"I believe we have a reasonable chance of reversing the ASU decision – and, in a relatively short period of time."
Those were the optimistic words expressed by CSCAA Executive Director Phil Whitten. Seeing an opportunity to save the Arizona State men's team, supporters are rallying to create an endowment to preserve the program. It will take an estimated $5 million to establish an endowment. From this, the department could produce an estimated $250,000-300,000 annually. That would cover the team's operating expenses ($128,000 in 2006-07), and could potentially fully-fund 9.9 scholarships.
Normally an aggressive bulldog, Whitten is optimistic, "The ASU athletic administration under Lisa Love is very different from many of the ADs with whom we have dealt recently. She is honest, open, willing to discuss alternatives, and I believe she genuinely wants to see men's swimming saved."
First though, Sun Devil supporters will need to climb that $5 million mountain. To do so they've established a wesite saveasuswimming.com. Supporters have also established a Facebook group where over 6,200 members have pledged to donate $1-100 to the program.
Interestingly, the team's quest to survive is being bolstered by the school's retention of men's diving. When cuts were introduced ASU announced that men's diving would be retained. This decision enables the institution to meet minimal Division I-A sports sponsorship requirements. In doing so, it also send a dangerous signal to athletic departments that its possible to cut more costly swimming programs while staying within the NCAA membership criteria. Precedent for this was set for this eight years ago when Miami (Fl) eliminated men's swimming but not diving.
In this case, the retention of diving could prove a plus. It means the school has already committed to paying for diving scholarships and salaries. In contrast, wrestling supporters, who would have to underwrite the entire cost of the program, have been given a $8,000,000 price tag to build their endowment.
In the meantime, Whitten has asked that other teams not recruit current Sun Devil swimmers.Last year Ohio University and James Madison University swimmers were contacted by rival coaches within hours of the announced cuts. Whitten implored coaches to, "Give us the time to do what is needed to reverse the decision without having the team cannibalized while we are doing so. For the greater good of our sport, please do not recruit these athletes while there remains a reasonable chance to reverse the decision and save ASU men's swimming."