LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — In October of last year, Michigan State University announced they were cutting their swimming and diving program. Ever since then, it’s been a tooth and nail fight at every turn.
On Saturday, the Battle for Spartan Swimming and Diving group is using the MSU football team’s spring game to bring awareness to their cause with a rally.
“Tomorrow is basically to just say hey we’re still here,” said Michael Balow, the dad of Sophia Balow, who was prominently featured in 6 News’ in-depth look on the subject in February. “We’d love to talk to you. We’re very respectful, upright citizens. Not the type of people who burn couches in Cedar Village so to speak. We as adults need to talk about it.”
Besides being a dad, Balow has taken it upon himself to be a part-time detective, looking into why the decision to cut the program was made.
“We teach our kids to be resilient, and deal with stuff,” Balow said. “Some times you’ve just got to take your bloody nose and keep marching, you know things don’t go your way and that’s life.
“But when things like this happen which are done for the wrong reasons and which were preventable, and which seem arbitrary, you want to teach them to push back against it as hard as they can. And even if you still lose, you’ve given it your all. You’re a fighter, you stand for what’s right.”
Balow and a few others have filed numerous Freedom Of information Act requests.
The information Balow got shows the university ran an assessment looking into building a new 50-meter indoor pool as part of a wholesale renovation of the schools recreation facilities, funded by something called a student rec fee.
Balow said that makes the decision by Athletic Director Bill Beekman to cut the swim and dive program even more confounding.
“Bill (Beekman) gave a few reasons for cutting the team,” Balow said. “Really there’s only two and he alluded to the other ones. 90 percent of it was the facilities. He said look, without a 50-meter pool, without modern swimming facilities, we really can’t be competitive and have a team. If you accept that as gospel, here we have a new pool coming in like two years.”
6 News talked with MSU Spokesperson Dan Olsen who wanted to make clear there is no plan to build a new 50-meter pool. It was an assessment to see where their facilities are at compared to their peers.