UW cuts take full swimming scholarship from Longbotham

The recession is hitting everyone. But for Mercer Island High School senior Murray Longbotham, it is threatening to take away a lifelong dream.

His commitment to swim for the University of Washington is gone.

“As part of a series of budget reduction measures, the University of Washington has made the difficult decision to discontinue its men’s and women’s swimming programs, effective immediately,” said Director of Athletics Scott Woodward in an e-mailed press release on May 1.

The move will save the athletic department $1.2 million, 43 percent of which the department was directed to cut to help the university meet an expected budget shortfall. But the decision is forcing many students, like Longbotham, to make some tough decisions.

The uncertainty of what to do about college in May, as a high school senior, is unnerving for anyone. Losing an opportunity to swim for a Division I college on scholarship is devastating.

“I am really just trying to figure out my options,” said Longbotham, who won two individual state titles and eight relay titles during his career with the Mercer Island High School swim team. “I knew that this was a possibility, but I guess I just didn’t accept it.”

Longbotham said that he and other scholar athletes have been receiving e-mails about the talks and politics surrounding the budget. But the coaches never said anything about the program being cut while Longbotham was being recruited, according to Kay Longbotham, Murray’s mother.

“That isn’t any way to recruit,” said Kay. “We understand that.”

“I don’t see myself not swimming in college,” said Longbotham.

Longbotham, one of the most successful swimmers in the history of the high school, said his options are limited so far.

“I can go to the University of Washington on scholarship for one year and swim on my club team and transfer next year,” said the senior. “Or I can try to transfer to another college.”

Longbotham received inquiries from the University of Minnesota prior to committing to the Huskies, but it did not come with a scholarship. He would have to walk on and earn one next season. Longbotham is now revisiting all of the opportunities that might still be out there.

“[The UW coaches] said that they might be able to help me get into a college, but nothing is for sure right now,” said Longbotham.

The high school senior spent May 1 in classes at Mercer Island High School after finding out the news. He planned to spend his weekend talking to college coaches and administrators about his options.

“This is really devastating,” said Kay Longbotham. “We are really disappointed, but we are not really surprised.”

The swim program has a long record of stability, dating back to 1932. But the Longbothams are worried about next fall.

Longbotham was part of the record-setting state championship high school boys swim team. The Islanders won the meet for the fourth consecutive year, and Longbotham was a big part of each team. The squad boasts eight Division I scholarship-earning athletes, including Longbotham, and a handful of swimmers who will swim in college.