The Arizona State men’s swim team will host a gala dinner and silent auction at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort to raise money to endow the recently reinstated progra.
Olympic gold medal swimmer Jason Lezak will speak at the dinner, along with Olympians Lacey Nymeyer, Amy Van Dyken, Olympic coach Frank Busch and former Olympic and ASU coach Ron Johnson.
Simon Percy, the assistant swim coach and president of the Sun Devil Swim Association, said Lezak’s story fits into the recent struggle of the men’s swimming program.
“He is someone that can comment on and tell you all about swimming in his life and what it has meant to him to sort of tie into our particular mission,” Percy said.
The men’s swim, wrestling and tennis teams were discontinued May 13 due to operational costs.
Just two months later, the men’s swimming team was reinstated, July 15.
Coach Michael Chasson said they raised $1 million in three months mainly through alumni donations and fund-raisers
Junior swimmer Max Laney said he helped with the fundraising. “They set a number for us, so we knew how much we needed to get and we didn’t really see that as that hard of a challenge,” he said.
“I was holding strong that the team was going to get reinstated. I worked with Simon Percy and had my family help with getting the fund-raising started to get the team back.”
The team needs to raise $5 million to be completely endowed.
“We have some people that have pledged money over a certain number of years, so I think we feel we have five years worth of operating money and during that time we should be able to raise an endowment that would ensure the program being here forever,” Chasson said.
The Devils, who had the No. 2-ranked recruiting class in the country, lost all of their recruits when the program was cut.
The team currently consists of just 15 swimmers -- Chasson was expecting more than 20 before the cut came.
The men lost their first meet of the season Nov. 14 and 15 against USC.
The men's and women’s swimming teams will compete against some of the top teams in the country at the Texas invitational in Austin, Dec. 4.
Laney said this season is the most fun he’s had with the team, and he thinks it will only get better.
“It was pretty tragic that everything got cut. But now that it’s back together, it brought the team together and everybody’s I think kind of having a better time than they would’ve been if it was just the same old same old all the time,” he said.
The wrestling team has started its season 2-0 after the program was discontinued in May and reinstated 10 days later.
Coach Thom Ortiz said the reinstatement is all thanks to donations by alumni, boosters and Sun Devil supporters.
“We have enough funds raised for the next three years, but we’re in the process of trying to endow the program in the long run,” he said.
The wrestling program needs $8 million dollars to be endowed.
Sophomore wrestler Chris Drouin said the 10 days the program was discontinued seemed like an eternity.
“It kind of puts things into a perspective to be thankful that you’re here,” he said.
“It just makes you thankful that there are people out there that are willing to put themselves on the line and go out there into the community and help us out.”
Despite the 10 days the program was discontinued, the Sun Devils did not lose any recruits.
They lost one wrestler, sophomore Brent Chriswell, to Pac-10 rival Boise State University.
“Coach Ortiz just kept telling me and my roommate Anthony Robles to just give it some time, we think that we can do this," Drouin said. "Of course we talked to other coaches because he told us to. Then he said don’t sign any papers yet. We think we can get this done, and they did."
Now, the team is trying to put it all in the past.
The Sun Devils won their first two matches against UC Davis and Portland State. They face Iowa Friday in Iowa City.
Drouin said the reinstatement is having an impact on the season.
“It was a pretty dramatic experience. You know, it’s like having the carpet pulled out from under your feet. ... We went through some hard times together and we understand each other that much better. So I’d say it ended up being positive.”
“Now our athletes, our wrestlers, realize it’s not a right to be in college wrestling, it’s a privilege. It’s a privilege to be a Sun Devil.”
The ASU gymnastics team is welcoming seven freshmen, two assistant coaches and a familiar face to the Sun Devil roster this season.
French Olympian Jean-Luc Cairon and Jamie Dantzscher, a member of the 2000 USA Olympic team, will replace Maggie Ethier and Bob Peterson as assistant coaches.
Ethier, who recently had a baby, will remain a volunteer coach and Peterson has left to pursue a degree.
“Jean-Luc was one of the top club coaches in the country so we’re pretty lucky to have him,” ASU spokeswoman Jennifer Jaeckels said.
Senior Nicole Harris returns to the Sun Devil roster after leaving the team in February 2008 for personal reasons. Harris was a 2006 All-American and qualified for the 2004 Olympic trials.
"I am so grateful to be back doing what I love most in the place I love most," Harris said in an ASU press release. "I'm excited to put everything from last year behind me and work with the team to get back to nationals."
The Devils start their season Jan.16 against Missouri at Wells Fargo Arena.