Clemson Justified in Cutting Swimming Program?

(Writer’s Note: I put the question mark in the title, and really wrote this article, with the purpose of getting people thinking about how truly complicated these decisions are. After programs get cut, I see a lot of message boards a flutter with “overload the AD’s inbox with hate mail” and “swimmers get good grades and work hard, they deserve a program!” For decisions that are as complex as these are, I think that people need to recognize both sides of the issue to be able to come up with truly great solutions to save college swimming. Don’t for a second get confused as to where our loyalties lie. I support Clemson swimming with all of my heart, and will be doing everything in my limited powers to give them a chance at survival. With that in mind, read on!)

More bad news for the swimming world today, as it was announced that Clemson would be cutting both its men’s and women’s swimming programs following the 2011-2012 season.

ALthough several other college programs have been put on the chopping block this season, Clemson will be the first from the “major six” conferences to go. This might help to dispell the idea that the only way to save college swimming is to save the mid-majors, as the big programs are starting to fall as well. The Athletics depratment will use the next 2 seasons to gradually phase out the team, allowing current swimmers an opportunity to finish their swimming careers at the school. The women’s diving program will continue, however, perhaps following the lead of the Miami Men, their ACC foes, who compete without a swim team.

Unlike most of the other schools that have cut their swimming programs, Clemson didn’t cite the typical recession-led inability to continue funding the program. Instead, they justified the cut by saying that they were not willing to expend the money for a 50-meter pool, and that they did not believe that their program could remain competitive without one. The athletics department made every effort short of building a 50 meter pool, as from 2001-2003, they totally renovated the McHugh Natatorium, including new lockerrooms.

The athletics department also said that they were considering adding a women’s golf program instead, as they needed to “keep in mind the interests in South Carolina, the areas of athletic talent among South Carolina young people, our responsibilities under Title IX, and a variety of other factors.” As the home state of the famed Myrtle Beach golf course, as well as the 6th most golf courses per capita in the nation (9.70 per 100,000, if you were wondering-North Dakota is number 1), golf is definitely huge in South Carolina.

Don’t crucify me for saying it, but I think in this instance the decision makes sense. Clemson was on an uptick through the 2009 season, where the women finished 5th in the ACC. The teams also slashed many school records, with the men’s and women’s graduating class of 2009 being responsible for no fewer than 12 school records, and qualifying several swimmers for the 2008 Olympic Trials, including Rachel Regone and Tom Recko. But the program had a bit of a backslide in 2010, with the women finishing 9th and the women 8th.

As sad as it is to see a program go, Clemson will probably be able to muster better performances, more interest, and will serve their in-state recruiting base better with a golf team than a swim team. I do find it a little curious that they chose to maintain their diving program, given that the nearest platforms for them to train on are out of the state.

But let’s not let swimming go down without a fight. Here is a link to a facebook page supporting the program, that already has over 900 members.

From that group, the following is contact information, in case you’re interested in voicing your displeasure over the cut.

Terry Don Phillips, AD

[email protected]


Phil Grayson, Assoicate AD


[email protected]

[Staff Member or Department Name]
Jervey Athletic Center
100 Perimeter Road
Clemson, SC 29633-0031

James F. Barker, FAIA

Clemson University
201 Sikes Hall
Clemson, SC 29634


[email protected]

Leave a Reply

9 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
6 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
David Rieder

I disagree. I live in South Carolina, and it seems ridiculous to have one of the two major schools in SC with no swim team. I actually know someone who I believe is a freshman now on the Clemson team and will get cut in the middle of the four years. To me, cutting a swim team is never good for the sport. Golf is more of a country club-type sport here in SC, not so much a high school-college competitive sport, although that element is certainly present. The swim team at my high school is probably three times the size of our golf team, maybe more. Not something to cut a swim team for to fund.

Braden, big programs have been falling since 92. When I swam in college, we still had Arkansas, Nebraska and Kansas on our schedule. The point never was that saving the mid-majors would save swimming. it is that lack of parity, and keeping the D1 meet so exclusive is not good for the sport.
This is tragic. this one scares me. Of course I will have something to say about it. I will post some time this week.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

Read More »