A report released earlier today by the Intercollegiate Athletics Review Committee at the University of North Carolina Wilmington has recommended the elimination of five varsity sports from the UNCW athletics portfolio, including men’s and women’s swimming and diving. The committee, formed in February of this year to “explore new ways to support its student athletes, optimize its fiscal health, and engage with the community,” also suggested cutting men’s cross country, men’s indoor track, and women’s softball.
A statement from Terry Curran, Associate Provost for Enrollment Management, included this passage:“These recommendations reflect the IARC’s critical analysis of UNCW’s current athletic portfolio and its potential for long-term success. The report is meant to provide input for Chancellor Miller and Athletic Director Bass as they determine a future path for UNCW sports – one that offers those sports the best possible opportunity for fiscal, competitive, and organizational effectiveness. The committee took its charge very seriously, and was at every turn deeply cognizant of the impact these recommendations may ultimately have on UNCW’s student-athletes and coaching personnel. Unfortunately, the committee saw no way for the athletics department to meet its fiscal goals without considering a reduction in the size of the portfolio. As heavy as our hearts have been as we finalized these recommendations, we realize nothing compares to how our student-athletes and coaches will feel at the possibility of their programs being eliminated. While these recommendations will surely invite disappointment and debate, inaction was not an option.”
While its easy to become numb to varsity sports teams being cut due to fiscal pressures (university athletic departments have really been buckling down financially over the last few years), the potential elimination of UNC Wilmington should serve as a big wakeup call to everyone in the college swimming world. The Seahawks have been a very successful midmajor program in recent years; their men’s squad has won twelve straight CAA Championship titles (breaking seven conference records this season), and Carly Tanner qualified and nearly scored at women’s NCAA’s this season (she finished 21st in the 100 breaststroke).
The full report (which can be found here) indicates the findings and methodology in the committee’s suggestions, with the focal point being fixing the financial shortfalls of the Seahawk athletic department. While it is critical to point out that no official decision has been made, the report from the IARC places the swim programs front-and-center as a way to help curb the financial losses in the athletic department.
Update 1: In an email from Athletic Director Jimmy Bass to UNCW student-athletes:“This committee faced an extremely important and difficult task. This is a challenging time for UNCW Athletics and the IARC was formed to help steer a path forward that would create greater opportunities for success across our sports programs. Please keep in mind that the report is strictly a recommendation to Chancellor Gary Miller at this time. I will sit down with Chancellor Miller in the coming weeks to analyze the report and chart a course of action for the future of UNCW Athletics. You will be notified immediately when those final decisions are made.” A Facebook page that was set up today to support the team already has 5,800 members as of 11:45PM on Wednesday. See that page here. Sign the petition started by members of the team here.