Division I Eastern Michigan University has announced that it will cut its men’s swimming & diving team. The program is one of 4 that the university will drop, reducing its sport offerings from 21 to 17. Women’s swimming & diving is not being cut, with softball, women’s tennis, and wrestling being the other 3 sports that the school will drop. The school previously had the richest sport offering in the Mid-American Conference, and will remain in that conference after the drops.
The decision impacts 58 male student-athletes and 24 female student athletes and is expected to eventually lead to a $2.4 million expense reduction.
Director of athletics Scott Wetherbee said the announcement was made in mid-March in order to “allow the student-athletes as much time as possible to find new schools at which they can continue in their sports, if they choose to do so.”
The Eastern Michigan swimming & diving season ended last weekend at the women’s NCAA Championship meet, where Delaney Duncan of the unaffected women’s team became the school’s first-ever female swimming A-Finalist at NCAAs. Jacob Hanson was the school’s most recent male first team All-American, having placed 4th in the 200 back at the 2013 NCAA Championships and 7th the year prior.
EMU’s men’s team finished 2nd at this year’s MAC Championships out of 6 teams, but won the 3 previous titles and 34 title since the MAC started sponsoring men’s swimming in 1953.
“We are very saddened by having to make this move, which is necessary as we continue to align the University budget with enrollment and state funding trends,” said University President James Smith. “This aligns us with our Mid-American Conference peers in total number of sports, and is part of our ongoing effort to realign resources to ensure that we continue to invest in high-demand high-quality academic programs and world-class facilities.”
“The student-athletes affected by this are our priority. We will honor all athletics scholarships for the students should they decide to remain at Eastern to complete their degrees, which we hope they will.”
“We understand that some may leave Eastern to continue their sport at another university, and we have committed to offering them our full support in that process. We have wonderful student-athletes, coaches and athletics staff here at Eastern who make a tremendous contribution to campus life – in competition, in class and in our greater community. This is a difficult day for all of them, and for all of us.”
Members of the swimming & diving team were notified late on Monday evening that they had a mandatory meeting on Monday morning at 7:30. The news was released publicly by the university while the swimmers were in that meeting being told directly.
About 80% of Eastern Michigan’s athletics department is subsidized by the school’s general fund, meaning that about $1,000 of each Eastern Michigan student’s tuition goes toward athletics. According to the USA Today, in the 2015-2016 season, that was $24 million out of a $30 million budget. Most of that money goes to the football team, which the school is required to have to be a member in the MAC, and a team that finished 5-7 last season. The school also announced a recent $35 million on athletic upgrades, mostly on a practice facility for the school’s football and soccer teams.
The University at Buffalo, another MAC team, announced a cut in its men’s swimming program at the end of last season.
Eastern Michigan’s football program has won 1 MAC Conference title in its history, in 1987. The softball program won 1 MAC softball conference tournament title in 2007 (the MAC has sponsored softball since 1982), the men’s wrestling team has won 1 MAC title (1996), and women’s tennis has won 1 MAC title (1998).