Remembering Montana Swimming

From the Montana Kaimin:

Seven trophies sit in a single case, far from the six football cases that line the Hall of Champions in the Adams Center.

Written on the glass is every year from 1966 to 1974, signifying nine men’s conference swimming titles that are long forgotten, lost in the shadows of 10 consecutive Big Sky Championships garnered by Grizzly gridiron greats. Photos of swim teams from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s grace the maroon background. Headlines read “Bruins” rather than “Grizzlies” because that’s what the mascot for the swim team was back then. Articles are posted about a varsity sport that no longer exists at the University of Montana.

Harley Lewis is currently the director of development at the University of Arkansas and was the UM athletic director from the early-1970s through 1989. In 1966 he was a track and field coach at UM. Swimming, baseball, wrestling and gymnastics were all programs cut from UM athletics during Lewis’ tenure.

“At the time that the cuts took place we had all kinds of issues trying to balance men’s and women’s teams,” Lewis said.

The women’s swim team, which Lewis said was a skeleton program from the beginning, was eliminated shortly after he left.

“The issue with swimming was that there weren’t enough resources to fund men’s and women’s athletics,” Lewis said, “so we had to modify.”

This was during the early years of Title IX.

“We needed to pare back if we wanted to stay Division I and accommodate the law to give men and women equal opportunity,” Lewis said.

So, because they couldn’t find enough women who wanted to swim, they had to destroy a perfectly good men’s program. I’m having a hard time with this logic.

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