Thursday, June 07, 2012

In defense of Rowdy Gaines

UPDATE: Rowdy Gaines send us a clarification and more. It's located at the bottom the article:


John Leonard and Craig Lord go after both the Wall Street Journal and Rowdy Gaines' analysis of American college coaching in a article that was recently published at the WSJ site.

Both the Wall Street Journal and Rowdy Gaines have a track record of being quite good at analysis. For instance: You want to make money, you read the Wall Street Journal for its recaps, explanations and predicted consequences. When you want real time swim reporting you go to Rowdy Gaines at NBC Sports who the New York Times said "... balanced emotion during the [Phelps/Lezak] 4x100 medley relay with clearly-spoken narration and analysis, without losing lucidity."

The Wall street Journal pretty much posted an Op Ed stating that we are training the world's Olympians and they are spanking us and removing opportunities for American athletes to excel.

From the Wall Street Journal:
The damage adds up. At the 2008 Beijing Games, foreign athletes from U.S. universities earned at least 28 medals for their countries—and possibly twice that many. About half don't cite their NCAA affiliation in their Olympic bona fides, says U.S. Olympic Committee historian Bill Mallon, who estimates that foreign athletes from U.S. universities may have won 60 medals in 2008—more than 6% of the total. In Beijing, 48 countries fielded athletes from the Pacific-12 Conference alone.
The situation troubles Americans such as swimmer Rowdy Gaines, the three-time Olympic gold medalist. He favors capping the percentage of international athletes on U.S. college teams to preserve a majority of opportunities for U.S. athletes. Fielding so many foreign athletes, Gaines said, "hurts our Olympic movement, which we have to think of, first and foremost."
[Link]

My defense of Rowdy Gaines: Remember when I brought up the word analysis? Rowdy Gaines knows what is coming ahead for us in 2012 and he knows that we may not even win one mens freestyle gold medal. We are not favored to win the 50-free, the 100-free. the 400-free, the 800-free nor the 1500-free. The 200-free is so tightly stacked time-wise that it's possible we may not even medal. Yes, both Phelps and Lochte are great swimmers but if you take their best times from 2011/2012, you have six guys who are less than 1/2-second from taking first place. In a 200-free that takes place in less than one-minute-forty-five-seconds, that is extraordinary. One bad turn, one sketchy start, or a tired body from trying to survive the prelims just to get into the final and it's over. This race will look like a 50-free street fight.

Do you know what the potential and economic consequences for American swimming would be if we have our worst Olympics in the pool EVER? We are a sport that only occurs in the eyes of the public every four years and then it goes away. "If we belly flop", we are off the radar in a huge way. Networks follow the money and they would be less interested in swimming if the ratings fail and they will fail if we don't win. I presume Rowdy wants to prevent that debacle by suggesting that we invest in our own talent so that US swimmers can continue to win in a venue that occurs only once every four years.

The big question is how did we get there? In my hyperbolic interpretation of what Rowdy is saying:  It's the coaches stupid and there is a scarcity! And he is right too.

UPDATE: Tony...thank you so much for the kind words. I would like to clarify something however. I did say those exact words in the WSJ article but they were taken completely out of context.

I told the writer there were two schools of thought on this sensitive subject...one was what I told her that some people felt and the other was one of America being the land of opportunity for all and the people having problems with International kids should just do a better job of recruiting. This was obviously left out in the article. It is a difficult situation and I have always had mixed emotions. But again, thanks so much Tony and love your stuff. If you ever want to call me out though feel free to...god knows I've got a big enough mouth...


18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Phelps will win the 200 free, no worries. He will win what ever he swims. Bowman is the best bid you have for a coach in the US, and MP is an animal!!!

Sony takes 100 + 200 breast, not living up to her potential, but that's not her fault.

Lochte takes the 200 back. The US takes both 4x100MR, and the US will take the 200 back for women, but that will be it in the pool this time. Sorry!

The problem is NOT foreigners in US swimming. The rest of the world is swimming smarter.
How many European gold medals came from US swimming in 08?

ZERO!!!

The "big" programs in the US are about $$ for their coaches.

And move trials if you want to be in the hunt for gold in 2016 :-)

Anonymous said...

Tony, I love your blog, love your comments, but this time, what a deception.

You took the side of the Wall Street Journal and Rowdy Gaines only to go against Lord and JL.

Is very poor article with a terrible conclusion. I am talking about the article, not you, Lord, JL, Gaines or americans and foreigners.

Tony Austin said...

You know, what, you might be right.

Tony Austin said...

I just edited it some more taking out the pot shots

Anonymous said...

I really don't get al the hoopla. In the U.S. we are allowed opportunity and we provide it to others. This article is another opportunity to simply point out facts. It seems as though some are frightened that this is an article to be read by many. The article is factualy and provides comments on both sides of the aisle. And the conclusion from Bill Martin points out both sides: it is great to have foreigners compete on your team trying to win NCAA's....but it also helps them beat your country at the Olympics. Don't be afraid of the facts. It is good for everyone to know this type of information.

junker23 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
junker23 said...

Barring international athletes from swimming at American colleges is incredibly short-sighted, in my opinion.

