ASU drops wrestling, men's tennis and men's swimming

Cuts expected to save the University $1 million

 by Allison Denny
 published on Monday, June 2, 2008

Jeffrey Lowman / THE STATE PRESS
TAKIN' A TUMBLE: Sophomore cheerleader Matt Jordan tumbles his way across the court at a menís basketball game earlier this year at Wells Fargo Arena. ASUís cheer team will be combined with the marching bandís spirit squad.

Budget woes are hitting closer to home than gas more than $4 a gallon ó now deficits are affecting ASU athletics.

ASU Vice President for Athletics Lisa Love announced on May 12 the discontinuation of three varsity sports: wrestling, men's tennis and men's swimming.

The cuts will save the University an estimated $1 million, according to a press release from ASU Athletics.

As many as 70 students would be affected by the eliminations and six full-time coaching positions would be cut, though the head coaches remain on contract through November, according to the release.

Any team that can raise enough money to fully endow itself will be reinstated ó a feat the wrestling team accomplished just a week after the public announcement.

Almost overnight the teams started fundraising, and Web sites and groups shot up fighting to save the teams.

The Facebook group "SAVE ASU MENS SWIMMING" had 7,376 members at press time.

Also this summer, ASU Athletics decided to merge the cheer squad with the marching band spirit squad, according to its Web site.

"The combining of both our spirit squads into one group is intended to create synergy between our organizations that will assist in creating a home field advantage-focused environment at Sun Devil Athletic events," a statement on the site said.

Another Facebook group, "SAVE ASU's CHEER SQUAD!!" gained more than a thousand members practically overnight and at press time had 3,379 members.

Love denied an interview request. Mark Brand, associate athletic director for communications, said in an e-mail Love is concentrating all of her efforts fundraising for swimming and tennis.

On May 23, Love announced that wrestling met its $8 million endowment, reinstating it indefinitely.

Wrestling head coach Thom Ortiz said he got a fundraising group together the Friday after he was told the team would be cut if it didn't raise enough money.

"It was up to me as the head coach to get it done for my kids," he said. "Of course I had a lot, a lot of help. It was all about connections and relationships at that point."

Ortiz said he was surprised to hear his team was being cut but tried to stay positive.

The seventh-year coach wrested at ASU from 1986 to 1990 and said he's relieved current students will have the opportunity to do the same.

"For me I don't know where I would be personally without my ASU education and wrestling," he said. "That collective participation has empowered me to think positive and do the best I can."

Simon Percy, an assistant coach for men's swimming, said the team has raised $410,000 so far to cover its operating budget while trying to raise its $5 million endowment.

Men's tennis is also attempting to raise its endowment of $5 million.

"In terms of organizing for this kind of fundraising, it's not something we were remotely prepared to do," Percy said. "This is so out of the blue for swimming."

The cut shocked everyone, Percy said.

"This came as a blow for everybody involved," he said. "The coaching staff had no idea. No one had any idea."

While the head coach was in a meeting with Love, an e-mail went out to the team, Percy said.

More than just the swimmers will take a hit if the team isn't reinstated, Percy said.

Men's and women's swimming currently share four coaches ó head coach Michael Chasson and three assistants. With the men's team cut, one of the assistant coaches will have to be dropped as well, he said.

Prior to the announcement, men's and women's swimming were combined as far as facilities and coaching went, Percy said.

Diving, which has its own head coach, will not be affected, keeping the number of ASU-endorsed sports at 21.

And despite the athletic office's assurance that players on the teams that were cut will continue to receive sports scholarships until their senior year, Percy said that's not the point.

"They came to swim," he said. "Really, staying isn't an option if there's no men's swim team."

This is the second time programs have been eliminated in ASU's athletic history.

In 1993 ASU eliminated men's gymnastics, men's and women's and mixed archery and men's and women's and mixed badminton. Women's varsity soccer was added in 1996 and women's water polo was added in 2002.

Still Standing
If men's tennis and men's swimming remain discontinued, ASU will sponsor 21 sports in fall 2008.

Men's sports:
Football, basketball, baseball, golf, cross country, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field and diving.

Women's sports:
Basketball, softball, golf, cross country, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, tennis, swimming and diving, volleyball, gymnastics, soccer and water polo.

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