Goin knows how to make tough calls

Thursday, May 7, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Bob Goin is here to do the heavy lifting. He is the action athletic director, a man of deeds rather than declarations. He is what the University of Cincinnati has been lacking for far too long.

Gerald O'Dell had some of the right ideas, but nearly no ability to execute them. He talked a lot about achieving gender equity in Clifton, but his record was an eyesore. UC was never close to compliance with Title IX until Goin came to grips with the matter.

Now, it is done. Goin announced Wednesday afternoon that men's tennis, men's indoor track and field and a coed rifle team will be dropped; that a new women's sport will be added within two years; and that grotesque funding imbalances will be fixed.

You might not agree with what Goin has done, but you can not dispute that Bearcat athletics needed more decisive decision-making. Goin announced his terribly tough call at the Shoemaker Center, and then volunteered for any blame that might accrue. Pity we can't get that kind of accountability in the White House.

"We've had a lot of good intentions," said Dr. Nancy Hamant, UC's faculty representative to the NCAA. "Gerald (O'Dell) had very good intentions. But I think Bob has seen this as a priority. It's as simple as that."

Recognizing the right thing to do and actually doing it are dramatically different things. Where real people are involved and funds are finite, rerouting revenue from one program to another is a formula for fisticuffs. Goin's goal was to make his cuts surgically instead of hacking away wholesale. To that extent, he has largely succeeded.

Tradition dies hard

UC's indoor track team is comprised of the same people who run outdoor track, so their opportunities have been diminished rather than eliminated. The rifle team has no scholarships, few expenses, and could be converted from varsity to club status without causing significant hardship.

Bearcat tennis has more tradition, and the elimination of the men's program is hence more troubling. Next to Oscar Robertson, Tony Trabert might be UC's most accomplished athlete. He was the 1951 NCAA champion, the 1955 Wimbledon champion, and among the first people UC coach Brett DeCurtins called when he realized his program was in peril.

"I asked him, "What can I do to help?' " Trabert said Wednesday from his home in Florida. "He said, "I don't really know.' I told him to give me the AD's number and at least I can find out what's going on. "I didn't come in with my horns up. I certainly understand his (Goin's) problems. I just wanted to see if there was any chance of salvaging the program. He told me down the line he'd like to reinstate tennis. He's obviously in a very tough spot."

One consideration undermining tennis was that the site of the campus courts has been designated for a future dormitory in UC's master plan. Even if the money was available for men's tennis, the need to bring parity to UC's men's and women's sports would have remained a pressing concern.

"I want the nation to know that the University of Cincinnati is committed to compliance for our women athletes," Goin said Wednesday. ". . . We wanted to do what had the least amount of blood to it."

It was not possible to make it painless. Too many mistakes had been made. Too many oversights needed correcting. Last year, UC ranked 271st among 306 Division I schools in the spending disparity between men's and women's athletics. Women represented 49 percent of UC's student body and received only 15 percent of the athletic funding.

Had Goin permitted the inequities to persist, someone surely would have sued eventually. By acting now, the university can claim it has acted out of conviction rather than in response to a court order.

It's almost always better to face a problem than to let it fester. Good intentions only go so far. Enquirer columnist Tim Sullivan welcomes your E-mail. Message him at tsullivanenquirer.com.