Letter to the Editor urges school to prioritize swimming

May 2, 2019

Recently, the women’s swim team captured its second consecutive A-10 Conference Championship title. For reasons that most would not be aware, this was a rather impressive accomplishment.

The hard work and commitment by the women paid off. The exceptional coaching ability and sincere dedication of their head coach, Dave Sheets, made it possible.

When Coach Sheets took over the men’s and women’s teams 18 years ago, he inherited two floundering programs that were consistently finishing at the very bottom of the A-10 Conference. Just scoring any points at the championship meet was considered a success.

Within six years, Sheets had both teams finishing in third place.

The men’s team continued to progress to the point that by 2010 it was winning individual championships and setting individual conference records. That same year, the men’s team was dropped by the school as a varsity sport.

The women’s team continued to improve. Prior to their first A-10 title, the women finished second twice — both times without a diving team. Traditionally, it is extremely difficult to be competitive without a diving team contributing points. Last year, the diving team was brought back for the first time since the 1980s, and ironically, the women won their first A-10 Conference title.

What makes all of this so remarkable is that Coach Sheets was able to do this with the same undersized, unappealing and barely adequate facilities that existed in the 1970s; the same pool with basically just a new coat of paint.

The diving team needs to train off-campus because the pool is not deep enough. Imagine how difficult it must be to recruit divers knowing that. In spite of these restrictions, Coach Sheets (and Diving Coach Charlie Hauser) have consistently been able to recruit top student-athletes that could easily be scholarship swimmers at other Division I schools. This is a testament to Dave’s talent as an innovative, cutting-edge coach and to the university’s academic appeal. These student-athletes choose Duquesne University, not because of the swimming facilities, but because they believe this coach and this school will give them the best chance of success in both the pool and in the classroom. Now, envision the type of success and the wonderful things the school would have with a modern aquatics facility.

It is extremely disappointing to learn that millions of dollars will once again be spent to upgrade athletic facilities that do not include a new natatorium.

What currently exists for the Duquesne community in the Towers Pool is nothing short of an embarrassment.

With the youth of today moving more toward ‘safe’ sports, when will the administration get with the times in providing the students, athletes, faculty, staff and local neighborhood with an adequate aquatics facilities?

Congratulations to the women’s swim team and Coach Sheets for a job well done!

Deum Benedicite Duquesne

Kevin P. Ferguson, D.M.D.

BA ‘84