I've always said this about schools cutting sports, especially Olympic sports -- if you're looking to cut first, you're not trying hard enough to fight for your student athletes.
I truly believe ODU is a different type of school, not one that will cut sports and then claim it was too difficult/expensive to keep them. Every sport we currently have can be afforded to stay. If you're looking to cut first, then you clearly have the wrong leaders in place.
The question is, would C-USA be as much of an eventual money drain where cutting swimming wouldn't matter from a cost perspective anyway? If we can sustain funds at the FBS level, unlike many mid-level FBS schools, then we'll be just fine and all this cutting conjecture can just go.
There are big boosters who were swimmers too. BIG boosters. First option is always to keep everything and use a little elbow grease vs. taking the easy way and saying, "too bad, no one cares about you."
They are students and alums just like the rest of us, but unlike many of us, they donned the blue and silver to represent their school. Few of us ever had the privilege. I will never tell an ODU athlete they didn't matter to our school. Selling them down the river isn't one of my priorities.
Again, I think I'm more old school in my thinking. We should never cut a sport. We're better than that.
There's also no guarantee FBS will bring more revenue to support the athletics dept. Problem with Title IX is, if swimming is the sport that could get the axe, it would only be the men and not the women. Gotta love proportionality.
Your "C-USA or Swimming" choice is a red herring. It would never happen that way, so even subjecting such a scenario isn't remotely worth discussing.
If I were a rich ODU swimming alum and the sport was cut, no way would ODU get money. That, too, is a business decision. People with money hold the cards, not those of us who want this and want that.
With dozens of friends around all sports who have had their schools cut their programs for being lazy (cough: one example is JMU), none of them donate to their schools and some of them are BIG money people. It's cost some small programs more in the long run (losing donations) than it did in actual savings.
If your a school and it's Swimming of FBS, it's an unfortunately easy choice, but not always the right one.
There's no excuse to ever cut a program at ODU. We are better than that. When you're dealing with money, like running a business, you'd better be careful who you burn bridges with.