Fairfield University’s Head Swimming and Diving Coach Jacy Dyer’s resignation has left student-athletes and their professors trying to piece together a reason for her departure. 

Student-athletes on the team have struggled with the news of another head coach leaving, marking a disheartening reality of three head coaches in four years. 

I just knew that Toledo was the right move for me if I was going to leave [Fairfield] for any other program. Because I do love these athletes. I love coaching this team and that’s probably why it seemed like it was so sudden, because I really was not intending to leave.

Fairfield University Head Swimming and Diving Coach Jacy Dyer

The university announced Dyer’s resignation upon her acceptance of the Women’s Swimming and Diving Head Coach position at her alma mater, the University of Toledo, on April 9. The announcement concluded with the university’s launch of an immediate national search for her replacement. 

Pictured above is Fairfield University Head Swimming and Diving Coach Jacy Dyer (Photo taken by Fairfield University Athletics Department)

Associate Professor of Communication Niall Brennan, PhD told The Rearview that several of his student-athletes were distraught by the news, emailing him that they would be absent from class in light of the announcement.

“It wasn’t sickness, it wasn’t illness, it wasn’t anything that I’m normally accustomed to with student absence from class,” Brennan said.

While the announcement did not mention cause for Dyer’s resignation, Brennan said that several student-athletes have speculated that it’s due to a lack of compensation and support on behalf of the university. 

“The resignation of an athletic coach, who has been a mentor and guide for so many students I have taught, or otherwise, and for the reasons of (or lack of) remuneration by the University, is a major cause of concern for me and many of my peers,” he told The Rearview

Brennan sent an email to several of his colleagues in the Department of Communication on April 10, asking that they join him in expressing their concerns via a letter to Vice President for Athletics Paul Schlickmann. 

In the email to his colleagues, Brennan mentioned that student-athletes are having a difficult time completing their assignments while their “athletic support and leadership has been summarily eradicated.” He also mentioned that many student-athletes have speculated that it’s due to a lack of sufficient compensation.

I get the picture from student-athletes, whom I teach, that swimmers and divers have been considered secondary in relation to other student-athletes at Fairfield.

Fairfield University Associate Professor of Communication Niall Brennan, PhD

When asked about these speculations, Dyer told The Rearview that her decision to accept the position at Toledo is not due to a lack of support by Fairfield athletics. Rather, it’s because of her personal ties to Toledo as her alma mater and hopes to rebuild the same program that she was once a part of as a student-athlete, herself.

Dyer acknowledged, however, why student-athletes may have speculated about compensation. Throughout the season, she has made subtle comments to the team about the impact of Fairfield’s high cost of living on her as a single-salary household. 

“There were points throughout the season when the team would say, ‘Hey, JC, buy us doughnuts for practice!,’ and I would have to say that I can’t do that,” Dyer said. 

Dyer emphasized that she does not blame the administration for her personal financial situation, however, and has never asked Fairfield athletics for higher compensation. She has been paid a similar rate to other coaches at Fairfield, she said.

According to Brennan’s conversation with students, Dyer’s resignation came as a complete shock to the team. 

Dyer confirmed for The Rearview that the news came suddenly, not only to the team but to her as well. She did not pursue the head coach position at Toledo. Rather, they reached out to Fairfield to express interest in her about two weeks ago, she said. An opportunity like this does not come around often and so she had to act quickly.

“I just knew that Toledo was the right move for me if I was going to leave [Fairfield] for any other program. Because I do love these athletes. I love coaching this team and that’s probably why it seemed like it was so sudden, because I really was not intending to leave,” said Dyer. 

Dyer’s resignation has contributed to a rapid succession of swimming and diving head coaches at the university in recent years. One student-athlete on the swim team, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Rearview that the team is frustrated with the athletic department as a whole, since this will be their third head coach in just four years. 

Anthony (Tony) Bruno served as the head swimming and diving coach at Fairfield University from April 2017 to June 2022, prior to Dyer stepping up as head coach in August 2022. 

Dyer acknowledged to The Rearview that this rapid succession of head coaches must be challenging for the team and she can’t blame them for being upset. 

“They are very passionate about the university and having three head coaches in four years is really hard. They’re not crazy for thinking what they’re thinking and believing what they’re believing. They’re just trying to make sense of it all,” she relayed.

Dyer also acknowledged that student-athletes have expressed frustration to her about the swim team’s disparity in resources compared to other sports teams at Fairfield. Specifically, she mentioned that the locker rooms have been a concern shared with her by the team; other student-athletes have state of the art locker rooms in the Walsh Athletic Center, while swimmers are secluded at the RecPlex.  

Brennan has heard similar complaints from the student-athletes as well. 

“I get the picture from student-athletes, whom I teach, that swimmers and divers have been considered secondary in relation to other student-athletes at Fairfield,” Brennan told The Rearview

According to Dyer, there have been positive efforts made by athletics in support of the swim team. 

I have heard really good things about professors at Fairfield and seeing their response to this is awesome. It’s helped me understand why my athletes have connected with them so well, because it sounds like they listen to and care about them.

Fairfield University Head Swimming and Diving Coach Jacy Dyer

“There have been things that the administration has helped with in just the year and a half that I have been here, and some of that was on the scholarship end, as well,” she said.

Schlickmann echoed the administration’s continued support of swimming and diving to The Rearview

“We have made significant, intentional improvements and enhancements to the Men’s and Women’s Swimming programs since 2017 across multiple resource, personnel and facility areas,” he said. 

He also mentioned that the women’s team has won four MAAC championships during that time period, which is the only four in the team’s history, and that the men’s team has climbed significantly in the MAAC championships standings as well.

Dyer alluded to the fact that student-athletes may not always be aware of the behind-the-scenes work that is being done by the administration to improve the program.

“I really don’t think that swimming and diving gets the shaft,” said Dyer. “A lot of times when something sudden comes up and there are emotions involved, people just try to fill in the gaps and make sense of it.” 

Having heard about Brennan and his colleagues’ efforts, Dyer acknowledged that she appreciates the professors’ care for their student-athletes. 

“I have heard really good things about professors at Fairfield and seeing their response to this is awesome. It’s helped me understand why my athletes have connected with them so well, because it sounds like they listen to and care about them,” she said. 

According to Schlickmann, Dyer’s last day with the team is April 19.

Although Dyer is excited for the opportunity to coach at Toledo, she is just as sad to leave Fairfield behind.

“I’m not ever going to forget them…coaching them has been the highlight of my days,” she said with tears in her eyes. 

“I want to thank them for believing in me and trusting me. I just know that they’re going to do great things and keep getting better. Whoever the coach is that the university brings in is so lucky to have the men and women on that team….they’re walking into a really great group.”

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