MACOMB, Illinois, June 5. WESTERN Illinois University Vice President for Student Services Dr. Garry Johnson and Assistant Vice President and Director of Athletics Dr. Tim Van Alstine announced at the Board of Trustees meeting Friday morning that the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics will eliminate its men's and women's swimming and diving programs in an effort to reduce annual operating expenses.
"This was a difficult decision made after much analysis and evaluation across campus," said Van Alstine. "We are committed to maintaining a successful broad-based, gender-neutral athletics program, and this move will economically allow us to continue that commitment. As a department we have been working through a very difficult budget situation for some time now, and unfortunately we have been forced to make some hard sacrifices."
According to Van Alstine, the decision was based strictly on economics and will not impact the department's gender equity numbers.
The men's and women's swimming and diving teams consisted of 23 student-athletes on partial scholarships in 2008-09. The scholarships will continue to be awarded, and any student-athlete wishing to transfer will be granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA. Members of the team were notified early Friday by Van Alstine.
The 5.95 women's scholarships and 3.85 men's scholarships dedicated to the swimming and diving teams will be reallocated, as they become available, into existing sport programs in an effort to reach the maximum number of scholarships allowed by the NCAA. The team currently is without a head coach but employs two graduate assistant coaches.
"We will do everything we can to ensure that our current student-athletes graduate," said Van Alstine. "We are very appreciative of the many academic and athletic accomplishments of our swimming and diving student-athletes, both past and present. They are still part of us and we will always value their contributions. If there is one positive here, it is that no full-time people are involved. While we feel for the many people this decision affects, we are fortunate that we did not have to take away a full-time employee's job."
Western Illinois has not eliminated a sport since 1985 when wrestling and women's field hockey were dropped. Women's soccer was added in 1997 and women's golf was reinstated in 2001, bringing the total number of Division I sports programs to 20.
The department has implemented several other major cost-saving efforts in recent months involving printed materials and team travel in an on-going effort to reduce operating expenses.
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