Last fall, La Salle University announced that men’s swimming and diving, along with six other sports, would be cut following the 2020-2021 school year. Now, the school has announced that the swimming and diving teams will be reinstated, effective immediately.
William W. Matthews, III, Esq., who serves as the chair of the school’s Board of Trustees, said in an announcement:
“I am pleased to share that Men’s Swimming and Diving has been reinstated as a varsity program, effective immediately, following the Board of Trustees’ approval of a recommendation from the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation, which was then moved forward by the Board’s Athletics and Recreation Committee. The Men’s Swimming and Diving program and its alumni base has developed an independent and external fundraising infrastructure that will support the operational costs of the program in the short and long term. More specifically, the Men’s Swimming and Diving program raised the funds necessary to support the program and enhance the Division I student-athlete experience at La Salle. This measure aligns with our commitment to and compliance with all Title IX regulations, and the University will continue offering proportional participation opportunities for both male and female students. Additionally, the Board felt tremendous confidence in the reinstatement for Men’s Swimming and Diving due to existing efficiencies between it and the Women’s Swimming and Diving program, with which it shares a coaching staff, venue, and other resources.”
When the school initially announced that it would be cutting seven of the school’s sports, it cited budgetary needs, as well as the fact that the university currently sponsored 6 more sports than the conference average.
The team’s pathway to reinstatement was established earlier this year when the program laid out a fundraising plan to Matthews, La Salle president Colleen Hanycz, and Athletic Director Brian Baptiste. In the team’s initial fundraising plan, a target of $300,000 was established to fund the team until 2024, with the goal of establishing a $2.3 million endowment for the program by that time. At the time of these meetings in February, the program had already received nearly $500,000 in pledges to save the program.
While La Salle was initially a part of a long list of colleges that cut one or both of their swim teams, it now joins a growing list of teams that have since been reinstated. Recently, the College of William & Mary had their men’s swim team reinstated following fundraising efforts and the threat of a Titile IX lawsuit.
In achieving reinstatement through its fundraising efforts, La Salle did what over 80% of SwimSwam readers believed to be impossible. In a SwimSwam Pulse poll from last October, 81.7% of readers said that fundraising efforts would most likely not save any of the cut programs.
La Salle’s men finished the 2021 Atlantic 10 Conference Championship meet with 339 points, good for 6th place out of 7 teams, even with a bit of a short roster.
14 members of the men’s program have entered the transfer portal since August 2020, with most coming shortly after the announcement of the program being cut. Those athletes are eligible to return to the program now if they so choose.
Among those names are rising senior Zack Wolbert, who finished 2nd at the A-10 Championships with a 1:45.23 in the 200 fly. That swim was under the old conference record and finished just .04 behind the new conference record of Emils Pone from George Washington. If Wolbert returns next season, he’ll be the overwhelming favorite to win the title in that event. Wolbert entered the portal in December.
Prior to that conference meet, Wolbert broke a 34-year-old 200 fly pool record at LaSalle’s Kirk Pool that was previously held by Olympic gold medalist Mel Stewart.