Colorado State athletic director Jack Graham announced on Thursday that the school would be adding women's soccer, and with that add dropped the water polo program which has been around since the spring of 2005. Graham's comment about the move was, "We just think it's the right thing to do."
Water polo was added at Colorado State because the school must host nine women's varsity sports since the school has a football team, and former athletic director Mark Driscoll added water polo due to the inexpensive start up costs. The startup cost for water polo, with no scholarships, was $175,000, where women's soccer was $1 million, and then between $500,000 to $700,000 for each following year.
The water polo team for the 2013 season finally had the full amount of scholarship allowed, which is eight, and that increased the cost to $400,000 for this season. However, women's soccer is expected to cost the schools $800,000 per year.
For a school that is trying to does not make a ton of money from football -- about $1 million a year -- this added expense eats up almost half of their television money. Also, consider that while the water polo team was not great over their short history, they were improving and were projecting to finish fourth in the WWPA this season.
The water polo team was given the news after Thursday morning's practice, and head coach Mike Moody said the team was not happy about the decision, but he did understand the decision why the move was made (via the Coloradoan):
The girls were in disbelief and shock," said Moody, who has been with the program for eight of its nine years. "They're definitely hurt by this. A lot of girls are really, really upset about it."
"I really don't fault the administration for doing what they did," Moody said. "They provided very reasonable reasons for adding women's soccer. ... I fully support Jack, and I think his vision for CSU athletics is good. It's at the expense of our water polo program, but it does strengthen the school; it does strengthen the conference."
Playing over 50 miles for home games is not really a home game, and with only average club water polo in the state made it difficult to justify keeping it around. Compare that to soccer which has about a dozen player just in the Fort Collins area alone that earn Division I scholarships each year, and the club and high school scene is very lare as well.
Adding water polo was basically a quick fix to a problem that Colorado State had since they had to reach the required amount of sponsored female sports. Adding a sport that has very little developmental in the state, or even the region, is a tough sell to keep around long term, especially with soccer which as mentioned is big in the area.
In my opinion this is a big loss for college water polo, because the more programs that are around outside of California is a gain for the sport. Regardless if the team is full of kids from California -- which some say is a bigger issue, and that is for another story -- it allowed a chance for a dozen of so girls to continue playing at the highest level of organized water polo that this country has to offer.