Guest Opinion | The cutting of swim teams is a betrayal to alums

The cutting of swimming teams could have been prevented.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Head Coach Marc Long addresses the audience at the save swim meeting outside the IMU on Aug. 29, 2020.

Almost a week after I heard the terrible news, I continued to think about my life as an athlete, specifically my time as an Iowa swimmer. The University of Iowa announced the women’s and men’s swimming and diving programs will be eliminated in 2021. Young swimmers will never get to feel this amazing feeling of representing your team… your Iowa team.

Do I remember some of my “times” from 25-plus years ago? Maybe a few. Do I remember how many 5:30 a.m. practices I walked/drove to? Maybe a few really cold mornings, but I don’t remember too many of those either. Do I remember being among the only students on campus the Tuesday night before thanksgiving due to practice Wednesday morning? A flashing memory but nothing significant.

Do I remember what it felt like to put on a suit with the tiger hawk/Iowa logo? Yes, I do remember that one…very vividly.

What most people don’t understand, as a college swimmer, you don’t decide to continue swimming at that level for notoriety or special treatment.

You choose to continue your swimming career because you love your sport, you love your school and you love your teammates.

What makes me saddest about Iowa’s decision to cut the swimming program…moving forward, a bunch of smart and talented young women and men will never get to feel that feeling I felt for four years.

They also won’t have the chance to go to their teammates’ weddings, they won’t see their teammates have babies, they won’t see their teammates after 25-plus years and pick up like they were sitting in Quad. They will not have the chance to experience any of these memories. And this is the hardest part for me.

The university’s decision to cut the program was financial, I get it. I’m a CEO of an organization and we have to make some really hard decisions right now too. As staff, we have to ensure that our organization is stable, nimble but also financially sound. I really do get the financial piece.

What I don’t understand, did the athletic department talk to the current swimmers about this decision? Did they think about the minimal amount of money you are eliminating from an enormous budget? By the way, I’m assuming it’s approximately less than 1.5 percent of the total operating budget. Did they think about how the minimal amount of money they ‘may’ save to completely wipe out someone’s dream to wear an Iowa suit? Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t — I will never know.

What I do know is if you tried really hard, buckled down and worked as a team, you could have saved the programs. Maybe you should have considered one last season to determine what expenses could be cut and then make a decision after that final evaluation?

You balked Iowa. You made a decision too quickly. You gave up a chance for someone to create their BEST memories in order to save a minimal amount of money in a bloated budget.

Let me be clear, this does not mean I’m giving up on my “Hawks.” But what it does mean…moving forward my donation will be sent directly to women’s tennis, women’s golf, women’s track, etc. before I give to the overall “administration.”

One final comment and then I’ll get off my soapbox, the next program you consider eliminating, please think about the lifetime value you are losing and not just about the immediate need and budget. You will find your answer there. And you will also find your answer with your alumni. Come to us, ask us, tell us something drastic will happen if we don’t contribute. But, please do not make a decision like this one again, at least before you considered every last-ditch effort.

—Kristin Belleson, 1993-1997, CEO, American College of Sports Medicine