Rally to save MSU swim program to be held before spring football game

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
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The fight to keep the Michigan State swimming and diving program alive continues.

A rally will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday outside the IM West building on Michigan State’s campus to bring attention to the program’s quest to keep competing after the university announced in October it was discontinuing the men’s and women’s programs.

Michigan State announced in October it was cutting men's and women's swimming and diving at the end of the season.

“We are holding the rally to draw attention to the fact that the administration still hasn’t responded to basic questions about why the program was cut and why they won’t explore options to engage our group for support moving forward,” said Tom Munley, a former member of the men’s team and part of the Battle for Michigan State Swimming and Diving group. “MSU is on the cusp of throwing away 99 years of tradition and academic excellence on the word of an AD with no practical athletic experience.”

The rally will take place just hours before the Michigan State spring football game, which begins at 2 p.m. at Spartan Stadium, which sits next to the IM West building. The group said in a news release that among its planned activities on Saturday, “there will also be an aerial display of support circling Spartan Stadium during the annual Spring Football Game.”

Since the announcement that the program would be cut, the group has been fighting to reverse a decision the athletic department said was for financial and infrastructure reasons, amid a budget shortfall brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The two swimming and diving programs combine for budgets of less than $2 million a year, but have outdated pool facilities, the school has claimed. Athletic director Bill Beekman has repeatedly stood by the decision, even after receiving a pledge from former basketball player Mat Ishbia for $32 million. Ishbia targeted that money mostly for football, some for basketball, and some for an overall fund for Michigan State athletics.

A lawsuit filed in federal court seeking a preliminary injunction to temporarily halt the university’s decision was denied in February, though that decision was appealed.

The Michigan State swimmers and divers are hoping to get the university to follow the path of fellow Big Ten member Iowa. That school announced in August it was cutting women's and men's swimming and diving, men's tennis and men's gymnastics, citing a projected budget deficit of $75 million brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Facing similar litigation as Michigan State, Iowa opted to reinstate women’s swimming. However, it did not reinstate men’s swimming, men’s tennis or men’s gymnastics.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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