Swimming and diving supporters stage reinstatement proposal after meeting with administration

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A Battle for Spartan Swim and Dive group organized a proposed recovery budget with statistics and a list of potential donors to refute the reasons for the swim and dive program being cut.

“This (proposal) is the culmination of months of trying to figure out how to create, I call it, a win-win situation where the university wins, the student-athletes win, and the alumni win,” nage parent and the Director candidate Mike Balow said. “He’s trying to address all of the objections that have been raised thus far about why MSU can’t bring back the men’s and women’s swimming and diving program.”

Balow said the collaborative nature of this group helped shape the proposal. He holds weekly meetings once a week via video chat to discuss possible solutions for reintegration.

A copy of the proposal was provided to all trustees, President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., Senior Vice President for Student Life and Engagement Vennie Gore, and Athletic Director Alan Haller.

Balow said Stanley’s administrative assistant contacted him and other band members last week to schedule a meeting with Rebecca Surian, associate executive director of sports at the Spartan Fund, and Vivian Leung, executive director of University Advancement. This meeting will take place on July 20.

“I’m happy to commit at any level,” Balow said. “That’s all I can say because I have no idea what’s going to happen. I do not know if they will be ready to talk about reintegration there or if they will want to redirect these funds to other places.

The Battle for Spartan Swim and Dive group received approximately $1 million in promises from alumni, parents and supporters combined with existing endowment money. The proposal also said two anonymous donors offered a total of $8.5 million. One donor offered $7.5 million from his estate and the other offered $200,000 over five years.

Balow said the program costs around $2 million. These potential $10 million donations could fund about five years of swimming and diving.

On June 10, former varsity team swimmers Sophia Balow, Travis Nitkiewicz, Kasey Venn and Peter Corsetti met with Stanley and Gore after months of requests for meetings to discuss reinstatement. At this meeting, the swimmers encouraged the administration to revisit Balow’s proposal and the battle group put in place.

Sophia, the daughter of Mike Balow, is actively involved in a Title IX lawsuit against the university for cutting the women’s team. This meeting, she said, was more dynamic than what the battle group had seen since last October.

“(Stanley) has agreed to consider the proposal,” Sophia said. “It seemed like he wasn’t exactly willing to budge on the situation at the time. He seemed quite confident that the decision was final and that there wouldn’t really be a chance of discussion to reinstate the team.

Nitkiewicz wished the battle group members who crafted the proposal could also have attended the meeting with Stanley.

“It was just a little weird that they only wanted to talk to students,” Nitkiewicz said. “We tried our best to keep up (during the school year), but it was the parents, the elders, who really looked at how to move forward: the numbers, the finances, while knowing the better the situation.”

Nitkiewicz said they engaged in a back-and-forth discussion. He said Stanley and Gore explained the reasons why the team could not be reinstated, including funding versus the cost of the team. Nitkiewicz also said Gore told them the university was considering adding a 50-meter swimming pool with partitions to the new health, wellness and fitness center, but no supports.

Facilities infrastructure and communications planning manager Fred Woodhams said the university was considering including a swimming pool in the new center, but no final decision has been made. He said there would be a public comment session for students and community members to comment on and review the plans.

“The (board) cleared the design work, which is happening now, and then once there’s a finalized plan in place that would come back to the board, then, at that point, construction would begin, if approved,” Woodhams said.

In the proposal, the battle group recognized the potential that a new training location could offer. Lack of proper facilities was one of the reasons given by former athletic director Bill Beekman for the program’s elimination.

“The only reason given for cutting the team, again, was the pool,” Balow said. “To date, this is the only written reason we have. What I believe is that nobody even objects that MSU is not going to build a new swimming pool. Everyone agrees that MSU is going to build a new 50-meter pool.

Another reintegration funding opportunity, Balow said, is the Big Ten’s recent expansion. Adding UCLA and USC would bring additional television revenue that Balow said could be contributed to the program.

“The question begs to be asked, ‘What’s going to happen with all that extra revenue?'” Balow said.

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Overall, Balow hopes the battle group’s proposal will give the administration ideas to reinstate the swimming and diving program.

“Once this presentation has time to ferment a bit and settle in people’s minds, they can really see what’s on offer here and how there’s absolutely no downside to college,” Balow said. “We might have something. We still have time to have next season, which is important for us because if we can have next season, it’s a bridge to the future.”

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