And I mean, I don't really care what Rowdy Gaines thinks about this, either. His stance against Olympic athletes getting paid doesn't exactly make me think I should turn to him for any meaningful insight on the swimming world at large. [Ed - The last sentence was missing a few words. Can't be having that.]

Anonymous said...

Hasn't this always been the case? What's the fuss now? Cutting or curtailing them would seem a passive aggressive response to the real problems of building swimming and coaching in the US

Rowdy Gaines said...

Tony...thank you so much for the kind words. I would like to clarify something however. I did say those exact words in the WSJ article but they were taken completely out of context.

I told the writer there were two schools of thought on this sensitive subject...one was what I told her that some people felt and the other was one of America being the land of opportunity for all and the people having problems with International kids should just do a better job of recruiting. This was obviously left out in the article.

It is a difficult situation and I have always had mixed emotions.

But again, thanks so much Tony and love your stuff. If you ever want to call me out though feel free to...god knows I've got a big enough mouth...

Anonymous said...

Tony...thank you so much for the kind words. I would like to clarify something however. I did say those exact words in the WSJ article but they were taken completely out of context.

I told the writer there were two schools of thought on this sensitive subject...one was what I told her that some people felt and the other was one of America being the land of opportunity for all and the people having problems with International kids should just do a better job of recruiting. This was obviously left out in the article.

It is a difficult situation and I have always had mixed emotions.

But again, thanks so much Tony and love your stuff. If you ever want to call me out though feel free to...god knows I've got a big enough mouth...

junker23 said...

Well, that makes me feel a bit better regarding Rowdy's position on this.

(Still way off on Olympic athletes getting paid, though. And I mean, a bit odd coming from someone who
ostensibly gets paid to be at the Olympics.)

Tony Austin said...

I don't know what Rowdy's position is on unpaid athletes. I feel athletes should be paid in relationship to the the amount of money they generate.

Anonymous said...

Does this last comment apply to MP as well Tony?

Rowdy said...

I have no problem at all w Olympic athletes getting paid! Though it would be hard in determining how, how much and prioritizing who gets what depending on the level of athlete you are. Do you pay Phelps more then the 6th place finisher at trials in the 200 free? And how much more?

Tony Austin said...

I think the national team should get an upper middle-class wage with bonuses for every additional event they swim.

To clarify, if a swimmer makes it to the Olympics, they get a standard wage, for each prelim or event they swim, they receive a bonus.

junker23 said...

Phew, OK that's good to hear. I just saw this tweet a couple months back and had a mini-conniption fit.

Tony Austin said...

I have changed my mind, You're right, Olympians should never be paid and the non-profits that select them should not be paid either. After all, like the Olympic ideal this is not about making money, huh?

Hence, the athletes and those selecting them should make no profit or compensation in any way. We should demand that Chuck Wielgus of USA Swimming forfeit his near $1-million dollar salary retroactively starting at Jan 1st, 2012 and thereby give it back.

The crews who video the Olympics as well as the commentators should do this as a pure charitable endeavor.

That shows me.

Anonymous said...

This is completely irrelevant: "We are not favored to win the 50-free, the 100-free. the 400-free, the 800-free nor the 1500-free. The 200-free is so tightly stacked time-wise that it's possible we may not even medal."
The US college system has nothing to do with this. In the 50, Cielo, Fratus, Nystrand, Magnussen, none of the top foreigners going into the Olympics are even training in the US. Cielo's only gotten faster after he left. Same with the 100 (Magnussen, Roberts), 400 (Park, Sun), 800 (come on Tony, you know there's no 800 at the Olympics), and 1500 (Sun, Park, Cochrane, Kis). For the 200, neither Agnel nor Park nor Biedermann nor Izotov benefited from the US college system. And what is this tripe: "Do you know what the potential and economic consequences for American swimming would be if we have our worst Olympics in the pool EVER?" First, as I mentioned with the freestyles above, this has nothing to do with foreigners in college swimming. None of the potential stars above are US college trained, and neither are Kitajima, Tateishi, Gyurta, Cseh, Lacourt, Irie, Matsuda, or the French/Australian relays (with the exception of Targett, who no longer trains here anyway). Second, who says this is going to be the worst Olympics ever? Between Phelps, Lochte, and Clary, you've got +/- 12 medals, half gold, and not including relays (2 more gold). On the women's side, you've got Vollmer, Schmitt, Franklin, Soni, Coughlin, Leverenz, Beisel, and more, all of whom could win individual gold and are multievent swimmers.
As for restricting foreigners on college teams, there's two clarifications that need to be made. First, private schools can get whoever they want: it's their money. Second, you can only consider limiting the amount of scholarship money allocated to foreign athletes. If some guy from Eastern Europe gets admitted and fits in with the team, he's free do pay on his own dime.
Also, there's really nothing USA swimming can do about college swimmers. If the coaching staff at a a D1 school wants to give money to a foreigner who can A-final instead of some local kid who might never improve off his HS times or qualify for NCAA's, only the NCAA or AD can change that. If USA swimming wants improve its medal count, it needs to make postgrad swimming more sustainable. A nonprofit shouldn't be paying anyone (Wielgus in particular) over six figures, and should focus on sponsorship for athletes, not the organization as a whole. More athlete sponsorship visibility, more athletes on a stipend, more free time at places like the OTC.