BOILING SPRINGS, N.C., May 17. GARDNER-Webb University athletics announced Wednesday that it would add men's swimming as an NCAA Division I varsity sport beginning with the 2007-2008 academic year. Recruiting for the sport has already begun, and will continue in earnest in preparation for the 2007-2008 varsity launch of the program.
The program will begin competition with hopes for eventual associate membership in the Northeast Conference – a league that the GWU women's program has enjoyed associate membership with for the past three seasons. The addition of men's swimming will give Gardner-Webb 21 varsity sports, and would make the Bulldogs just the sixth Division I men's swimming program in the state of North Carolina. GWU started its successful women's swimming program during the 1999-2000 academic year.
"We are really excited to add men's swimming," said GWU head swim coach Mike Simpson, who will lead both programs. "The addition brings a different dimension to our program and to the university. I am confident we can have the same success academically and athletically that we've enjoyed with the women's program for the past seven years, and this will provide a solid opportunity for young men to continue their swimming careers on the collegiate level."
Gardner-Webb's current women's swimming program has enjoyed tremendous success in the pool and in the classroom. The Bulldogs have won three-straight NEC titles in the pool, and had the nation's top team cumulative grade point average for the 2004-2005 academic year. Simpson's squad has consistently been ranked among the top-5 nationally in academic achievement, and has had two members – Taylor Simpson and Terra Wilson – earn Academic All-America honors in the past year.
Wilson (Potter Valley, Calif.) became the first GWU female to advance to the NCAA National Championships at the Division I level, finishing 13th to earn honorable mention All-America honors in the 200 freestyle this past season in Athens, Ga. Wilson also finished in the national top-25 in the 100 freestyle this past season. Simpson (Boiling Springs, N.C.) starred in the pool as well in 2006, posting an NCAA "B" qualifying time in the 400 IM.
"We are proud of what Mike has been able to accomplish in the past seven years with our women's program, and feel that he can bring that same level of overall success – athletically and academically – with our men's program," said GWU Vice President for Athletics Chuck Burch. "The addition of men's swimming also provides Gardner-Webb University with the opportunity to draw from a new group of students who wouldn't normally consider GWU as an option for continuing their education."