlet?
There are other ventures in swimming to pursue; a club team was very possible but many of my teammates share my view when saying that swimming NCAA division I is nothing like a simple club team. Not to disrespect any club swimmers or anyone else for that matter, but it’s just a different level and intensity of swimming. We wanted more; the challenge and ability to be a collegiate athlete. Swimming becomes your life in college...morning practice class afternoon practice maybe more class. There’s only so much time in the day and most of our time was dedicated to swimming and school. Without swimming many of us swimmers have found it difficult to plan out our days because we no longer have practice taking up most of our time. We actually have time to do other things now, which is nice of course, but at the same time gives us a feeling that something is missing. There’s no more structure or strict schedule running our entire day and no more having to show up at 6 in the morning to swim a couple thousand yards. There is always the possibility of swimming for a USS (United States Swimming) club team which most of the UCI swim team members had done before college. Some are doing that and others have followed in my footsteps and for the most part, have left swimming to nothing more than a mere hobby rather than a lifestyle.