The University of Washington swim teams dodged a bullet a few years back, but not this time. As part of a series of budget reduction measures, the University of Washington has made the difficult decision to discontinue its men's and women's swimming programs effective immediately, Director of Athletics Scott Woodward announced today. The move had been rumored since the Men's NCAA Division I Championships a month ago.
The decision reduces the number of intercollegiate sports sponsored at the UW to 21, which ranks among the top half among schools in the Pacific-10 Conference. It is expected to have a budget impact of up to $1.2 million, which would account for roughly 43 percent of the $2.8 million in expense reductions the department is currently facing.
"Discontinuing a sport is one of the most difficult decisions we face in college athletics," said Woodward. "We have a number of serious issues that have arisen out of the recent economic crisis. It is with great regret that we are discontinuing our swimming programs and we will do everything possible to assist the student-athletes and coaches who are affected."
The department will honor all existing scholarship agreements and will grant permission to any other institution that seeks to contact those who wish to transfer. NCAA guidelines allow student-athletes who decide to transfer to be immediately eligible for financial aid, practice and competition provided they meet eligibility requirements.
"We are clearly operating in a time of economic distress and we are forced to make decisions that will help us maintain long-term financial stability," explained Woodward. "The state is reducing its funding of higher education at the highest rate in the country. The increase in the cost of tuition, combined with the decreased return on the university's endowment investments, will add considerable expense to the cost of our scholarships. Since we are a self-sustaining operation with no funding assistance from the University or the state, we must find ways to reduce expenses and increase revenues in these difficult times."
The discontinuation of Washington's swimming program will leave the Pac-10 with just five men's swimming programs and none among its member institutions in the Pacific Northwest. Eight conference members are currently planning to continue to sponsor women's swimming in 2009-10.
Washington does not have an on-campus facility that is adequate for Division I-level practice and competition. Husky Pool was built in 1937 and features six 25-yard lanes. The facility does not contain a diving well and is not of sufficient standard to host intercollegiate competitions.
Due to its lack of a facility, Washington does not have a diving program - which places the Huskies at a competitive disadvantage considering that conference and NCAA team competition takes into account a points system that counts both swimming and diving.