CHARLESTON, SC – In November 2014, College of Charleston Athletic Director Joe Hull announced the athletic department would cut Men’s & Women’s Swimming and Diving as a scholarship sport. The cost to maintain and repair the pool was “too much to overcome.”The Stern Center pool is now empty but the chlorine-laced memories are still fresh and the alumni are not going to let their program drowned without a couple of splashes.“Our first reaction was to fight it as best as we could and I think we did,” said Bailey Clark, a former swimmer and 2010 College of Charleston graduate.
Clark and Stephen Fernandez (2001 graduate & swimmer) are leading the charge to save the program. Upon news that the athletic department was disbanding the teams, the pair rallied swimmers & divers to launch a campaign but their plans were halted when the athletic department was unwilling to hear their case.
“When we brought up the solution that we would raise the money (and i’m still 100% sure to this day that we could have)… they would still demolish the pool,” said Clark.
“Responses were… well some were generic, some were ‘just a decision that had to be made,’ nothing to the effect of ‘let’s talk about it,” added Fernandez, “It was more about ‘this is the decision, move on.”
That is exactly what the Athletic Department did. Last week, plans were announced to start the fundraising effort to build a new state-of-the-art athletic facility at Patriots Point. The complex would be around 20,000 square feet and three stories tall featuring a weight room and sports medicine facility, locker rooms, coaches’ offices, academic spaces and a viewing deck overlooking the baseball and soccer fields.
The news was bittersweet for Clark. “I am very excited for those teams that get that brand new state-of-the-art facility. I think that is wonderful but when I think of college, I think of an opportunity for all and you are taking away an opportunity from 50 plus kids from in-state.”
Clark and Fernandez are now pleading for the administration to add a pool to the new facility at Patriots Point. “It just takes somebody like President McConnell or the athletic directors to say ‘ok we will give you a chance. Here’s a deadline. Here’s a goal,” said Fernandez. “If we make it great, if not then we move on. But we weren’t given that chance.”