MSU CAMPUS — Members and alumni of the Michigan State University Men's and Women's swimming and diving teams shared their concerns about what they characterized as misinformation surrounding the university’s decision to cut the program in the first Battle for Spartan Swim and Dive press conference on Wednesday.
The virtual press conference was organized by alumni of the 99-year-old program, who say there are still viable options to save the program from the chopping block. Mindy Arbaugh, an alumna of the Spartan swim team, says if other schools can change so should MSU.
The fight continues relentlessly to save this program. In the meantime, we celebrate 99 years of men’s and 51 years of women’s Spartan swimming & diving. They can try to take away our sport, but they can never take away the family we have formed. pic.twitter.com/KMiu0fr43b— BATTLE FOR MSU SWIM AND DIVE (@battleformsu) March 6, 2021
“This year alone, William and Mary, East Carolina and Dartmouth all reversed their decisions to cancel their swimming and diving programs. Some of it was due to legal disputes. Some of it was due to immense pressure like this, talking to state senators, talking to politicians, talking to influential alumni,” Arbaugh said.
Members of Battle for Spartan Swim and Dive such as Karen Currie will meet with state senators Thursday afternoon to share their concerns about state funding allocations to the university.
“On behalf of the state, that is the ones that fund the state university, that they can work on behalf of these current swimmers and alumni swimmers in providing the opportunity to have this seat at the table. I mean, ultimately, that’s the big ask,” Currie said.
Tom Munley graduated from MSU in 1997 and has been an active alumnus ever since. His involvement with the swimming and diving program on campus included speaking with athletes and spearheading fundraising efforts.
“They made this decision last October to eliminate it and, on its face, they don’t make sense,” Munley said. “From a financial standpoint, MSU contends that the swim and dive program costs over $2 million to operate. That is wrong.”
Jack Hiss is an MSU sophomore and Spartan swimmer. He says the decision to cancel the program couldn’t have come at a worse time for student-athletes looking to transfer to continue their athletic career elsewhere since schools no longer had scholarships to offer prospective transfers.
Hiss also said the decision had made on his mental health and that of his teammates.
“I saw countless teammates lose their passion and choose to opt out. I’ve seen people who have tremendous talent felt like they were let down, felt like they were quit on, felt like they were thrown away,” Hiss said.
The university did not responded to a request for comment.
But Athletic Director Bill Beekman and President Samuel Stanley Jr. said in a letter released in October that the program was being cut because MSU's athletics was facing "a financial crisis unlike any we've ever seen in college athletics" and because the fact that the university doesn't have a regulation-sized pool where athletes can train "hampered our student-athletes ability to maximize their potential."
"Discontinuing a sport is one of the most difficult decisions for an athletic director and university leadership," they wrote. "It has a significant impact on members of our community, and when they hurt, we all hurt. While the decision we make today is final, we will continue to support our student-athletes and affected staff the best we can."
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