The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa on Tuesday granted an injunction preventing the University of Iowa from dropping its women’s swimming & diving program for the 2021-2022 school year.
The decision, made by Judge Stephanie Rose, came after a two-day hearing where four current members of the Iowa women’s swimming & diving program are arguing that the university is violating Title IX rules, and that this summer’s announcement that they would cut the women’s swimming & diving program only exacerbated that problem.
The school also announced that they would cut the men’s swimming & diving team, men’s gymnastics team, and men’s tennis team at the end of the 2020-2021 school year. Those men’s teams are not impacted by the injunction.
The plaintiffs, Freshman Alexa Puccini, sophomore Christina Kaufman, senior Sage Ohlensehlen, and senior Kelsey Drake argued that a preliminary injunction was needed to prevent irreparable harm if plans to cut the team move forward. Four of the team’s six coaches have taken new jobs already, and 15 of the 35 members of the women’s team have announced decisions to transfer next semester or next year. At least four others are currently in the NCAA transfer portal.
Among the individuals called to testify were a former University of Texas athletics director Donna Lopiano, who in an analysis says that the University of IOwa failed to meet Title IX’s Prong One participation requirement requiring male and female athletes with athletics participation opportunities proportional to the percent of males and females in the undergraduate student population.
The school rejected in a statement earlier this year that they were in violation of Title IX guidelines, saying that an Office of Civil Rights review in 2019 found that the school had no violations in the 13 categories of Title IX. Further, the school’s statement included mention that the cuts would impact more male student athletes than female (64 vs. 38) and result in the loss of more male scholarships than female (20.7 vs. 14).
“When you’re riding as close to the Title IX compliance line as the university has been…when a crisis hits, options become pretty limited,” Rose said in making her decision.
Earlier this month, Rose denied a request for a temporary restraining order, saying that the plaintiffs hadn’t sufficiently proven that moving forward with the cuts would do irreparable harm to the athletes, but did agree that the lawsuit was time sensitive and set a hearing for this week.
The injunction is a temporary solution that will bring a temporary stop to the process of cutting the program, but it is not a full vindication of the athletes’ claims that cutting the women’s swimming & diving program would be detrimental to the school’s Title IX compliance. The case will continue as the female student-athletes seek to have the university reinstate the teams and add additional sports for women.
The school says that it had to cut programs to reduce costs caused by the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic. The school estimates its budget took a $55 million to $65 million hit because of COVID-19
Title IX laws are a very interesting subject. If anyone is interested in how Title IX compliance is measured:
(Yes I’m aware nobody asked, I just thought it’d be helpful to know)
Schools actually only need to fulfill 1 of the 3 prongs of Title IX. Proportionality of opportunities (the 13 categories mentioned: scholarship, equipment, travel, etc), continued expansion of women’s programs (which is easy to comply with, most programs can prove this by showing they’ve added a women’s program at some point), & full accommodation of women’s interests (reflecting student/geographic population sport interest, probably the hardest to prove). Schools very rarely meet all 3 prongs, and opt to focus on 1 prong since they ‘pass’ Title IX if… Read more »
I’ve talked to several Division I ADs since these moronic decisions to cut sports have picked up momentum. Not one could tell me how cutting $5MM in sports offsets losses of $50-$70MM. And giving football coaches bonuses and raises after announcing cutting sports seems to prove these cuts were pure BS. It has forever caused me to dislike and distrust athletic directors. They are all corrupt.
Piecing together the story at Iowa, to me it felt like the ~$4 million they projected to save was effectively the debt servicing on the loan they were going to have to take out to cover the $50 million in deficits.
They didn’t say that, but that’s the only thing that made sense to me.
It’s outrageous to think that the current UI President and Athletic Director will try to think outside the box to save these sports because they started this whole process by LYING about the reasons for these cuts!
One way to defeat the corrupt and dishonest is by going to court. Hats off to these ladies for taking these steps and fighting to save their team.
*Barta and Harreld need to kicked to the curb ASAP before they can inflict more damage on the once great institution.
Good for them
Words cannot describe how much I love the University of Iowa and Iowa City and how much I hate University Administration. They operate an “us against them” system where they position themselves against faculty, students, and community. This started about 14-15 years ago and it is ruining reputation and quality of education at OUR University.
Barta needs to go, Mimms needs to go, and Marc needs to go. Barta and Mimms have done pretty terrible jobs handling multiple blunders within the department. Marc has had the job for almost twenty years and still can’t get either team in the top half of the conference. At any other job, he would be fired or demoted. Sure, they may break a few records, but the fact is: the teams aren’t improving at the same rate of other schools. That’s why swimming is great, the watch doesn’t lie. Maybe that’s why Marc struggles to improve, he prefers to turn the clocks off, or make sure the kids take it out fast and show heart… rather than swim a… Read more »
There are two sides to every story – As I understand it the Administration deals with many fiscal and societal issues unbeknownst to most individuals not in the privy circle. Please show patience and tolerance.
Where have the 4 coaches that have found new jobs been hired? Don’t think I’ve seen any announcements on those.
Not surprising for anyone familiar with the Iowa athletic department.