NCAA Division III school Bluffton University in Bluffton, Ohio has announced the addition of men’s and women’s swimming & diving teams for the 2021-2022 academic year. The teams will compete in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, becoming the 7th school in that conference to sponsor the sport.
“Offering a new sport has been under consideration at Bluffton University for the past few years. After carefully reviewing the programs in our area, surveying our current students and talking with
HCAC officials, we are thrilled to announce this decision,” said Phill Talavinia, vice president of student affairs and athletics. “There are extremely strong high school swimming and diving programs in northwest Ohio, as well as our wider region including Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky. We are excited to provide additional opportunities for students who are interested in continuing their education and competing as student-athletes at Bluffton.”
Bluffton University is located in Northwest Ohio, about an hour south of Toledo. With a total enrollment of around 750 students, the school is one of the smaller in NCAA Division III athletics – which has a median enrollment of around 2,700 students per school. The university is growing, however – with full-time enrollment up by 25 students, even in the COVID-19 impacted year.
NCAA Division III programs offer no athletic scholarships, and annual tuition at the school for 2020-2021 is $33,952.
The school does not have an on campus aquatics facility but says that they are in discussion with “area facilities” to serve as the team’s practice and host site. Bluffton has an 8-lane 25-yard outdoor pool that has hosted large summer league meets with over 2,000 people in attendance in the past. The nearest competitive-caliber indoor facilities are located in Findlay, Ottawa, and Lima, Ohio at YMCAs. Each are within a 30 minute drive of campus. The pool in Lima is the largest with eight 25-yard lanes and currently hosts an age group program.
The HCAC is bucking the trend among Division III conferences and is holding a full slate of winter sports conference competition, including a swimming & diving championship scheduled for February 11.
Franklin College are the defending conference champions in both the men’s and women’s divisions. The Franklin College women dominated last year’s championship meet, more-than-doubling the score of runners-up Transylvania University. The Franklin men won a nail-biter by 8 points over Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
A group of 4 female swimmers from Franklin College were due to be the school’s only representatives at the D3 national championship meet, though the COVID-19 pandemic eventually canceled that event.
Bluffton currently has 16 intercollegiate athletic teams including men’s and women’s basketball, golf, soccer, cross country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field. Bluffton also offers football and baseball for men and softball and volleyball for women.