The Week That Was: Jon Urbanchek Honored, Big Ten & Pac-12 Move Forward With Swim Seasons

Elwanda Tulloch

The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate. Newly retired coach Jon Urbanchek was honored at the USA Swimming virtual convention over the weekend for his lifelong contributions to the sport of swimming. The hall of fame coach has mentored some of the greatest swimmers from the University of Michigan including Tom Dolan, Eric Namesnik, Eric […]

The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

Newly retired coach Jon Urbanchek was honored at the USA Swimming virtual convention over the weekend for his lifelong contributions to the sport of swimming. The hall of fame coach has mentored some of the greatest swimmers from the University of Michigan including Tom DolanEric NamesnikEric Wunderlich and Peter Vanderkaay.

In coronavirus news, the Big Ten Conference announced it will not hold swimming and diving dual meets until January 1, while the Pac-12 Conference could return to the racing pool earlier than expected.

Read below the five biggest stories in The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

The Week That Was #1: Jon Urbanchek Honored at USA Swimming Convention

Ron Ballatore and Jon Urbanchek 1997 by Peter Bick (1)

Jon Urbanchek (right) with Stix Ballatore in 1997. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Andy Ross

Six-time U.S. Olympic Swimming Team coach Jon Urbanchek was named this year’s recipient of the USA Swimming Award during the USA Swimming Virtual Convention on Friday, September 25.

Established to recognize exceptional contributions to the sport of swimming, Urbanchek has more than exemplified the qualities of this award throughout his storied career, which came to a close on August 31 when he retired from both coaching and his role as the USA Swimming National Team Technical Advisor.

As National Team Managing Director Lindsay Mintenko said: “Coach Urbanchek is a legend of our sport, admired by athletes and coaches alike. We have all learned at least a little something from him, and his retirement will be felt for a long time to come.”

The roster of swimmers and coaches impacted by Jon Urbanchek’s tutelage reads like a who’s who of American swimming. He was the primary coach of Olympic greats Mike BarrowmanTom DolanTom MalchowEric NamesnikEric WunderlichGustavo Borges and Brent Lang and has also worked closely with many other legends, including Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky.

#2: Big Ten Conference to Start Swim Meets After January 1; Pac-12 Green Lights Football

lindsey-kozelsky-

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Andy Ross & Matthew De George

The Big Ten Conference Administrator’s Council has determined that with the exception of football, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s and women’s ice hockey, there shall be no competition prior to January 1, 2021, in an email to swim and dive coaches obtained by Swimming World.

“The Administrators Council has determined that with the exception of football, men’s and women’s basketball and perhaps men’s ice hockey (and women’s ice hockey for those schools that sponsor it), there shall be no competition prior to January 1st,” the email states.

The Big Ten is the second power five Division I conference to make a decision regarding a swimming and diving season, after the Southeastern Conference announced they would only hold dual meets and no conference championship as of yet. There has been no indication on what the meets will entail in terms of spectator attendance and lane restrictions, or if teams will be limited on where they can travel.

The Pac-12 Conference announced Thursday night that it will resume the football, basketball and winter sports seasons, with swimming & diving to commence “consistent with the NCAA season dates for those sports.”

The Pac-12 had postponed the fall season and delayed the winter season through Jan. 1, 2021 in an Aug. 11 decision due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But according to Thursday’s release, in consultation with “updated health and safety recommendations” and a new rapid-results testing program, the league has reversed course. Changes by the Big Ten and other conferences’ willingness to continue with sports also left the Pac-12 on an island by itself among the Power 5 conferences.

Thursday’s announcement specifically cites changes in the rationale from six weeks as including, “consistent access to sufficient testing across all Pac-12 programs” and less prevalence of COVID-19 in school communities. The return also includes new protocols to monitor athletes’ cardiac functioning after the possible link between COVID-19 and myocarditis, an infection of the heart tissue that includes potentially dangerous swelling.

