At 2:15 PM Central Time on Monday, the University of Iowa officially reinstated its women’s swimming & diving program. This makes Iowa at least the fourth school to have reinstated a swimming & diving program that was originally announced to be cut this year.
The reinstatement comes about a week after Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said he was “assured by a consultant that his department would be in compliance with Title IX before he went forward with a plan to eliminate four sports.” In that same press conference, Barta affirmed his decision to cut the 4 programs.
“Every student-athlete in all 24 sports at Iowa has experienced challenges and uncertainty since the pandemic began. This has been especially true for the men and women in the four sports we announced would be discontinued after this season,” said Gary Barta, Henry B. and Patricia B. Tippie Director of Athletics Chair, upon the announcement. “The women’s swimming lawsuit brought forward last September, combined with the recent court order mandating the continuation of the sport during the legal process, has created additional uncertainty that could last several months or even years.”
Iowa affirmed that they still believed they were within the boundaries of Title IX to make the cuts, but say it was the “right thing to do” to reinstate the women’s swimming & diving program rather than fight in the courts.
Iowa announced on August 21 that it would be cutting both its men’s and women’s swimming & diving programs effective at the end of the 2020-2021 season, ending a 103-year long legacy for varsity swimming & diving at Iowa – one of the longest legacies in college swimming.
The school also cut men’s gymnastics and men’s tennis programs in August. None of the 3 men’s programs cut have been reinstated because of the ongoing budget issues.
Several alumni that SwimSwam spoke to on Monday said that they still think there’s a chance for the men’s team to be reinstated, but that they believe it will take a change in athletic director for that to happen.
The reinstatement of women’s swimming comes after a group of current and former swimmers filed a Title IX lawsuit. That suit escalated in January when the swimmers posted a $360,000 bond to show that they were serious in their plans to fight the case. A judge in that case in December granted an injunction preventing the school from cutting the women’s swim team.
According to Equity in Athletics data, the three men’s programs cut included 58 student-athletes, while the women’s swimming & diving program included 26 student-athletes. After cuts, the unduplicated participant total (which counts the number of individuals who participated on at least varsity team) will be around 278 male student-athletes and 342 female student-athletes. That means males make up 44.8% of student-athletes and females make up 55.2% of student-athletes, barring other roster adjustments.
The student-body, according to federal data, is 46.4% male and 53.6% female. That gap between gender participation and gender enrollment comes to about 10 student-athletes, which is the number of male tennis players who lost their program.
The school justified the cuts by saying that the estimated $5 million in estimated savings would help close a $65-$70 million estimated budget shortfall brought on by the cancellation of the football season. After the announcement to cut, however, the Big Ten did wind up having a football season, with Barta reiterating last week that he thinks the department was still facing a $50-$60 million budget shortfall.
The Hawkeyes finished 9th among 13 women’s programs and 6th among 10 men’s programs at the 2020 Big Ten Championships. They had qualified two women and two men for the NCAA Championships, which were canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Among the fallout was the NCAA pulling the hosting rights to the men’s NCAA Championship meet from the University of Iowa for 2021.
Iowa was one of two Big Ten schools to announce cutting their swimming & diving programs this offseason, along with Michigan State.
Dartmouth (men & women), William & Mary (men and women), and East Carolina (women, but not men) have all also reinstated their programs in the past few months after Title IX lawsuits.