Surprise! Ball State to Announce Next Week It Is Cutting Men’s Swimming

Editor's Note:After the University of Toledo cut its men's swim team earlier this year, reducing to a bare minimum the number of teams left in the Mid-American Conference (MAC), it was widely predicted that Ball State would be next, resulting in a total destruction of the MAC. Apparently that dire prediction is coming true, as SwimInfo has heard from several sources this last week that the Ball State decision is imminent. Once again, coaches, students and alumni failed to anticipatae the ax and begin taking preventative measures. Below is a story on the Ball State situation by Doug Zaleski of the
Muncie Star Press. — Phil Whitten

By Doug Zaleski

MUNCIE, Ind., June 5. A committee studying ways for Ball State University to ease the financial squeeze on its athletic department budget has recommended the school cut six intercollegiate sports programs.

The Star Press has learned that the 12-person committee on Monday gave its recommendation to Cardinals athletic director Bubba Cunningham. The coaches who would be affected by the cuts were informed of the decision on Tuesday.

"It was a tough day," Cunningham said.

The committee assembled by Cunningham delivered a recommendation to the first-year athletic director that two women's sports, gymnastics and field hockey, and four men's sports, volleyball, indoor track, outdoor track and swimming, be dropped. That would reduce the sports sponsored by Ball State from 22 to 16, the minimum number required for NCAA Division I status.

If the cuts are approved, the sports would be eliminated for the 2004-05 academic year. All of the sports will operate in 2003-04.

The head coaches who would be affected are Mary Roth in gymnastics, Annette Payne in field hockey, Joel Walton in men's volleyball, Jim Sprecher in men's indoor and outdoor track and Bob Thomas in men's swimming.

Thomas has been the Cardinals' swimming coach the past 23 years, and Roth has headed the gymnastics program the past 18 seasons.

The proposed cuts would affect about 123 scholarship and non-scholarship athletes, according to 2002-03 rosters for the six sports.

"It has been emotional and gut-wrenching, but we are in very difficult financial times," Cunningham said. "I think people have been very patient and tolerant, but part of that is because this is not final. There is a lot of anxiety."

The elimination of men's volleyball would shut down one of the most successful sports in Ball State history. The Cardinals have an 894-340-8 record (.723) in 39 seasons. They have won 21 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Conference championships, made 15 trips to the NCAA Tournament, developed seven All-Americans and played host to the NCAA Final Four in 1972, 1976, 1980 and 1992.

"I'm just flabbergasted," said Don Shondell, who started the Ball State volleyball program and coached 34 years before retiring after the 1998 season. "It's a sad, sad situation that this recommendation has been made. I hope it's not too late for this to be changed.

"I don't feel like this is over with at all," he said. "We're going to do all we can to try to convince people that this should not be approved."

The next step in the process will include Cunningham receiving a recommendation on Tuesday from the school's athletics committee. A review will be conducted on June 17 with the agenda committee of the Faculty Senate.

After considering information from those groups, Cunningham in late June will make his recommendation on the sports cut proposal to Ball State president Blaine Brownell. Brownell then will make a recommendation to the school's Board of Trustees.

The process could be completed when the trustees meet on July 18.

Cunningham said "10 or more options" were considered by the 12-member committee as it studied ways to ease the financial burden of sponsoring 22 sports.

He said the option to eliminate six sports was the one that best maximized savings for the department while maintaining Title IX equity between men's and women's sports.

At issue for Ball State is to find a way for the athletic department to operate on a more cost-effective basis in light of increasing expenditures.

Ball State's $10.5-million athletic budget for the 2002-03 school year ranked 12th among 13 schools in the Mid-American Conference. The Cardinals' budget of $10.7 million for 2003-04 was approved Tuesday.

Nationally, 32 universities have cut sports since 2000. Five of them were from the MAC (Bowling Green, Miami, Marshall, Northern Illinois and Toledo), which combined to drop 13 sports (12 of them for men).

Yearly budget and scholarship numbers for the six sports proposed to be dropped at Ball State in the 2004-05 season:

Women's sports
Gymnastics $247,000 11
Field hockey $350,000 12

Men's sports
Indoor, outdoor track $286,000 8
Volleyball $204,000 4
Swimming $167,000 4

Note: The indoor and outdoor track yearly budget also includes costs for cross country, which is not being cut.

Doug Zaleski can be reached at:

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