originally published Dec 19, 2022
A Michigan State trustee said that the school will not bring back its swimming and diving program during a board meeting on Friday.
The decision came after court rulings determined MSU violated Title IX by cutting the Spartans’ swim and dive program at the end of the 2020-21 season. However, the most recent ruling in August stopped short of forcing the school to reinstate the program. MSU’s appeal for the Supreme Court to review the case was rejected last Monday.
The Supreme Court’s rejection of MSU’s appeal meant the school must submit a court-ordered compliance plan within the next two weeks. Having refused to reinstate the program, MSU’s options for compliance appear limited with the case set for trial next month.
MSU claimed that its swimming and diving program required an unaffordable facility upgrade in order to be competitive in the Big Ten. MSU board trustee Melanie Foster maintained that position on Friday, saying the school does not plan on making a major investment into new aquatic facilities. However, she reversed course from just a couple months ago when she said university officials would reach out to athletes and supporters to “strategize a plan forward for the team in the next academic year.”
“We do not see a viable path to establish a swim and dive program,” Foster said. “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 Battle for Spartan Swim and Dive group condemned the announcement and refuted several points made by MSU officials. The week prior, a group of swimmers met with interim MSU president Teresa Woodruff and other university leaders, who reportedly told them that the problem was money. If supporters of the program could fund half of its operating expenses over the next five years (about $6.5 million), reinstatement could be negotiated, according to the Battle group. Supporters had previously sent administrators a budget proposal detailing $10 million in prospective funds from donors.
The Battle group said that athletic director Alan Haller revealed a different reason for not bringing the program back during a Dec. 1 meeting with those same swimmers. Haller said the holdup had to do with the new standards for Olympic sport programs at MSU, including team nutritionists, chartered plane travel, and designated athletic trainers.
“The Battle group finds these discrepancies by Woodruff, Haller, and the university leaders deceitful and disappointing, but not surprising,” the Battle group said. “The lack of transparency in this process shows the new leadership is the same as the old leadership at Michigan State, and all the talk of transparency and equality is just that — talk.
“The outstanding student-athletes who have been valiantly fighting since their teams were cut in October 2020 have been ignored, dismissed, and fed false hope in recent weeks — only to have the door again slammed in their faces without any warning,” the statement continued. “We find the Board of Trustees and President Woodruff’s comments this morning defeatist and they fly in the face of ‘Spartans Will.’”
The Battle group refuted Woodruff’s claim that the proposed new rec center cannot accommodate a varsity program. It said that the pool size and diving springboards are consistent with successful programs such as Notre Dame and Northwestern.
“In addition, the current IM West facility is regulation size and capable of housing the program, as it has for over 60 years, until the new facility opens,” the Battle group added.