There is a clear irony for many of the American athletes who will be participating in the Olympic Games.

Collegiate athletes, who make up the bulk of the American athletes in Olympic sports such as track and field, gymnastics, wrestling, volleyball and swimming; will take to the world stage in Athens. But these very same athletes, women as well as men, find themselves fighting for the very existence of their sports back home in the USA.

It seems that almost every week, we hear or read of sports programs being cut on our college campuses, victims of budgets that need to be balanced. Referred to as “Olympic” or “non-revenue” sports, these are programs that are often the 1st to go when hard budget decisions must be made on campus.

The Olympic Games present an important opportunity to underscore the important role that American universities and colleges play in providing the facilities, coaching, training, competition and values so important to the development of highly skilled athletes in these sports.

In the past, on average approximately 4 of every 5 United States. Olympic team members have been involved in intercollegiate athletes, in particular at National Collegiate Athletic Association schools. The same ratio exists for those who are called from our college campuses to take on the role of Olympic coaches.

For those of us in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, it is pleasing to know that when our U.S. athletes march into the Olympic Stadium, our member colleges and coaches have helped them realize their dreams of performing on the world’s biggest stage in sports.

But for the future of such American teams, too many American universities and colleges are dropping Olympics sports altogether, and dropping out of the race.

From 1988-2003, 272 men’s and women’s non-revenue or Olympic sports programs have been cut at NCAA member institutions, including nearly Twenty-one percent of all women’s gymnastics and nearly Thirty percent of all men’s wrestling teams.

Are you ready for the NEXT STEP!