University of North Dakota’s recent decision to cut several athletic programs is unlikely to lead to similar cuts for any USD athletic programs, according to David Herbster, USD’s athletic director.
UND announced the cutting of their women’s hockey team and both men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams on March 29 in an effort to trim budgets because of an anticipated drop in state funding.
Herbster said the department’s budget and funding model at USD are “solid.”
“I am not an advocate for eliminating sports,” he said. “I would explore every single other option before I would consider eliminating a sport. I think that is the worst case and the last scenario that you should ever act on.”
Herbster said he would know of a budget deficit well in advance.
“We will project out a very modest, small percentage increase,” he said. “Here we are very conservative in how we budget.”
Jason Mahowald, the swimming and diving head coach, said he’s unable to comment if any UND swimmers will be coming to USD next year.
“Nobody’s signed, we have had conversations with some kids from UND and that’s about all I can really say, is that we have recruited some of those kids,” he said.
Signing a student-athlete is usually a long process, starting in July or earlier and ending in November during the first signing period, Mahowald said.
The second signing period started April 12 and lasts until August.
“So those (UND) kids are all on a crunch to find a home, so the process with them moves a lot faster,” he said, adding that he’s been in contact with UND coaches about student-athletes.
UND’s student-athletes will have to make a lot of decisions very quickly, Herbster said.
“Unfortunately for some of those swimmers, they’ve got to go through the recruiting process all over again,” he said.
At this point, Mahowald doesn’t foresee any UND faculty coming to USD.
“It’s hard to say,” he said. “You never know, but at this point I don’t see that.”
Though Mahowald said he knew about UND’s “pretty tight” financial situation, he was still surprised by the announcement.
“Their swim team has got a history of championships and Olympic trial qualifiers and they’ve got a very, very rich tradition up there,” he said. “So I’m very surprised to see a program with that kind of history and potential for success to be cut.”
Mahowald said he’s disappointed that USD won’t be competing against UND in the Summit League next season.
“That’s an old rival for us from the old NCC days, and that’s a familiar face… we know North Dakota, that’s a known entity, and to bring that back as a conference opponent would’ve been awesome,” he said.
Though USD hasn’t lost anything, Herbster said coaches were looking forward to UND enhancing the Summit League.
“It’s been great competition, they’re a very good program, and if you’re going to add teams to your league, you want teams to come in that are going to be competitive,” he said. “And in this case, in swimming and diving, they would’ve been able to come in and be competitive.”