Facilities Will Keep Swimming and Diving from Returning to Michigan State

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There was hope that swimming and diving, cut from Michigan State's list of varsity sports in 2020, were poised to hit the restarting blocks, but university trustees said Friday that an inability to invest in facilities will prevent the sports' return at this time.

As reported by the Lansing State Journal, a court decision in August 2022 faulted MSU for violating Title IX, but stopped short of ordering the school to reinstate the program. The program would need a major investment in facilities to bring the up to speed with other members of the Big Ten Conference, and that's something trustee Melanie Foster said MSU does not plan to do now.

"We do not see a viable path to establish a swim and dive program," Foster said, as reported by the State Journal. "Most prohibitively, without sufficient existing fundraising, there is not a path to build a new competition pool without assessing a fee to the entire student body, something we do not wish to do. We appreciate the advocacy those supporting the swim and dive program have shown. While we know this is not the answer supporters are seeking, we feel we owe an honest, transparent and definitive statement on the issue."

The decision represents a change of course. As recently as October, Foster provided a report on MSU athletics at a Board of Trustees meeting and said university officials would reach out to MSU swimming and diving athletes and supporters to "strategize a plan forward for the team in the next academic year."

If swimming were reinstated, the facility that the program likely would use is a six-lane, 25-yard pool built in 1958, While it would meet NCAA competition requirements, it does not feature the eight lanes and 50-yard Olympic length typical of pools at other Big Ten universities.

According to the State Journal, citing the NCAA's Financial Reporting System, swimming and diving cost the MSU athletic department $2 million as of 2019, which amounted to less than 2 percent of the department's $140 million budget that year. That cost also included the partial scholarships it handed out to the equivalent of 24.7 athletes.

The Battle for Spartan Swim and Dive, a group that has advocated for the return of the program, said in a statement Friday that despite identifying $10 million "in pledges, endowments, and estate donations," the university has not seriously considered their proposals.

As reported by the State Journal, the group said the financial concerns expressed in one recent meeting were about Olympic-caliber program support in the form of team nutritionists, chartered plane travel and designated athletic trainers. In another meeting, the program advocates say, it was suggested if swimmers could fund half of the operating expenses for the next five years, about $6.5 million, the university could negotiate for the return.

Despite the latest setback, the group believes the board can still reverse its decision and resurrect the swimming and diving at the Michigan State, stating, "While our hope in the potential for the new leaders at Michigan State to do the right thing has waned, we see this for what it is: another attempt to move the goal post with no clear rationale or explanation."

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