WILMINGTON, North Carolina, May 15. THE University of North Carolina-Wilmington's swimming and diving programs are in danger of disappearing, as a committee is recommending that the teams be dropped in addition to three others at the NCAA Division I school.
An article in the Wilmington StarNews reports that the university's Board of Trustees could vote on the recommendation of the Intercollegiate Athletics Review Committee to drop the teams, leaving the school with the minimum requirement of 14 sports programs.
The report suggests that men's and women's swimming and diving — in addition to softball and men's cross country and indoor track — be dropped by the start of the 2013-2014 school year/athletic calendar. Sixty-two male athletes and 55 female athletes would be affected by the cuts, according to the report. As is a typical routine when sports programs are in danger, the school would honor the scholarships of the student-athletes in these dropped sports, and incoming freshmen would be allowed to transfer immediately to other schools.
On the home page of the website for the full report of the IARC, chairperson Terry Curran writes:
“Unfortunately, the committee saw no way for the athletics department to meet its fiscal goals without considering a reduction in the size of the portfolio. As heavy as our hearts have been as we finalized these recommendations, we realize nothing compares to how our student-athletes and coaches will feel at the possibility of their programs being eliminated. While these recommendations will surely invite disappointment and debate, inaction was not an option. The committee did its best to meet the chancellor's charge, and we submit this report with the greatest of hopes that by facing tough decisions now, UNCW Athletics will be able to strengthen its remaining programs and be even more competitive in all sports for years to come.”
The IARC consisted of members of the university faculty and staff, who began investigating ways to help the athletic department meet its budget. Athletes and coaches of the 19 sports spoke to the committee, speaking with praise of the experience of being a student-athlete but also mentioning outdated facilities and non-competitive coaching salaries as sources of concern.
The report also shows that the university is last in revenue and expenses, citing a shortfall of alumni and booster donations. Dropping the five sport programs, the committee concluded, would save the athletic department $800,000 annually.
UNC-Wilmington swimming and diving had seen success at the conference level, winning 12 consecutive Colonial Athletic Association men's team titles. Carly Tanner attended the Division I swimming and diving championships in March, placing 21st in the 100 breaststroke, becoming the second UNCW swimmer in three years to attend the championships.
According to the university's website, the next scheduled Board of Trustees meeting is August 22, though an emergency meeting could be scheduled for earlier in the summer.
If swimming and diving is cut, head coach Dave Allen will have seen 35 seasons of guiding the Seahawks, having started the men's team in 1977.
Update: The swim teams have a petition on change.org, and it has garnered 328 supporters as of 4:25 p.m. Pacific time on May 15.