Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas has discontinued its men’s and women’s swimming programs. Swimmers were notified of the decision on Monday. This ends the 7-year history of the program that began in the 2014-2015 season.
The move bucks a trend of growth in college swimming at the NAIA level, which exists outside of the better-known NCAA structure. NAIA schools, which are generally smaller schools, have viewed swimming & diving programs as a way to boost enrollment, and many have added programs in recent years.
When the Tabor College program was first announced in 2013, it included the only men’s collegiate varsity program in the state of Kansas. Opportunities have grown within the state since, however, with Barton Community College (a 2-year college) launching in 2017, Sterling College launching an NAIA program in 2019, and University of Saint Mary adding an NAIA program in 2018.
The cut comes after Tabor College announced a record new student enrollment of 237 in the fall of 2020, in spite of the pandemic. That marked a 34% increase in freshmen and 23% in the total entering class, including transfers. The school also named a new president, Dr. David Janzen, this year.
While the school’s enrollment was growing, the swimming program’s enrollment was not keeping pace. The program listed just 5 male swimmers for the 2019-2020 season, and just 2 for the 2020-2021 season. The women’s program had 6 athletes in 2019-2020 and 7 in the 2020-2021 season. The women’s program peaked in size for the 2017-2018 season with 11 athletes.
“I would guess it comes down to numbers,” the program’s head coach Nate Duell told SwimSwam when asked about the reasons for the program being cut. “It has been a struggle to maintain a team of larger than 12 at a very rural school with no on-campus pool and limited resources.
“I could give you a laundry list of recruiting challenges at Tabor but ultimately I did not get the job done and I take responsibility for that. However, I believe that we were still a financially viable program that provided more than we took and made a positive contribution to our small campus environment.”
SwimSwam has reached out to the administration for more information about why the program was cut, but they have not responded.
At the 2021 Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship meet, the Tabor College women finished 8th out of 8 teams while the men finished 7th out of 8 teams.