Yesterday, I got flooded with texts that contained the same shitty news. Oregon State decided that they would no longer have a Swimming and Diving program. It’s trite but necessary for anyone that cares about college swimming to get fired up at points like this.
I have some personal feelings about this one, so I’ll stick to those. I’m not going to get into the ridiculous reasons listed for dropping the program. There is no way that a 20 million dollar facility was needed for this team to be competitive.
I feel this one personally because over the last few months, I’ve gotten to know the coach of Oregon State, Jennifer Buffin. She has a lot of qualities that I admire in a coach. Many of them are all too uncommon.
I met with in her hotel lobby between sessions at PAC-12s, and what I was struck with how well she balanced vulnerability and strength. She was more willing to admit where she had failed and what she was working on than pretty much any Division 1 coach I had ever met.
At the same time, she projected a lot of strength. She has high standards and expectations, was as competitive as they come, and stood next to the pool with presence.
A few times when we talked, I made one point or another that I was feeling pretty confident in. She disagreed, but she had a skill for sort of delivering her counterpoint so deftly that I didn’t even mind the creeping feeling that I could be wrong.
In a conference that is among the most competitive in the NCAA (I don’t want to get into that pissing match either), she was so focused on the skills and details that went way beyond raw swimming speed. She talked about relationships, connection and the emotional regulation of everyone involved in the process of trying to swim a little bit faster.
To think that project, which I so wanted to see continue, is ended just like that at Oregon State, in a word, sucks. So this one hurts a bit extra.