With the holidays came the quiet resignation of Boston College's 45 year Head Swimming and Diving Coach Tom Groden. Coaches have been openly salivating at the prospect of taking over Groden's program since before I even swam in college. Over time, just as the article indicates that BC's swimming future is clouded, so is the prospect for any new or interim coach to make a meaningful difference in the team's performance.
From a purely objective standpoint, Boston College is an underachieving Division I Swimming program. They are a dead lock to finish last to any complete swimming and diving team in the power conference in which they compete, the ACC.
Boston College's presence in the ACC always seemed like an opportunity from the outside looking in. Better conference membership is supposed to be a rising tide that lifts all boats. While Boston College has had some better results over the last few years (including a walk-on NCAA qualifier in 2016), the program remains mostly misplaced and uncompetitive. They schedule several Division III opponents every year (and sometimes lose).
Their women's team lost to University of Chicago earlier this year as well as Williams College. They have maintained a team website (currently down, possibly due to Groden's resignation) with philosophies that are either maddening or admirable.
Among them? While there are ten scheduled practices per week, swimmers are only required to attend five. BC's ACC competitors are no doubt blurring the line of twenty hours of practice per week, and he advocates less than many Division III teams. Why? Because he believed that to require anymore would upset the balance of academic and athletic pursuits.
His team philosophy page goes on to explain his priorities. While many of his competitors may express the same platitudes, Groden always seemed to mean it a bit more. Graduating in four years and not transferring out of the program are just two examples he cites. There's a unrelenting positivity about young people and what they can accomplish.
I have to admit, I used to make fun of Groden and his team. My attitude started to change when I met Boston College swimming alumni. None were disgruntled- far from it. They were proud of what they accomplished and the values of the team. So with Groden gone, and the possible demise of this team, it's hard to feel like the sport isn't losing something morally.
Tom Groden and Boston College stood for something in the face of a college sports machine that is hyper-focused on great facilities, training more than the other guy, and a student-athlete industrial complex that pays lip service to "academics first". By sheer will he created and kept a program going at Boston College, his alma mater, in spite of what seems like at best neglect from their athletic department.
I wonder now how many think they could do much better at Boston College, with an athletic department that has purposely built a new facility to still linger far behind their ACC competition, and without properly facilities for a diving program. My guess is that there are far fewer people waiting to pounce on that opportunity.