For only the second time since 1998, a NCAA Division I institution has added men’s swimming and diving to its athletic department. Mount St. Mary’s University President Simon Newman announced that the university, perhaps best known for legendary basketball coach Jim Phelan, will begin competition this Fall. This marks the first newly-established men’s Division I team since Manhattan College added men's swimming in 2008.
The new program’s announcement has sent ripples through the highest reaches of the swimming community.
“Mount St. Mary’s adding a men’s swimming program bodes well for the future and shows the enhanced stature and value that an intercollegiate swim team brings to a college,” said USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus. “Swimmers are some of the highest-achieving, motivated students on campus and continue that success into their professional careers.”
While Mount St. Mary’s will be starting from scratch, Division I men’s swimming has experienced nascent growth. According to the College Swimming Coaches Association of America, in the past decade eight schools have revived or elevated their programs. Those schools are realizing that swimming benefits their campuses in many ways. These include raising an institution’s profile, increasing enrollment, fostering retention and enhancing competitiveness.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for Mount St. Mary’s to add a program with great potential for success, but even more so a tremendous opportunity for talented students to realize their dream of swimming in college at the DI level.” Said Joel Shinofield, Executive Director of the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA). “I have no doubt that the swimmers Neil Yost will recruit will not only be successful in the pool, but that they will contribute in the classroom, the community and be great ambassadors for Mount St. Mary’s.”
According to Shinofield, the addition of swimming offers schools tremendous benefits. When it comes to academics the CSCAA reports:
- Two-thirds of Division I men’s teams have a team GPA of 3.0 or higher;
- ACT and SAT scores among incoming swimmers are range from 12-22% higher than their non-swimming peers;
- All but 10 of the 327 Division I swimming & diving teams equaled or bettered the graduation rate of their school’s student body, with men’s graduation rates exceeding the rest of the student body by 22%.
- Division I men’s swimming teams have the second-highest graduation rates among all sports teams
Mount St. Mary’s announcement comes at a time when swimming prepares to take stage at this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio. In 2012, 23 of the 24 members of the men’s United States Olympic Swim Team came through Division I universities. While Mount St. Mary won’t have any graduates ready in time for this year’s Olympic Trials, Shinofield expects that future Mount swimmers will be joining an elite group – one where more than 70% of collegiate swimming and diving teams report having at least one alumnus working in the “C-Suite” (a reference to high-level executives whose titles typically begin with "chief”).
That would be welcome news to President Newman, who considering his 30 years of experience in private equity and strategy consulting, could prove to be a valuable reference to future graduates.