The decision to cut four varsity sports from Eastern Michigan University’s athletics program hit the student body and faculty hard.
According to Mid-American conference freshman of the year swimmer Carter Swift, the decision was broken to the teams by EMU President James Smith and Athletic Director Scott Wetherbee at around 10:20 a.m. March 20, during an early morning meeting inside the inner sanctum of the EMU Convocation Center.
“We all walked in,” Swift said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon before trailing off. “We threw around ideas about what may happen last night. No one spoke too much. The president (Smith) and the AD (Wetherbee) walked in and they weren’t too happy.”
“Everyone broke out in tears and it was really sad,” Swift added.
Softball, women’s tennis, and wrestling have enjoyed moderate success, especially the latter with athletes like All-American Sa’Derian Perry and Tomas Gutierrez propelling EMU wrestling to the next level.
However, the cuts to swimming and diving have hit to the university’s core. The program is one of the schools most decorated, having won 34 MAC conference titles — including three of the last four. Swift helped build that legacy, as the reigning 2018 MAC Freshman of the year.
Now, it’s all over.
“I’ve been swimming since i was three years old, in three different countries.”
The New Zealand native began the sport at a tender age before picking up with his family and moving to Australia at age nine. Carter’s swimming took off once he became involved along with his siblings in the local Shepparton Swimming Club. Over the next nine years he dramatically improved under the tutelage of Head Coach Willy O'Callaghan. Toward the end of his junior year of high school, a swimming acquaintance mentioned to him the possibility of applying for an American Swimming Scholarship.
Noel Greaves -- an advisor who was extremely familiar with the recruitment process – was contacted by the family and helped to make a decision on applying as he had already guided another Australian swimmer to EMU previously.
“He was very familiar with the team there. I took over as the Head Coach of Shepparton Swimming in Carters final Year, and we spent a lot of time getting him up to speed to compete with the best in the USA,” Swift’s mother Michelle said.
“Gutted my son Carter just competed successfully as a freshman this year winning MAC freshman and co-Swimmer of the year as a sprint freestyler and was so excited for his future after relocating from Australia,” Michelle Swift, Carter’s mother posted in a tweet back on March 20.
“@carterswift3 wants to stay in the USA!, such a fantastic coaching team with peter and Derek and Tracy and the rest of the coaching staff, and you couldn’t ask for better teammates and lifelong friends...they made in his first year in the USA, #needamiracle.”
Swift said that his mother, Michelle has been his coach, helping him grow as an athlete since they moved to Australia years back. In regards to the tweet itself, Swift was elated to receive a mother’s love in that moment, all while letting the world know that this kid can flat out swim.
“More power to her. She got noticed.”
And it’s that recognition of the skill set and the talent that has college assistants and coaches calling the youngster about his plans. Coaches from Grand Valley State University, as well as the University of Tennessee have contacted him. And it’s easy to wonder, if Swift we’re still able to swim at EMU, just how far he could’ve gone.
“I had a pretty good freshman year. My goals were to set MAC records, school records in the 100, 200 and 50 meter freestyle.”
There are efforts to save the program however. According to Swift, the team has been planning ways to organize and raise funds to maybe try and salvage this thing. Crowdfunding efforts have also been noticed on line using the hashtag #SaveEMUathletics.
Drew Conover contributed to the reporting of this story.