Iowa men’s gymnastics head coach reflects on the team’s discontinuation

JD Reive wasn’t surprised that his sport was being discontinued at Iowa, but that didn’t make the pain better.


Joseph Cress

Iowa head coach JD Reive talks with attendees before the Black and Gold intrasquad in the Field House on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. The Hawkeyes menÕs gymnastics team debuted their 2018 roster during the event.

Isaac Goffin, Assistant Sports Editor

Last Friday, the Iowa men’s gymnastics team received an invitation to a meeting with the men’s tennis team and the men’s and women’s swimming and diving program.

“We’re smart enough to know what was occurring very quickly at that point,” Iowa men’s gymnastics head coach JD Reive said. “Your stomach and your heart drops a little bit.”

Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta delivered the news that all four sports would be discontinued after the 2020-21 academic year.

With the Big Ten canceling the rest of the winter and spring sports seasons on March 12 and postponing fall sports on Aug. 11 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa Athletics lost about $100 million in revenue and has a budget deficit of between $60-75 million.

Reive said he felt like Barta handled the situation professionally, saying the department did it as well as it could have, considering the horrible and emotional news, and that it was honestly how they needed to do it.

But that didn’t make it easier to deal with.

“Man, it was pretty heavy,” Reive said. “I think that’s the easiest way to describe. It’s not something we’re completely naïve to — the sport itself has been certainly in this position for a long time. But when it’s finally real and you hear about it …  my current group, my own children who do gymnastics, and just the entire community as a whole taking a hit.”

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When Reive went to address his team, it was in a room where they were socially distanced and wearing masks, and they were just trying to comprehend the news.

“It was like losing a limb,” Reive said.

Student-athletes were crying and angry, which Reive described as the immediate grieving process that covers a gamut of emotions.

“My initial thing as a coach was to say ‘look, you guys are the top student-athletes in the sport. It’s really difficult and you’re prepared to handle something like this and you will all be OK.’”

The most frequent conversation Reive has had since the announcement is on the future for his student-athletes. He said that one walk-on has made the decision not to start, and that there’s a couple student-athletes that had surgery since the middle of last season that will take a year to recover from.

On Monday morning, the team was back in the gym, preparing for a season they hope to get in. It looked different than it did when the team was together in March, with social distancing and masks.

“So, in that sense it’s kind of different but at the same time it’s really nice to be able to be together start kind of doing what we do,” Reive said.

Barta has said multiple times that the decision to discontinue men’s gymnastics as a varsity sport is final, making this the last season of the team as people know it. They might be able to compete outside of being a varsity sport. But that’s not a guarantee.

“The biggest thing the guys will bring to me is let’s go out and have a really great season,” Reive said. “And I think there’s a pretty legitimate psychological study here to what it looks like when there’s no expectation of I’ll have to fight another year or there’s no real leverage over it like you’re doing it to the best of your ability one last time.”