The Week That Was: Michigan State to Cut Swimming; William & Mary Reinstates Women

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Photo Courtesy: Dan D'Addona

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The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

Michigan State University became the eighth Division I school this year to cut swimming and diving as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively affect collegiate swimming and diving. William & Mary is bringing back its women’s team, but it is not sitting well with those athletes, who will still not have a men’s team next season.

In lighter news, the Tokyo Olympic Aquatic Center was christened this past weekend by Japan’s own Rikako Ikee, on the comeback trail after a year-long battle with leukemia.

Read below the five biggest stories in The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

The Week That Was #1: Michigan State University to Cut Swimming

Photo Courtesy: S-Taylor Productions

By Andy Ross

Sources have confirmed to Swimming World that Michigan State University has cut swimming & diving effective after the 2020-21 season.

This is the eighth school in Division I to cut swimming and diving this year alone as Michigan State joins Division I schools East CarolinaConnecticutBoise StateDartmouthIowaWilliam & Mary and La Salle in cutting swimming teams to ease the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. (William & Mary this week reinstated its women’s program.)

The university confirmed the decision Thursday afternoon. In a letter to the community by athletic director Bill Beekman, it cited “a financial crisis unlike any we’ve ever seen” with a best-case scenario of a $30 million shortfall. From the statement:

“We understand that the news is devastating to our outstanding student-athletes in these sports, as well as to their coaches, but with every thoughtful analysis it became increasingly clear that we were not positioned to offer the best experience to our student-athletes, either now or in the future.

“Today’s decision does not end our commitment to the student-athletes and staff within the swimming and diving programs. Scholarship commitments will be honored beyond this year for any student-athletes who choose to finish their undergraduate degree at Michigan State. For student-athletes who wish to transfer to another institution, Michigan State Athletics will help them with their transition. Contracts for all coaches will be honored (through June 30, 2021). During this transition, and for the duration of the student-athletes’ time at Michigan State, the athletic department will offer counseling and mental health services for those who would find them of assistance.”

#2: William & Mary to Reinstate Women’s Swimming

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Photo Courtesy: William and Mary Athletics

By Matthew De George

Citing the requirements of Title IX, William & Mary Monday reversed its decision to cut three sports, reinstating women’s swimming and diving.

The university also reinstated women’s gymnastics and women’s volleyball at the Division I level. From a statement:

“The university wants those teams to thrive and will treat them equitably with other varsity teams at the university. By reinstating these sports, William & Mary will make significant progress toward achieving equity in participation in 2021-22. Completing that progress will require reduction in the men’s program via roster management and retaining the current cuts to the men’s teams, or a swift and significant increase in participation opportunities for women, or both.”

The Week That Was #3: Rikako Ikee Gets First Lap in Tokyo Olympic Pool

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Matthew De George

The Tokyo Olympic Committee formally opened the swimming venue for the 2021 Olympics on Saturday, with Rikako Ikee taking part in a ceremonial opening relay.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike was at Saturday’s unveiling, finally getting to show off a venue that was done in February. The originally scheduled March reveal was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that delayed the Olympics by a year. It comes nine months ahead of the scheduled date for the Opening Ceremonies of the delayed Games on July 23, 2021.

The swimming venue will seat 15,000 fans. Situated off Tokyo Bay, the price tag checks in at a reported $520 million, the second most expensive venue, behind only the $1.43 billion national stadium that will host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. The five-level arena will host swimming, diving and artistic swimming events. It’s one of six purpose-built venues for the games.

The aquatic center is a big item on a budget that, at a price tag of $12.6 billion, is as the most expensive Olympics ever, per an academic study.

Ikee formally baptized the pool, the latest step in the promising young star’s inspiring battle back from a leukemia diagnosis more than a year ago. The 20-year-old has explicitly set her sights on the 2024 Games, though she returned to competing in August and will ramp up her schedule in the latter part of this year.

“After seeing the pool, it finally hit me that next year, this is where the Olympics will be held,” Ikee said in a statement released by her management agency.

#4: Augie Busch Facing Allegations of Level I NCAA Violation

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Photo Courtesy: Arizona Swimming & Diving

By Matthew De George

The University of Arizona was served with a Notice of Allegations by the NCAA that includes alleged violations by swimming coach Augie Busch.

The letter, which the university acknowledged receiving on Friday, includes nine allegations of misconduct. Five of them are Level I violations, the highest level, which include a lack of institutional control and the university’s failure to monitor programs. Busch and men’s basketball coach Sean Miller were each accused of lack of control, according to a report by The Athletic. Busch’s involvement in the investigation was one of the new details unearthed by the report.

Busch was named the head coach of the University of Arizona in July 2017. After eight seasons as a Wildcats assistant to his father and fellow Arizona alum, Frank Busch, Augie Busch branched out to serve as the women’s head coach at Houston from 2011-13 and the head coach at Virginia from 2013-17.

The Week That Was #5: Division II Winter Athletes Granted Extra Year of Eligibility

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Matthew De George

NCAA’s Division II this week announced further changes to accommodate the ongoing COVID-19 disruptions, including further eligibility relief for winter athletes. The decisions were made at this week’s Division II Management Council meeting.

Winter athletes who competed in the 2020-21 season, “will receive an additional season of competition through a waiver” that extends eligibility. It’s the same flexibility afforded to spring sport athletes after the 2020 season was cancelled. The flipside to the announcement is the expectation that, from the press release, “their seasons will be impacted by COVID-19 in ways similar to fall sports.” It adds to financial aid flexibility approved by the Management Council in September.

“Winter student-athletes lost out on their championship opportunity last season and many will have shortened, conference-only seasons this year,” said Chris Graham, commissioner of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and chair of the Division II Management Council. “We believe providing the maximum season-of-competition waiver flexibility is the right thing to do for winter student-athletes who continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Council also approved a one-week delay for the 2021 Division II men’s and women’s swimming and diving championships, from March 10-13 to March 17-20. The location remains Birmingham, Alabama. The stated reason is to break up the 2021 Division II National Championships festival, which had the wrestling, swimming and indoor track & field championships held simultaneously at the same location. Delaying swimming reduces the amount of people at the CrossPlex in Birmingham to aid with social distancing. The wrestling championships will shift location. Last year’s Division II championships were halted mid-meet as the NCAA came to a screeching halt in March.

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1 comment

  1. Ryan Guerra

    Kudos to the Michigan State swimmers and alumni for fighting for their program. I’ve seen some literature they’ve put out and they seem really organized. Get nasty if you have to and get it done! I hope they’re successful.

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