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Michigan State University cancels swimming, diving programs due to funding issues

Michigan State University cancels swimming, diving programs due to funding issues
Posted at 7:37 PM, Oct 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-22 19:37:36-04

Michigan State University Athletics announced Thursday that all men's and women's swimming and diving varsity sports will end at the conclusion of the 2020-21 season.

The move to cancel these programs was brought on due to the financial strain the university is experiencing from the pandemic.

"The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have touched every area of our life. It’s forced us all to evaluate not only our current place, but also our prospects for the future. Michigan State Athletics is not immune from those calculations," a statement from the athletics department read.

Going forward, scholarship commitments will be honored for any student-athletes who choose to finish their undergraduate degree at MSU, the university said. For students who choose to transfer, the university is offering help with that transition. Also, coaching contracts will be honored through June 30, 2021.

"In making our decision, we took a hard look at whether we were in position to offer a first-class experience with championship level support to our student-athletes. While they receive first-class academic support, medical care, strength and conditioning and nutritional amenities, it’s become abundantly clear that we are not able to support their dreams for excellence in the pool," a release states.

Read the full letter from Bill Beekman, vice president and director of Intercollegiate Athletics, and University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr.:

To the Michigan State Community,

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have touched every area of our life. It’s forced us all to evaluate not only our current place, but also our prospects for the future. Michigan State Athletics is not immune from those calculations. Sadly, as a University and an athletic department, we’ve reached a decision that MSU Athletics will no longer sponsor men’s and women’s swimming and diving as varsity sports following the conclusion of the 2020-21 season. We understand that the news is devastating to our outstanding student-athletes in these sports, as well as to their coaches, but with every thoughtful analysis it became increasingly clear that we were not positioned to offer the best experience to our student-athletes, either now or in the future.

Today’s decision does not end our commitment to the student-athletes and staff within the swimming and diving programs. Scholarship commitments will be honored beyond this year for any student-athletes who choose to finish their undergraduate degree at Michigan State. For student-athletes who wish to transfer to another institution, Michigan State Athletics will help them with their transition. Contracts for all coaches will be honored (through June 30, 2021). During this transition, and for the duration of the student-athletes’ time at Michigan State, the athletic department will offer counseling and mental health services for those who would find them of assistance.

In making our decision, we took a hard look at whether we were in position to offer a first-class experience with championship level support to our student-athletes. While they receive first-class academic support, medical care, strength and conditioning and nutritional amenities, it’s become abundantly clear that we are not able to support their dreams for excellence in the pool. Despite the best efforts of our dedicated coaching staff, led by head coach Matt Gianiodis, our swimmers and divers are limited by the facilities at their disposal. Having always competed in a smaller than regulation pool, the recent closure of the outdoor pool at IM West left our athletes without a regulation size pool in which to even train. It’s a situation that limited our coaches’ ability to attract talented student-athletes and hampered our student-athletes ability to maximize their potential. These are not scenarios created by a national pandemic, but rather an understanding that there is not a reasonable expectation of a better situation in the future. Unfortunately, this all led us to our inevitable decision.

MSU Athletics is facing a financial crisis unlike any we’ve ever seen in college athletics. Our best-case scenario this year projects a revenue shortfall in excess of $30 million. Our worst-case scenario would more than double that number. While we have made significant reductions in both personnel and non-personnel expenses, closing the gap such that we can balance our budget, sustaining that balanced budget in the coming years requires deeper cuts than can be made by simply spending less. To be clear, this is not a move made to save money during the pandemic as there will be little financial benefit this year, as all scholarship and contracts will be honored. It’s a decision that will better position Spartan Athletics for long-term financial stability.

Discontinuing a sport is one of the most difficult decisions for an athletic director and university leadership. 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.