Saint Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota has announced that it will cut 4 sports in the 2020-2021 academic year. That includes men’s and women’s swimming programs, in addition to the men’s and women’s golf programs.
“This was a very difficult decision to make and one that we considered quite seriously,” said Saint Mary’s Athletics Director Brian Sisson. “I am – we all are – so proud of the sportsmanship, passion, and dedication our student-athletes in those sports have demonstrated. They have committed to excellence both in their sports and their academics.”
The school weighed the decision as part of a competitive and cost-benefit analysis. Specifically, they pointed to the small team rosters – women’s golf has 5 team members, men’s golf has just 10. Women’s swimming has only 9 team members, while men’s swimming has only 5 team members. To be eligible for the NCAA Division III National Championship meet, teams must have at least 8 swimmers on their roster and compete in at least 8 contests.
This will leave the school with 17 varsity sports and 341 student-athletes on a campus of approximately 1,600 undergraduate students. The school has the smallest enrollment in the MIAC
The school competes in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, or MIAC. Last season, the women’s team finished 10th out of 11 teams, while the men’s program finished 8th out of 8 teams. The school’s diving coach Jeremiah Jackson was named the MIAC Diving Coach of the Year last season.
This is the 2nd set of swimming & diving programs that the MIAC will be losing, though the other was not by cut but by choice of the conference: the MIAC effectively kicked St. Thomas out of the conference, arguing that their enrollment was too big to create a competitive league (in football, specifically), and St. Thomas is now pursuing a spot in Division I of the NCAA.
Saint Mary’s says that they have no further plans to discontinue more varsity sports. Because this is Division III athletics, there is no issue of athletics scholarships to deal with.
“We are working with students currently playing these sports to determine their options and talk about next steps,” Sisson said. “Our students and the impact this decision has on them is our focus right now. We’re also grateful to the coaches – Amber Lowe, Steven Randgaard, and Paul Pehler – who have shown so much dedication in leading these teams. And we will continue to celebrate the successful athletes we’ve seen compete in these sports.”