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Judge Denies Michigan State Swimmers Life Support

Paul Steinbach

A federal judge Friday night denied a preliminary injunction that would've temporarily halted Michigan State University's decision to eliminate its women's swimming and diving program, saying the school is "best positioned to steward its financial resources for the benefit of the institution and its students.

As reported by The Detroit News, judge Hala Y. Jarbou, of the U.S. District Court Western District of Michigan Southern Division, issued the 23-page ruling in response to a lawsuit brought one month ago by 11 members of the women's swimming and diving program.

"We are very disappointed in the Court’s ruling and believe it to be wrong," said Jill Zwagerman, attorney for the Michigan State swimmers. Attorneys for the swimmers filed an appeal Friday night. 

Attorneys for Michigan State declined comment because of pending litigation.

Michigan State announced in October that it was eliminating men's and women's swimming and diving for financial and infrastructure reasons amid a budget shortfall brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The two programs combine for budgets of less than $2 million a year, but have outdated pool facilities, the school has claimed. Athletic director Bill Beekman has repeatedly stood by the decision, even after receiving a pledge from former basketball player Mat Ishbia for $32 million. Ishbia targeted that money mostly for football, some for basketball, and some for an overall fund for Michigan State athletics.

The swimmers' lawyers cited Ishbia's gift during arguments before the judge Feb. 10, but she wasn't buying it.

Jarbou wrote a temporary injunction is an "extraordinary and drastic remedy" and that allowing one would force Michigan State to commit "significant" funds to keep the program afloat. Jarbout wrote there wasn't enough evidence of blatant disregard for Title IX to keep the women's program on "temporary life support."

"The public interest would be served by preventing discrimination in the provision of athletic opportunities for women," Jarbou wrote. "However, Plaintiffs have not shown that they are likely to succeed on that claim."

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