Calling out results at the PacWest meet. Coach Frank Burlison watches the swimming program
Fade to black H
e turned to take one last look at the still blue water . Where just hours before competitors. coaches and fans had been bustling about. now only silence and memories remained. Vandal Swimming Coach Frank Burlison stood alone. After 58 years as a competitive sport at the university. the Vandal men's swimming program had breathed its last. And Burlison was left to lock up the swim center for one last time. "I just feel its unfortunate ," the former Vandal swimmer turned head coach said. "I don't know if it was anyone's fault that the program ended. it was just a matter of priorities." The men's swimming program had been marked for termination ever since the athletic department announced in April 1985 the sport was being dropped because of budgetary cutbacks. The 11-year-old women's program went the way of the men's team at the end of 1985 season. " It's been very good working here," Burlison said. "I received good support from the administration, and was given tremendous freedom. "It's just a nationwide thing. The individual-type sports are being eliminated or severely cutback everywhere.路路 Burlison lamented. Since 1980. four sports have been eliminated
at the university - baseball. gymnastics. and women's and men's swimming. "I don't see there being much of a chance of the sport returning." Burlison said. "Twelve or so swimming programs have been dropped by schools in the Pacific Northwest in the last 15 years." Nevertheless. the Vandal swimmers wanted to prove that the last meet in the history of the school would be anything but a swan song. And the UI-hosted Pac-West Championships proved to be just that. "It was a funny type of thing," Burlison said of the Pac-West meet. "The guy:; were e xcited for the meet but there was obviously sadness because for lots of those guys it was their last competition ever.'' Although the swimmers finished fifth at the meet. they established three school records. Three records that will never be broken. Individually, Rich Root tallied a school record in the 200- yard backstroke when he placed first in a time of 1:55.35. Root a lso combined with Mark Bechtel. John David and Dave Zimmerman to set a Vandal mark in the BOO-freestyle relay. Root. David. Zimmerman and Robert Koga also set a school record in the 400- freestyle relay. "The kids really did well."
Burlison said of all his swimmers. "We felt good. we swam well. we just don't have the horses of t hose other schools." He may not have had the horses athletically. but academically. Burlison 's swimmers .were pure thoroughbreds. "This men's swim team is one of the most solid we've had at the UI in many. many years." Burlison said. "Not just swimming-wise. but academically last spring we had the highest GPA of any team on campus." "We're just as proud of finishing high among, our peers academ ically as we did in the Pac-West." Burlison said . "It's too bad the university is losing a number of these scholars to other schools because they dropped swimming here." And as for Burlison, he said his next priority was to find a job. "I grew up h ere. l went to school here. I did my graduate work here, My wife and I really e njoy the area. but we're just going to have to tear up our roots and move on." And move on he did. Inserting his key into the lock for one last time. Burlison paused before he snapped off the lights in the swim center. Once more he turned and looked at the water. And then he pulled the lever, and. like the s port he coached. the entire room faded to black. o
ophomore swi mmer Joe Angelo grabs a breather during warm-ups prior to the 200-yard breaststroke at the Pac-West Championships. Angelo. who was named the team's Most Improved swim mer. ranks ninth on the university's all-time list in the 200-yard breaststroke.
1986 Gem of the Mountains, Volume 84 - University of Idaho Yearbook