When Michigan State cut their swimming and diving program earlier this fall, it immediately struck a chord within Michigan’s own program.
With Iowa and many other universities around the country cutting their programs, it was not the first time Michigan watched another competitor dissipate. However, the team and coaching staff were completely unaware of any talks to cut their rival’s program.
“We had a team meeting and that is kind of when the news came out … people were hearing it on social media before, but it was still very shocking.” Alex Hughes, a captain swimmer on the women’s team, said.
For a lot of the team — on both the men’s and women’s sides — the news came with personal sadness. Many are friends with athletes on the Michigan State team.
“Majority of the team was pretty shocked,” sophomore Andrew Trepanier said. “We jumped into the pool and everyone was quiet for a little bit. We were all just processing it. It was definitely a big hit to Big Ten swimming.”
Just like the athletes, the coaching staff was in shock and sadness over the news. Michigan State has had its fair share of success throughout the past 20 years as the school made the NCAA championships in 2004, 2005, 2010, 2012 and 2017. The program also consistently produces CSCAA Scholar-All Americans.
“It’s sad that Michigan State doesn’t value the product that Michigan State swimming is putting out,” Michigan coach Mike Bottom said. “ It’s a travesty, people are looking at this as a dollar and signs things.”
“The product is the swimmers, the wins and losses are a part of the process that makes the product. To base cutting a team or not on wins and losses is short-sighted.”
However, problems like having a non-regulation size pool have hurt the program in recruiting top athletes. Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman projects a $30 million shortfall in revenue this school year and told the Detroit Free Press they will save about $2 million in expenses each year for cutting the program.
While Michigan’s team was disheartened over the news, it still has no worries about the future of its own program — athletic director Warde Manuel said earlier this fall that he won’t cut any programs. Similar to Michigan State’s financial situation, Manuel projected a $26 million deficit in the 2020-2021 fiscal year, though that was prior to the Big Ten announcing the return of the football season. And in the pool, Michigan’s program is consistently one of the top in the nation, as it finished third in the country in 2018 and fourth in 2017 nationally.
“Our coaches tell us we have to get used to living day-by-day and not worrying about what comes tomorrow, and to be grateful for the opportunities we have,” Trepanier said.
The program still has objectives to win Big Ten and NCAA championships with one of the best teams in the country. However, it will feel a little different without competing against its neighbor an hour northwest of Ann Arbor.