Hurricane Katrina Leads Brown To Wildcats
Aug. 29, 2006
Villanova, PA - As people all across the United States remember the devastation that was caused by Hurricane Katrina one year ago on August 29, 2005, the story hits a little closer to home for one member of the Villanova women's swimming and diving team.
Villanova junior, Tiffany Brown, then a member of the Tulane University swimming team had just moved back to New Orleans to begin her sophomore season at the school. She brought her mother along with her, to show her where the swimming meets took place and to show her around the city.
"I got there early with my mom so she could see the city. And I figured, since I had been there a year, I could give her a tour. I'm glad she did, because it was a good time to see it," Brown said. They arrived on Sunday, August 28 and Katrina would hit the next day.
Although she came to New Orleans from her hometown of San Diego, she did have previous experience with hurricanes. Hurricane Ivan had forcer her to evacuate the year before, however, that evacuation only lasted about a week and the city was not really affected by the hurricane.
The outcome would be much different this time around.
"My coaches told us to pack stuff for three days," Brown recalls. So she packed clothes for three days and went to Shreveport, Louisiana, where the sister of one of the assistant coaches for the swimming team had just moved. However, because she had just moved, the television was not hooked up, so they were not able to watch the news to find out what was going on in the city.
"We would go to Chili's and buy a bowl of soup so we could watch the news to see what was happening and say `we're from there.'"
After Katrina had passed and the school officials assessed the damage, they realized there was no way to open the school up for the fall semester. While she waited to hear what was going to happen, Brown was told she could go home (to San Diego) so she found a flight and went home.
The next day, she received a call saying that the swim team was moving to the campus of Texas A&M University to continue the semester. They would also enroll in classes at Texas A&M and the NCAA had the student-athletes take fewer classes to make the transition easier. The athletes were also required by the athletic department to see a psychologist before they were allowed to compete, to make sure that they were mentally prepared following such a sudden change of events.
There was some good news, as students were allowed to return to Tulane for the spring semester. The bad news was that the school decided to no longer support women's swimming team and the sport was cut, along with numerous other sports.
"We actually found out on the Internet. We had a meeting the next day and were told that our sport had been cut. After that, I had to make the decision to keep swimming or not. But I knew that I was not ready to quit at that point, not with someone else telling me to quit. If I wanted to finish, I wanted to finish on my own terms." However, some of the other members of the team at Tulane did not choose to continue. Because the team was in just its third year of existence, many of the juniors did not attempt to transfer for their final year of eligibility. In all, Brown says about six of the 24 members of the team did decide to transfer, while the rest simply chose not to continue their career.
Because swimming has been such a big part of her life, the concept of giving up swimming barely entered her mind.
"I thought about it (quitting) for a split second. I asked myself, `Do I really want to this?' And then I realized I could not imagine my life without it. I would have been absolutely miserable quitting then."
It was then that Brown entered the recruiting process for the second time, but this time she had more of an understanding of what college is like and what she could have done better the first time through the process.
Through the tremendous help of her coach at Tulane, who sent out mass emails and all the biographical information to the interested schools, Tiffany decided that Villanova was the right place to continue her career.
"I really liked the coaches here and their philosophy. They had a strong, up-and-coming program and I wanted to be a part of that. The goals were the same as Tulane and when I came in and met with the team and we clicked instantly. And obviously Villanova is a good school."
Villanova swimming head coach Rick Simpson is glad Tiffany chose to join the Wildcats. "We are very fortunate to have someone such as Tiffany join our program," he said. "We certainly sympathize with the tragic events that brought her here to Villanova, but, we hope that Villanova will be the silver lining for her. Tiffany is going to add some great quality to the program in the backstroke and freestyle events. But more importantly, she will add great leadership. She has experienced greater adversity than most college athletes. I think this has played a role in her maturity." He also likes the winning attitude that she will bring to the team, having won a Conference USA title while at Tulane.
Having the sport she loves so much almost taken away from her, it served as a reminder to Brown how important swimming is in her life.
"I have been swimming competitively since was nine or ten, and you sometimes forget how much you love it because it gets monotonous and you do the same practice. But the competition reminds you how much you love it and what you are practicing for. But when you almost get it taken away from you, then you realize how much you do like it, how much it means to you, and how big of a part it is in your life and that is the main reason why I kept going."