Former All-American saddened by possible cuts, but understands the need

When he learned Monday that Maryland could be dropping intercollegiate swimming, Phil Denkevitz felt like a fish out of water. One of three All-American swimmers in Terps' 55-year history, he's the first one ever to have been inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame — and also, probably, the last.

"It's sad that a school has to put any program to death," said Denkevitz, 67, of Baldwin. "I feel bad, thinking others won't get the chance to do what I did.

"The loss will diminish Maryland's image, to a degree. I'd like to think they'll bring the program back, when the economy improves, but who knows?"

Denkevitz, a sprinter, led the Terps to successive Atlantic Coast Conference championships, in 1964 and 1965. As a freshman, out of Poly, he tied the NCAA record in the 50-yard freestyle (21.0 seconds) at Cole Field House. That effort, against archrival North Carolina, earned him honors in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd in March, 1964.

Students took note and cheered the Terps on.

"When we swam Carolina, Navy or NC State, they packed the pool," Denkevitz said. "It was a small tank, maybe one-third the size of the current one, but we'd have 500 fans for big meets.

While Denkevitz mourns the possible loss of both the men's and women's swimming and diving programs, he accepts the rationale. A committee has recommended the cuts to Maryland president Wallace D. Loh as a way to save money.

Now retired, Denkevitz taught physical education for 31 years in Baltimore County, including a stint as athletic director at Milford Mill in 1991-92.

"Having been an AD, I'm cognizant of the expenses involved," he said. "You scrap and fight for every nickel. You keep high-revenue sports and you drop others. I guess (Maryland) figured that swimming wasn't cutting it, prestige-wise."

While the Terps women swimmers have had three straight winning seasons, the men haven't topped .500 since 2001.

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