I was recently pointed in the direction of the drastic changes as to how USA Swimming was hoping to control the elite athletes that compete under their organizational umbrella. While many of the changes are welcome, many are not. None of these actions, though, are surprising to me in the slightest.
I am happily outside the swimming universe (at least 95% of the time) now, but it will be interesting to watch how this unfolds. It will be interesting to watch how the American Needle V. NFL lawsuit plays out, and how it will impact Olympic sports, especially swimming. There is a huge rift coming, and I just cannot see how one major organization could possibly be standing on the right side of the fence at this point.
My biggest question is this – Why not make these changes 10 years ago? Why not three years ago? Why now? These questions will likely go unanswered, but opinions will abound, and are welcomed.
What strikes me as amazing is that for so long, the stipend paid to athletes has remained constant. Yes, you heard me correctly, since the early 1980′s when the stipend was introduced, swimmers have historically been paid the same amount year after year after year. Don’t bother asking why. I don’t have the answers.
Let’s look at that fact for a second.
The stipend system had not changed in nearly 30 years!
Think about this – the average rate of inflation in the United States since the early 80′s is around 3%, with spikes in some years as high as 5, 7, and even 10%!
If you consider that the stipend awarded in the early 1980′s when it was originally introduced was around $15,000 (this is an estimate – I have spoken to people in the past with knowledge of these amounts and this is what I remember being told, but I could be wrong), that means that today (according to the consumer price index), with no changes and assuming that the stipend in 1984 was $15,000, swimmers should be either:
a) getting compensated at a rate of $43,400 per year to allow them the same spending power of our 1984 athletes, or
b) be so damn pissed that their $21,000 is the equivalent of $10,200 in 1984 dollars.
Disregarding all the issues related to marketing and athlete naming rights, etc. (it is a topic for another time), armed with these numbers, that $29,000 raise to $50,000 seems pretty paltry.