IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa announced Monday it is reinstating women’s swimming and diving; the team is currently competing in what was once thought to be its final season.
In August, the university announced the program was being cut at the end of the 2020-2021 academic year, along with men’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis, and men’s gymnastics.
UI officials said the economic strain from the pandemic caused the cuts.
The athletics department estimated a deficit of $75 million due to the coronavirus pandemic. The estimated deficit is now approximately $50-$60 million due to mitigation efforts and limited revenues generated during the football season, a press release says.
“We made the decision the right thing to do was to re-instate the women’s swimming and diving program and remove any uncertainty moving forward for our current student-athletes as well as high school swimmers considering attending the University of Iowa,” Athletics Director Gary Barta said in the release.
Much of that uncertainty stemmed from a lawsuit filed by four of Iowa’s female swimmers in September, claiming cutting the program violated Title IX.
A federal judge blocked the school from cutting women’s swimming for the 2021-2022 season, but even with the reinstatement of the program, the lawsuit will continue.
“It’s also the contention of the plaintiffs that the University of Iowa has not been properly counting the female varsity slots. Under federal law there must be equitable treatment of the men and women, and at Iowa now 55% of the full-time undergraduate students are female,” says James Larew, the attorney for the six women suing the University of Iowa.
Barta cited the lawsuit in the release.
“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. […] Accordingly, the University has decided it is in the best interests of the student-athletes, coaches, and the athletics department to voluntarily reinstate the program, regardless of any outcome related to the lawsuit.”
UI officials say they still disagree with the claims made in the lawsuit.
“The University has been, and is committed to continuing to be, in compliance with Title IX. From 2015-2019 the University diligently cooperated with the federal Office for Civil Rights as it conducted an extensive investigation of the Iowa Athletics program. In 2019 OCR confirmed that the program had demonstrated compliance with all aspects of Title IX that it had investigated,” the release states.
Larew says with UI’s current undergraduate population, the school needs to add one or two female varsity sports to have a proportionate number under Title IX. Two of the plaintiffs, who were added to the lawsuit after it was originally filed, want the university to look at adding women’s rugby or wrestling.
“Why shouldn’t this be the place where we have women’s wrestling established as a sport?” Larew says. “It would be a perfect sport. Rugby is also growing in popularity.”
The three men’s sports will still be cut, according to the release.
Barta is set to discuss the news Tuesday afternoon.
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