March 12, 2019 06:42 AM
GENESEO, N.Y. (WHEC) -- SUNY championship swimmers are caught in the middle of a political debate between two states and fear they'll be at a competitive disadvantage at the NCAA championship later this month because of it.
As News10NBC first reported last week, 10 swimmers and divers from SUNY Geneseo, two from the College at Brockport and one from SUNY Cortland have qualified for the NCAA swimming championships which are being held in Greensboro, North Carolina, later this month.
In 2017, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order banning all state agencies, organizations and state-sponsored schools from non-essential travel and spending to the state of North Carolina.
Cuomo believes leaders in North Carolina have passed legislation that is discriminatory to those in the LGBTQ community.
"The governor has never had a son or daughter that qualified to be an all-American and so he has no idea how hard it is to get there," says Mark Nasky, whose daughter, Nancy, is the captain of the Geneseo swim team.
The state determined that the student-athletes could compete in the NCAA championships but they cannot fly into or stay in the state of North Carolina; instead they'll travel to Virginia, stay in a hotel there and commute more than an hour back and forth to the venue.
Last week, the student-athletes and alumni appealed to Cuomo, asking for an exception to the travel ban fearing that the commute time will leave them at a competitive disadvantage.
"These are New York state residents, New York state students, they are paying SUNY tuition, none of them are getting the Excelsior scholarship and so all of these students are trying to represent Geneseo, the State University of New York and New York itself in a positive light and I really would have hoped that would have opened communication," says Clint Sugnut, a Geneseo alumni that started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the students to stay in North Carolina.
That page raised nearly $7,000 over the weekend.
But, students, families and alumni say the only thing they heard from Cuomo's office was a directive that the students were not to stay in North Carolina regardless of who was paying for it.
In a statement to News10NBC on Monday, Senior Advisor to Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi says, "The team is traveling to North Carolina and competing in the event, but not staying there. The limited exception is that the team gets to travel there, but not stay in North Carolina and stay in a bordering state instead. The issue is not just tax dollars, but the travel itself. Under the executive order, if you are traveling under the banner of state travel in your state capacity you would ordinarily be banned from traveling there even if there is outside funding, but we are allowing the travel there in this instance to honor their commitment to the NCAA to participate in championships."
So, even though the NCAA reimburses schools for student travel to the championship and the alumni were willing to cover the costs of the hotel rooms for them to stay there, the athletes will still have to stay in Virginia and commute to and from the swimming venue.
Nasky says the student-athletes shouldn't be caught in the middle of a political debate.
"I don't even know how to respond to that because that's just so outrageous that that would be said... that the kids could be stopped from going when they worked so hard to get where they are," he tells News10NBC.
To the credit of the student-athletes, they've been holding their heads high.
"They have the best attitude about it and I really wish some adults would take that from them, they're taking it head on and just seeing it as another challenge they have to get by," says Sugnut.
Those who donated to the GoFundMe page can request a refund, all remaining proceeds will be donated to the swimming program.
Updated: March 12, 2019 06:42 AM
Created: March 11, 2019 05:37 PM
Copyright 2019 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company