With Colleges Dropping Olympic Sports, Will UW Thin Its Ranks?
Eleven years ago, the University of Washington pulled the plug on its men's and women's swimming programs, citing the financial drain of carrying the non-revenue-producing sports.
Axed were teams that had been in existence for 77 and 34 years, providing numerous Olympic Games medalists and other champions.
In 1980, the school swiftly did away with wrestling for the same reason, cutting a sport that had hosted the NCAA championships just seven years earlier and produced a heroic 1970 individual champion in Larry Owings -- he upset the previously unbeatable and mythic Dan Gable.
Before that, the once highly successful UW ski team was discontinued as a varsity sport and turned into a club activity, which it exists as today.
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic eliminating lives, jobs and entire businesses in large numbers, collegiate sports have not been immune to the fallout. Universities nationwide have been eliminating Olympic sports, unable to fund them any longer because of the downturn and overall loss of revenue.
While the UW says it is not looking to thin its ranks of 18 sports at this time, 80 programs have been cut elsewhere over the past eight weeks, including 30 on the Division 1 level, according to this Sports Illustrated story by Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger.
Asked about a possible reduction, a Husky athletic department spokesman referred to this quote from athletic director Jenn Cohen, who recently told the Seattle Times the following, “I think everything is on the table for how we would mitigate a devastating loss, which would be no football season and/or some sort of expectation where you still have to operate some portion of your program and still provide opportunities for students but wouldn’t have a revenue sport funding it.
'That being said, (cutting sports) is not something that we’re talking about right now.”
In a bit of irony before the pandemic hit, UW officials announced the school's former swimming pool would be razed and converted into an elaborate basketball practice, training and recruiting center at considerable cost.
With the unexpected budgetary falloff, the Husky pool, unlike the long-lost swimming programs, might not disappear any time soon.