Men's coaches predict big changes to come with funding boost
In Focus Writer
When asked what effect the addition of 7.9 scholarships will have on his squad, men's swimming coach Tim Welsh offered a quick response.
"I think it will change every single part of our program," Welsh said. "I think it's a dramatic change from top to bottom."
Welsh's enthusiasm is shared by many in the athletic department. His squad is among the biggest beneficiaries of the decision to fully fund every team. The men's swimming team currently has 1.5 scholarships. This money is divided up between several swimmers.
There has never been a swimmer with a full scholarship. But that may change by the 2004-2005 season, when the team will reach the NCAA's maximum allowance (for men's swimming) of 7.9 scholarships. In the next few years, the scholarship money will increase gradually until it reaches the maximum.
For the past five years, the Irish have gone from seventh to second in the Big East, and have faced several teams with more scholarship money.
"Certainly this announcement is a strong show of support by the University," Welsh said.
Joe Piane agrees. The women's track and cross-country coach will have an extra six scholarships by 2004-2005. Both teams presently share a total of 12 scholarships but that will increase to 14, 16, 17 and then 18. Piane mentioned that Villanova, Seton Hall, St. John's, Boston College, West Virginia, Miami, Connecticut and Rutgers all currently have the maximum number of scholarships.
The cross-country team finished sixth in the 2000 Big East Championships while the track team placed sixth in the indoor championships and third during the spring season.
"It puts us on a level playing field," Piane said. "This is a major, major plus. This is a major shot in the arm.
"It will make us a perennial power in the Big East. We've always had elite ladies but what we haven't had is sufficient funds to entice more. Those six extra scholarships can equate to 16 outstanding ladies."
While the extra money may attract better athletes, Welsh maintains that the admissions standards will remain the same. He hopes to coach the first Notre Dame men's swimmer who qualifies for the NCAAs, but he does not want to sacrifice the University's values.
"I don't want a guy to come to Notre Dame for money, that's not why you come to Notre Dame," Welsh said. "You come to Notre Dame because it's Notre Dame and because we're interested in athletic excellence, because we're interested in academic excellence, because we're interested in good human beings, because we're interested in values, and because we're interested in getting better.
"When those things are in place and we can help you pay for it? That's great. If those things aren't in place, Notre Dame's not the right school for you. Don't come here because we now have a checkbook. Come here because you want to be a Notre Dame man and do it the Notre Dame way."
For now, the coaches remain optimistic that they can achieve even more success.
"Providing that people want our athletic department to be as good as it can be, it's long overdue," Piane said. "We wouldn't have it if it wasn't for [athletic director] Dr. White. He's fired up, he's ready to go."
So are the coaches and athletes.
All News Stories for Wednesday, January 31, 2001