by Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer
The University of Texas men’s swim and dive team has never lost a Big 12 championship. The Texas women’s team has lost out on only six Big 12 titles since 1997. Since Texas A&M’s move to the SEC, no team has come within 100 points of the Longhorns. Baylor could change that.
Baylor does have a club swim team, but they don’t compete at the NCAA level. The addition of a varsity team would also benefit the club group, as they’d have access to a new and improved facility, as well as making the club team a potential path for walk-ons to train for the NCAA team.
In 1999, it was proposed that Baylor include an Olympic-sized pool in the construction of the SLC aquatic center. Baylor envisioned a setup similar to swimming powerhouses Texas and Texas A&M, home to the Lee and Joe Jamail and the Texas A&M Natatorium, respectively. Both of these pools are world class facilities, and draw swimmers both professional and amateur from around the world to compete.
In my time as a swimmer, I swam in both of those facilities, and was thoroughly impressed by both of them. A number of my teammates ended up committing to schools like Texas or A&M, due in large part to their state-of-the-art facilities.
Of the top 50 male Texas high school swimmers in the class of 2020, 15 would end up committing to either Texas, A&M, TCU or SMU. On the women’s side, those same four schools combined for 13 of the top 50 recruits. Rice and Houston, which only field women’s programs, each had two swimmers in the top 50.
If Baylor was to field a team, with facilities to match, they would no doubt be very attractive to recruits and coaches. Aside from Texas, the Big 12 is wide open, and Baylor could place as high as second in their inaugural season. Texas is only Big 12 men’s program to rank in the top 50 nationally, and no Big 12 team on the women’s side ranks higher than 40th.
Texas is a hotbed for swimming talent, and Baylor is missing a huge opportunity by failing to put a team in the water. Going back to 2016, the state of Texas has produced NCAA superstars such as A&M’s Shaine Casas, Florida’s Vanessa Pearl, Georgia’s Dakota Luther, Stanford’s Lucie Nordmann and Notre Dame’s Zachary Yeadon.
The primary reason many schools don’t have NCAA swim teams is money. NCAA swim meets don’t turn a profit. It’s likely that that won’t change any time soon. However, Baylor’s convenient location in the heart of Texas would make the university a leading candidate to host valuable club and high school meets.
Meets like the UIL State Championship, UIL Regional meets, Speedo Sectionals, or even Texas Age Group championships (TAGS) would all bring in serious money for Baylor and Waco as a whole. Additionally, these meets would get potential recruits on campus year after year, building familiarity with Baylor.
A high-level aquatic facility on the Baylor campus would also help foster swimming talent in Waco. Waco is currently home to the Heart Of Texas swim club, which currently practices at the Waco Family YMCA. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’d much rather practice at a Big 12 school than a YMCA.
The development of in-area talent would be nothing but beneficial for a Baylor swim program. UT and A&M already land the vast majority of the talent in their corners of the state, Baylor should look to do the same.
Baylor has the money to fund a big-time aquatics facility, and as such, a winning swim team. In a time when so many schools are cutting sports, Baylor should invest in bringing more student athletes to Waco. Baylor has a chance to become a powerhouse in short order, and adding another winner to Baylor athletics can only be a good thing.