It’s no secret that Swarthmore’s athletics department has been successful the past several years. A handful of teams on campus have not only won conference championships, but have also received national rankings, rewritten the college’s history books, and been home to some of the most decorated players in the college’s history.
It has gone somewhat unnoticed, but at this moment, some of the greatest players in school history for almost every sport are either currently enrolled or graduated only a few years ago.
Track and field star Jared Hunt ’19 owns three school records: two in both indoor and outdoor shot put, as well as in outdoor discus. Only Paul Green ’15 holds more records (four), two of which were in relay events.
Not long ago, Katie Jo McMenamin ’16 won a national championship in the outdoor 1500m. She holds school records in eight different events. Kayla Camacho ’19 also holds four records.
Sarah Wallace ’18 is a former Centennial Conference Player of the Year in volleyball, and two-time All-American. She holds the career records for most kills, attack attempts, and kills per set, while also holding the same records but for single-season. Sarah Girard ’19 holds two career records of her own in digs and digs per set, also holding the same single-season records.
In women’s swimming, sixteen of 23 records were broken between the 2017 thru 2019 seasons. In men’s swimming, all 23 records have been broken since 2016, with seventeen of those coming in 2019.
In women’s soccer, Marin McCoy ’19 is the career goals and assists leader. She is a three-time All-American and two-time Conference Player of the Year. It’s indisputable that she is the best women’s soccer player in school history.
Cam Marsh ’18 is the only men’s lacrosse player from this century to be represented in all six record book statistical categories. Golfer Nick DiMaio ’19 holds the record for lowest individual score in school history. His teammates Vamsi Damerla ’19 and Dan Altieri ’19 hold the third and fourth lowest scores, respectively, as well. The three played a huge role in setting the lowest team score in school history at the F&M Invitational back in 2016-2017.
Cam Wiley ’19 makes a strong case for the most decorated men’s basketball player in school history after leading the team to the National Championship game and being named First-Team All-American this past season. Conor Harkins ’21 is on pace to make the most three-point shots of all-time. Nate Schafer ’20 and Zac O’Dell ’20 are racing against each other, and are both on pace for the most blocks in school history.
Softball player Marit Vike ’19 is the most prominent base stealer in school history, holding both the career and single season records for stolen bases.
Baseball players Jackson Roberts ’19 and Charlie Levitt ’19 are the most prolific power hitters in school history, both holding first and second place for most career home runs and single season home runs. Cole Beeker ’20 holds the single season records for hits and RBIs and has absolutely blown away the career RBI record with a season to spare. Conor Elliott ’19 is just behind Beeker for career RBI.
I tried really hard to be as concise as possible when it came to discussing each player, but as you can see, many of their accomplishments are more than noteworthy.
The reality is that Swarthmore College’s athletic identity isn’t changing because it has already changed. You would be hard-pressed to find another time in the College’s history in which a large number of teams have not only found national success, but have had record-breaking players.
Swarthmore is officially an “athletics” school, evidenced by a multitude of nationally-ranked teams. To go along with this new identity, I believe that now is an appropriate opportunity for Swarthmore to rebrand itself. I believe that it would not be a bad idea for the athletics department to begin discussing a change in the school’s color, mascot, and logo. This change of scenery would couple excellently with our change in culture within athletics. Although it is no doubt far-fetched, some members of the community, such as Adam Schauer, have already discussed a move to Division I.
My point is not that we should transition into this new identity, but rather the transition has already occurred, and it is time for the community and administration to embrace it.
The first argument against embracing this change is obvious. Many will argue that there is a direct conflict between identifying as an “athletics” institution and “academics” institution. It is stereotypically believed that in order to prosper at one, an institution must sacrifice from the other. Mathematics Professor Diana Davis implied that herself when she responded to the Division I article, saying, “With the current student-athlete population, Swarthmore would not be even remotely competitive in Division I. To be competitive, Swarthmore would have to accept different students, who are more focused on athletics than academics.”
This statement is entirely untrue for a variety of reasons. Firstly, there are plenty of small, academically strong schools that compete just fine in Division I including Davidson (1,950 students), Wofford (1,692), Furman (2,970), Lafayette (2,533), and St. Bonaventure (2,100). Secondly, it is entirely possible for students to be fully committed to excellence both within the classroom and on the field. In fact, some of the best schools in the country have the strongest sports[RC11] .
Here is a list of elite academic colleges that are also athletic powerhouses: Stanford, Duke, Georgetown, Cal, Notre Dame, Michigan, USC, UCLA, Navy, Vanderbilt, Rice, Army, Virginia, North Carolina, and Boston College. All of these colleges are within Forbes’ Top 50 Colleges and Universities. Although not athletics powerhouses, its notable that the Ivy League competes in Division I.
Furthermore, Stanford, one of the best schools in the country, also has the most NCAA Division I titles across all sports with 120. Second place is UCLA with 116, and third place is USC with 107. All three are within Forbes’ Top 50. The fourth place school is Oklahoma State, with only 52 titles, not even half of USC’s.
The statements that athletics and academics cannot prosper together, and that one must be sacrificed for the other, are simply incorrect. Being an “athletics” school is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, because it in no way detracts from the academic reputation of the college. Nobody thinks lesser of Stanford academically because of their 120 national championships.
However, I’ll admit that becoming a Division I school is a big jump, and I’m not sure I even support the motion quite yet. However, Swarthmore does not have to become a Division I school in order to appreciate its athletics programs. A move towards acceptance of the new identity is definitely a good one.