IOWA CITY, Iowa – The University of Iowa announced today that it is fully reinstating women’s swimming and diving as an NCAA and Big Ten Conference program. The team is currently competing in the 2020-21 season and was originally scheduled to be discontinued at the end of this year due to financial challenges created by the pandemic.
“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. “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.
“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.”
In August 2020, the Iowa Athletics Department estimated a financial deficit of $75 million brought on by the COVID pandemic. A plan was developed to help mitigate the shortfall that included operational budget cuts, salary reductions, position eliminations and the discontinuation of four sports (men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s gymnastics, and men’s tennis) at the conclusion of the 2020-21 season. The estimated deficit has been reduced to approximately $50-$60 million due to those mitigation efforts and limited revenues generated during the modified football season, but the financial challenge remains significant and the decision to discontinue the three men’s sports identified will remain in place.
“We remain committed to support and care for those student-athletes, honor their scholarships if they choose to remain at Iowa and provide academic, medical and mental health support as requested,” said Barta.
In September 2020, a lawsuit was filed challenging the decision to discontinue women’s swimming. The University continues to disagree with the claims made in the lawsuit, and the subsequent preliminary injunction to continue offering the sport in 2021-2022 while the lawsuit makes its way through the court system. However, in the interests of serving our student-athletes, coaches and community, the University believes more certainty will be beneficial for the future of the program. 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.
The Iowa Athletics Department is committed to Gender Equity and has a rich history in the success of its women’s sports programs. 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.