Wright State is eliminating its men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams as part of the $30.3 million in budget cuts announced at the university board of trustees meeting Friday morning.
The move is expected to save approximately $500,000 annually in scholarships, salaries, travel and facility maintenance. The university will honor the scholarships of any of the 38 swimmers and divers who elect to remain to finish their degrees and coach Kyle Oaks’ contract, which runs through March 2018.
“You don’t want to do these type of things,” Wright State athletic director Bob Grant said. “It’s a day you hope never comes. It’s painful. It literally makes me sick to my stomach. But when you’ve got to make these kind of cuts, you’ve got to be pragmatic about it.
“It’s been literally weeks and weeks of ongoing conversations,” Grant continued. “Almost from the time Dr. (Curtis) McCray came on board as the interim president, we’ve talked about any kind of cost-cutting measures. And they’re having those conversations with everyone on campus. The budget crisis is real, and I think everyone on campus has taken very seriously the thought that we’re going to have to do what’s best for the long-term success of the university.”
Despite the elimination of swimming and diving, the proposed 2018 budget shows an increase of $1.6 million in funding for the athletics budget.
Grant informed Oaks of the decision Thursday, and Oaks planned to inform the athletes, many of whom have returned home for summer break, Friday morning. Grant also mailed letters to the student-athletes affected.
“It will be hard for them to see this and read this, but we’re here for them,” he said. “Some will want to transfer, and some won’t. We want what’s best for them. If they want to stay and not swim and finish their degree, we’re going to support the heck out of them. If they want to continue their swimming career and their education someplace else, we’re going to help like crazy with that.
“These are wonderful student-athletes,” Grant continued. “They’re terrific ambassadors for the university. I care about them personally very much, which makes this very, very difficult.”
The men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs have been in existence since 1974, and have competed at the Division I level since 1987. They have combined to win 18 conference championships along with 228 individual and 77 relay titles.
Oaks has coached the men’s and women’s programs since 2013.
“I think the world of him,” Grant said. “He’s a first-class individual. He represents us well. I’m personally very, very fond of him, so this was a very painful conversation.”
The Raiders have competed at the WSU Natatorium since the program was founded, and the condition of that 44-year-old facility weighed heavy in the decision to cut the swimming and diving programs.
“Our facilities for the most part are wonderful, but any kind of long-term strategic plan we’ve ever done, we can’t seem to find any way to provide a championship-caliber facility for swimming and diving,” Grant said. “A new facility would cost millions and millions of dollars, and in our current situation that’s not possible.”
Eliminating swimming and diving drops WSU to the minimum threshold of 14 intercollegiate sports to remain a Division I program.