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Monday, September 26, 2022


Recent News


by Kerm Helmer
Collegiate Fever


Kerm Helmer
October 10, 1998

by Kerm Helmer

Is The Playing Field Tilting?

Over the years of sports, one of the tasks facing Athletic Administrators has been to insure the playing field remains level for the individuals and teams competing. Youth sports, High School sports and Collegiate sports have done a respectable job with the task. Individuals and teams can be pretty assured during the season when they go into conference play and post season play they will be facing individuals and teams on a "level field". Should during the regular season a team wish to step outside their aligned schedules, they do so at their choosing, understanding the field may be tipped.

For the better part of my 32 years in Collegiate Bowling, I thought the playing field was pretty level. The only area I could point to that tipped the field some was in the area of coaching stability. Programs, especially during the late 70's and 80's that were year in and year out successful, had one thing in common. A coach or coaches who were there year after year. In some cases when the Coach left, the program dropped in success or in a couple of cases disappeared completely. Examples-SUNY Buffalo Men and Women-Penn State Women-San Jose State Women- Sacramento Women-William Paterson Women. Everyone went from power to all right-to completely self destructed when their long time coaches left. However, other than the coach everyone else appeared to be on the same level of opportunity.

Somewhere in the late 80's early 90's, Judy Dye, the Coach of the Nebraska at Omaha program asked me why we don't consider divisions in Intercollegiate Bowling. I explained to Judy what I believed that there was no need, anyone can build a competitive program if they have the time and willing to stay. Right on the heels of Judy came George Williams of Colorado State. George took Judy one step further, he not only voiced his concern, but brought a proposal to the ACUI National summer meeting for ACUI to sponsor a National ACUI Team Championship. The stipulation being only teams not qualifying for the National Collegiate Championships could compete. He was so bold as to say a "sponsor would be nice" but not a necessity because teams will come just to be able to compete against other teams of their level. When the vote came to endorse, I raised by hand in the affirmative but inside I am saying to myself this has two chances of having a lifespan of over two years: slim and none. A year or two later Terry Gregory the respected Coach of San Jose State brought a proposal to the Intercollegiate industry summit that the field of teams at the Championships be increased from 12 to 16. Reason being, the playing field is tipping and teams want just a chance to get to the Championships.

At the time these encounters occurred I really thought Judy, George and Terry were seeing something that wasn't there. I must now apologize to all three.

After attending this summer's Coaches summit and hearing all 28 Coaches lay it all out on the table in regards to financing, support services received from the college and support services received from their local centers, I came to this conclusion. Since Collegiate Bowling began we have all laced up our shoes and strapped on our guns to do a season battle. True, for awhile in the early days some strapped on single shot 22 pistols and some had .38 revolvers. Today folks, 50 percent still carry .22's, 40 percent carry .38's and 10 percent are carrying Clint Eastwood's choice-.44 magnums with armor piercing jackets.

When the overall budget for operating two of the programs is added together and it comes within a decimal point of being greater than all the other budgets combined, the playing field isn't tipping, it is standing vertical.

Judy again you were right. I could be a solid Coach at a college for x number of years, but what chance would I have if you out budgeted me 20 times over, had full scholarships, training table, weight training, Medical and training staff. About as much chance as someone going over Niagara Falls in a canoe and not only surviving but landing right side up.

George you were right. The ACUI Tournament went from 20 teams to 54 teams in 8 years. There is a need for the level playing field.

Terry you were right. I looked at the difference between the qualifying leader at the past two years, Collegiate Championships and the bottom. The playing field is no longer level.

Do I believe those carrying .44 Mags should trade them in? Absolutely not. I give those colleges the greatest respect for understanding the sport, it's value overall to the college and wish everyone had the same attitude.

With the push towards NCAA recognition in Women's Collegiate Bowling, maybe Collegiate Bowling should start moving in the direction of all other NCAA and NJCAA sports that being, competing in divisions. Just maybe knowing you had an equal shot at Brunswick Scholarship money everytime out because you were on a level playing field would keep teams from dropping out. Let the Big Boys and Girls slug it out, but don't require everyone come to the party. Have an opportunity to choose a party you want to attend.


This article originally appeared in Spares & Strikes, a bowling newspaper serving the Greater Buffalo/  Western New York Area. It is reprinted here with the permission of the author.