Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota Cuts Men’s and Women’s Swimming Programs

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.”

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9 months ago

That’s sad. When you can’t maintain a healthy roster size you leave your program vulnerable.

Reply to  NONA
9 months ago

Poor kids on all those teams. Should have given them at least a years notice..

Reply to  swimmn
9 months ago

THIS is when swimming should introduced.
Most kid’s in Minnesota swims, they all come From strong programs.
Can’t figure why there such a low roster.
Due to not introducing there’ abilities & strengths.
Look what Bob Bowman done with Arizona swim program.
He took North Baltimore formula.
I could turn that program around.

Reply to  Johnson
9 months ago

Bob Bowman coaches at Arizona State, not Arizona.

9 months ago

Thank you for your comment. My daughter is a Junior on the women’s swim team. The teams numbers only recently dropped to the number being released due to many personal and academic reasons.This news was given to them on December 3rd in a meeting with all athletes from all four teams. The athletic department has not reached out to the athletes since that meeting. This was 3 days before a very important invitational and a week and half before finale exams. The athletes did not have any indication this was coming. As a parent, I wish this discussion would have been made with more transparency and with a time line that would have given all athletes a chance to explore… Read more »

9 months ago

I have to wonder if they gave them a chance to improve their numbers. Just a conversation about where they needed to be to satisfy the requirements for participation to justify the team would have been helpful. Also, how hard is it to get athletes to go to that school? Do they give good academic and financial aid? Or is it a $60,000/year school that gives $10,000 max in academic money making it another school where there are only students from wealthy families and students from economically disadvantaged families? It seems that most times, the schools are the reason some of these programs are languishing but they aren’t taking that into account.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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