Tuesday, April 23, 2024

MSU: It’s over for swim and dive

October 5, 2023
<p>Members of the swim and dive team stand during the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 at the Hannah Administration Building.&nbsp;</p>

Members of the swim and dive team stand during the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 at the Hannah Administration Building. 

Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

After advocates failed to raise the $26.5 million needed for the reinstatement of Michigan State University’s dissolved swim and dive teams, MSU decided they’re moving on without them

The three-year battle marked by a high-profile Title IX case is now over for MSU. But to the team's advocates, this is just another obstacle on the path to reinstatement

MSU announced its decision to cut its male and female swim and dive teams in Oct. 2020, citing “a financial crisis unlike any we've ever seen in college athletics” brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Then-Athletic Director Bill Beekman later told The State News that the team was on the chopping block since fall 2019, as the school couldn’t keep up with the cost of maintaining the swimmers’ facilities

In June, they gave the swimmers another chance when the Board of Trustees approved funding for a new recreation center, which will include a 50-meter pool. Interim President Teresa Woodruff told advocates that if they could get $26.5 million in pledged donations by Oct. 1, MSU would be able to make additions to the pool needed to accommodate a swim team

But as of Oct. 1, the advocates only raised between $5 and $6 million in pledges, leader of Battle for Spartan Swim and Dive Mike Balow said.

Now that the deadline has passed, MSU deputy spokesperson Dan Olsen said the university isn’t able to make changes to the plan for the recreation center. Construction for the building is set to finish in Feb. 2026

“So, the (original) plans are going to go forward,” Olsen said.

Balow and other advocates are still holding out hope that they can use the money they’ve raised in pledges so far to add more seating, varsity locker rooms for players and a coach's room

“We want you to take the money that we have (and) still let us get more,” Balow said. His group will continue to collect pledges despite passing the deadline and MSU’s unwillingness to comply

“We think we have a solution here, because it was always kind of the understanding that if we didn't hit the $26 (million), we could see what we could do with the money that we had,” Balow said

However, the pledge forms state that pledges are conditional upon reinstatement of the programs

David Habel, a former MSU swimmer who graduated in 2006, said advocates had an encouraging meeting with Woodruff’s Chief of Staff Michael Zeig on Aug. 26 about lowering the $26.5 million goal. Habel had a similar conversation with Athletic Director Alan Haller the week before

But in a meeting last Thursday, Woodruff told advocates that if they didn’t get the last $20 million in the next week, they wouldn’t have a team

Habel hopes Woodruff changes her mind — even though MSU seems set on continuing their plans without them

“I'm hopeful this week we will get a better letter from the interim president, but we're waiting,” Balow said

Olsen was not aware of any conversations being had about working out new terms for the team's reinstatement.

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