The New Jersey Institute of Technology, or NJIT, has announced that it will suspend sponsorship of it’s men’s and women’s Swimming & Diving Programs for the upcoming season, with an eye towards the future where they hope to reinstate them.
- Update: NJIT reinstates program shortly after initial suspension.
- Update: NJIT swimming lays out 6-year plan for success.
According to the press release on the NJIT website, the Athletics Department had their hand forced by a projected $10.1 billion dollar state-wide budget shortfall. This includes a mandated $173.1 million dollar cut mandated for higher education, which usually means non-revenue sports are the first to go.
“We looked at each sport, and among the areas we considered were: conference affiliation, schedule, recent competitiveness, level of participation, scholarships, recruiting, staffing, facility, and potential to be competitive in an established Division I conference (NJIT is not in a Division I conference in swimming). After a thorough review, we felt the suspension of the swimming programs was the correct, albeit difficult, move,” said Director of Athletics Lenny Kaplan. He informed the team of the decision in a meeting last Friday.
The NJIT Athletics program made the jump to Division-1 in 2006, and competed independently until 2009, where they joined the Great West Athletic Conference. The conference, which consists mostly of teams running North to South down the center of the country, is not a logical geographic choice for the Highlanders, and likely causes high travel bills. Other teams in the conference include Texas-Pan Am, Utah Valley, Houston Baptist, Chicago State, and both the Universities of South and North Dakota. Their soccer and volleyball teams are also not part of the GWAC, but compete in sport-specific conferences.
The teams currently practice and compete in a six-lane pool that is below the standards of many high school facilities.
He insists that this is not a cut, however, and that the he hopes to bring the squad back if budget relief allows him to do so. The team members currently on scholarship will retain their scholarships, but the head coach spot will remain vacant next season. Although the press release did not specify, it is assumed that the team will have to fund travel and equipment costs on their own, but will likely still be granted access to facilities for training, if the team chooses to continue participation on a collegiate club level.
The state budget cuts are a similar situation which has led to the demise, or near demise, of several collegiate swim programs in California this past season as well. If his hand was truly forced into cutting a program, he would have been hardpressed to justify keeping a swim program that did not have a conference, and that had such a poor facility. One wonders, however, if a more georgraphically logical conference affiliation, if one was available, would not have been able to save the department the same amount of, if not more, money.