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University of Nebraska Discontinues Men’s Swimming and Diving
March 26, 2001

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LINCOLN, Neb. -- University of Nebraska officials announced today that men’s swimming and diving will be discontinued as an intercollegiate sport at Nebraska, beginning with the 2001-2002 season. Nebraska will continue to sponsor the women’s swimming and diving program. Director of Athletics Bill Byrne and UNL Chancellor Designate Harvey Perlman will be available to answer questions at a press conference Monday at 4:30 p.m.

The team members were notified individually and Byrne will meet with the men’s swimming and diving team on Monday to clarify the decision and assure all members of the team that Nebraska will honor all current UNL scholarships.

“Our first priority will be to help our student-athletes find opportunities with other programs, if they wish to continue swimming competitively,” said Byrne. “It was a very difficult decision and we pledge our support to them in helping them find new schools. And for those student-athletes who choose to continue their education at Nebraska, we will honor our current scholarship commitment.”

Byrne said the elimination of men’s swimming and diving is first and foremost a budgetary issue, with the men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs costing the athletic department a combined $1.3 million per year. Byrne and a committee of athletic representatives annually look at the budgets of each of Nebraska’s varsity sports. While swimming and diving is not the only non-revenue sport sponsored by Nebraska, it is one of the most expensive Olympic sports at NU. The elimination of the men’s swimming and diving program will save the athletic department approximately one-half million dollars per year. With the recent elimination of the programs at Nebraska and the University of Kansas, just four Big 12 Conference schools now sponsor intercollegiate men’s swimming and diving.

Perlman expressed his sympathy to the athletes and their families. “This was an extremely difficult decision, but unfortunately a necessary one. I’ve watched the arms race of athletic spending force other universities to drop sports, but it doesn’t make it any easier when you are impacting your own students and their dreams.”

An internal investigation of the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams began on Sept. 20, 2000. NU men’s and women’s head coach Cal Bentz and his staff resigned, and Nebraska is scheduled to appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions in September of 2001. The men’s and women’s program is currently under the direction of interim coach Paul Nelsen.

Byrne said, “There’s no doubt that the possibility of pending NCAA sanctions has accelerated the process, however, the decision to eliminate men’s swimming and diving was made primarily for budgetary reasons. With our current budget concerns, we believe discontinuing men’s swimming is the appropriate course of action to take at this time. It’s always difficult when financial concerns force you to make decisions that affect young people’s lives. And because of that, we wanted to move forward as soon as possible, to give our student-athletes the best chance to find new schools in order to continue their competitive careers.”

Byrne will also meet with the women’s swimming and diving team on Monday, when he will reaffirm to the team that Nebraska will continue to sponsor the women’s program. The University of Nebraska is committed to complying with Title IX Federal Regulations. Since Byrne came to Nebraska in 1993, Nebraska has added women’s soccer (1994), bowling (1997) and rifle (1998). Nebraska currently sponsors 13 women’s varsity sports. With the elimination of men’s swimming and diving, NU will support 10 men’s varsity programs in 2001-2002. Nebraska supports a total of 23 varsity sports, the most in the Big 12.

“In an effort to retain excellence in our sports programs and balance the budget, we have looked at all possible options,” Byrne said. “It is a very difficult decision, and certainly eliminating sports is done only as a last resort, but the reality for us and many of our peer institutions is that cuts are inevitable. The evaluation of all our sports, in terms of budget and gender equity, will continue to be an on-going process.”

Members of the media are invited to attend a 4:30 p.m. press conference, which will be held in Level 6 of the Memorial Stadium Skybox in the Don Bryant Media Facility on Monday, March 26, 2001.

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