Given adequate clearances from local public health authorities, football can commence a seven-game, conference-only schedule on Nov. 6. Men’s and women’s basketball will hew to the official NCAA start date on Nov. 25. The swimming & diving season start dates are to be determined, and the start of practices is up to individual universities.

The Week That Was #3: University of Iowa Women’s Swimming & Diving Team Issues Title IX Complaint Over Team Termination

iowa-natatorium-venue-starting-block-

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Andy Ross

Four members of the University of Iowa women’s swimming and diving team are challenging the University’s announcement to cut the swimming and diving program – both men and women, at the end of this academic year. The four members are Sage OhlensehlenChristina KaufmanAlexa Puccini and Kelsey Drake.

They are challenging the University’s “failure to provide equitable athletic opportunities for its female students and equitable treatment of female student athletes, including the University’s announced elimination of a viable female sports team, with a venerable history and strong public support” as outlined in the court document.

The legal challenge is advanced under Title IX of the federal Education Amendments of 1972.

The swimmers contend that the elimination of this sport violates their rights, and the rights of other student-athletes similarly-situated, under that law.

#4: ISL Accuses Federations of “Bullying” Athletes After Mass Withdrawals From Second Season

venue-ISL

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Liz Byrnes, Europe Correspondent

The International Swimming League (ISL) has appeared to take a swipe at Swimming Australia while accusing “some national swimming federations’ leaders” of bullying and intimidation after several athletes withdrew from the second season.

Swimming Australia’s advice from the travel and health perspective had been to stay home – but at the end of the day the swimmers and the coaches had to weigh up all the information and risks and make their own decisions.

However, the International Swimming League today issued a strongly-worded statement that appeared to point an accusatory, angry finger at the Australian federation without actually naming them.

So too other countries’ governing bodies who they also claim are pressurising swimmers to not take part.

It read:

“The current health crisis should not be used to entrench existing vested interests.

“It is unacceptable that some national swimming federation’s leaders, knowingly and cynically use the pandemic to intimidate athletes who wish to participate in other competitions.

“Athletes must be protected not only in their physical integrity but also in their economic and social integrity. They need to compete or risk imperilling their livelihoods.

“ISL stands for the right of all athletes to freely live their swimming life, believes it is time to put power back into their hands, to champion their right to make a living they deserve, and to have a greater say in the way their sport is run.

“The recent bullying and pressure on some of the athletes who are already in a precarious position is a political maneuver and contrary to the very spirit of sport.

#YesToCompetition #NoToBullying”

The Week That Was #5: USA Swimming Will Host Virtual Race Leaderboard

2019-usa-nationals-prelims-venue

Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

By Dan D’Addona

USA Swimming has announced changes to its 2020 national events calendar. Previously announced competitions will be replaced with a three-month virtual race leaderboard, a multi-site Toyota U.S. Open event and a decentralized 2020 18&Under Winter Championships.

Beginning in October, USA Swimming will introduce the National Leaderboard, a virtual competition format for swimmers from coast to coast. Similar to the Speedo Swim Again Series, the National Leaderboard series will consist of sanctioned and non-sanctioned long-course meter, short-course meter and short-course yard results, though the leaderboard will be focused on individual swimmers. Top performances will then be recognized at the end of each competition month.

In an effort to re-introduce in-person competition, but limit travel as best possible for athletes, the Toyota U.S. Open will be hosted November 12-14, 2020, across multiple sites nationwide. The long-course meter event will feature athletes competing in 8-10 venues, with approximately 100 swimmers at each venue. Events will consist of four-timed final sessions over three days. On par with National-level events, all swimmers who have one or more qualifying standards may enter these meets through USA Swimming’s Online Meet Entry system on a first-come basis until the entry cap is reached. Current U.S. National Team Members or U.S. National Junior Team Members will be provided with priority registration. Sites for the 2020 Toyota U.S. Open will be announced as soon as available.

The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

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