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January 19, 2004

Fresno State Swim Team Treads Water

FROM CALIFORNIA'S CENTRAL VALLEY COMES WORD that Olympic swimming medalist (and Fresno native) Janet Evans has returned home to speak (gratis) to an adoring home-town audience. She returned for a fund-raiser to save Fresno State’s swimming program.

The future of both the swimming team and the men’s soccer team hang in the balance. After administration officials were forced to cut both programs in the spring, a groundswell of support developed to raise the funds necessary for continuation of the programs.

Just days before the original deadline of Jan. 15, Fresno State gave the teams a new target number of $2.05 million, reduced from the original $2.7 million.

If the teams don’t meet the deadline, possibilities remain to save them. Fresno State would be open to reinstating the teams if enough money could be raised in the future.

Both programs will have to rebuild if Fresno State gives them the green light to keep operating. Several athletes have already transferred. It’s likely both teams will have to hire new coaches and recruiting will be a challenge due to the second-class status created by the cuts.

It usually has been men’s programs that have been cut, blamed--fairly or not--on Title IX. Universities that have cut women’s swimming programs have reinstated them successfully; Washington cut its men’s and women’s programs in 2000 but brought them back six weeks later thanks to efforts by alumni. Dartmouth eliminated its women’s program last year for budget reasons, and the team since has been reinstated.

“What’s important is the dedication of family, alumni and the community," said U.S. Swimming president Ron van Pool, who spoke in front of the 150 or so people at Loy Loy Restaurant in Fresno. "[College programs] are what keep the 12’s and 13-year-olds looking forward.” (The Fresno Bee 1-14-04)