Oregon State announced today that the school will be cutting its swim team. The press release says that the team would be “discontinued by OSU at the end of the 2018-2019 season.” The school only had a women’s team, and they finished ninth out of nine teams at the 2019 Pac-12 Championships last week. The Beavers did win what turned out to be their last home meet last month.
The press release, quoting a statement by Athletic Director Scott Barnes, cites a list of reasons, including the cost of building an on-campus pool, for cutting the team. According to Barnes, OSU’s existing facilities “do not meet NCAA standards.” The team hosts home meets at an off-campus city facility, and according to Barnes, it would cost $18-22 million to build a new facility.
As it typical in these situations, the school has promised to honor existing scholarships, or to help students-athletes transfer immediately should they wish to do so. The roster for this past year listed 21 student-athletes, including 10 freshmen. Both head coach Jennifer Buffin and assistant coach Michael Wong have been with the program since 2016.
While the program has had its successes, including a handful of NCAA All-Americans, the Beavers have never finished higher than 7th in the Pac-12 Conference, in which the team began competing during the 1986-1987 school year, when the conference was still known as the Pac-10.
A list of Pac-10 swimming championship results shows that Oregon State had a men’s team until the late 1970s.
While this means that there will no longer be any Division I swimming programs in Oregon, it is still offered at four Division III schools, including George Fox University, Lewis and Clark College, Linfield College, Pacific University, and Willamette University.
Here’s the full text of the e-mail from Barnes:
Oregon State students,
I am writing to announce that OSU will discontinue intercollegiate women’s swimming at the end of the 2018-19 season.
This decision is based upon the university’s commitment to offer all student-athletes a quality, equitable and competitive NCAA experience in keeping with the Athletics Department’s strategic plan. And to provide quality and equitable facilities for all teams, while balancing financial requirements for athletics facilities.
This decision was not made easily. It followed a comprehensive review of all sports and engaged Athletics Department leadership and the university’s Athletics Financial Sustainability Plan Work Group. This review concluded that Oregon State could not meet its commitments while retaining swimming as an NCAA sport. My decision also was made with thorough consultation with OSU President Ed Ray, who supports this action.
Facility requirements contributed to this decision as OSU campus pool facilities do not meet NCAA standards. As a result, the OSU women’s swim team holds home meets at the city-owned Osborn Aquatics Center, which is not comparable to the competitive swimming facilities at other Pac-12 Conference universities.
Our evaluation determined that it is cost-prohibitive to renovate existing campus swimming facilities. A new collegiate swimming and diving facility would cost $18 to $22 million to build, not including the cost of annual maintenance. Investing in competitive swimming program facilities would negatively impact our ability to serve facility requirements for all sports and all OSU student-athletes.
As a former collegiate student-athlete myself, I am very mindful of our 21 student-athletes and two coaches affected by this decision. I thank Head Coach Jennifer Buffin and Assistant Coach Michael Wong, as well as our swimmers for their many contributions to the OSU swimming program and Beaver Nation. We will fully support swim team members during this transition, including assisting any student swimmers who may seek to transfer to another university to compete. Meanwhile, these student-athletes will retain their athletic scholarships while they continue to make successful progress to graduation.
Going forward, OSU will field a total of 17 intercollegiate sports and will sponsor approximately 550 opportunities for student-athletes to compete in intercollegiate athletics. Women’s sports include 10 programs: gymnastics, volleyball, golf, rowing, basketball, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, softball, soccer, and cross country. Men’s sports include football, basketball, baseball, soccer, golf, wrestling and rowing.
Meanwhile, the university will continue to support fully student-athlete success in the classroom, in the community and in athletic competition. We will achieve the goals of the Athletics Department strategic plan by maintaining financial sustainability, winning championships and achieving post-season success and national recognition. And we will continue the proud tradition of OSU Athletics by competing and succeeding at the highest levels of intercollegiate sports.
S. Scott Barnes
Vice President & Director of Athletics
Oregon State University