Former Hawkeyes urge state Board of Regents to review discontinuation of four Iowa sports

The group sent a letter on Thursday suggesting that the “reckless manner” in which Iowa cut these sports did not abide the the universities’ policies.


Megan Nagorzanski

Swimmers dive into the pool during the 100 Breast during the second session of the the 2020 Big Ten Women’s Swimming and Diving Championship at the the HTRC on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

A letter authored by former University of Iowa swimmer Vickie Nauman, which is supported by over 260 alumni, was sent to the state Board of Regents on Thursday. The letter questions the UI’s “reckless manner” in cutting four sports and asks the Regents to review the matter.

UI President Bruce Harreld and Athletic Director Gary Barta announced in an open letter released on Aug. 21 that four sports programs — men’s and women’s swimming and diving and men’s tennis and gymnastics — would be discontinued at the end of the 2020-21 academic year because of financial shortfalls caused by COVID-19.

Following the Big Ten’s decision to postpone all fall sports, including football, Barta said the athletic department is anticipating $100 million in lost revenue and a $60-75 million deficit. Cutting these four sports, Barta said, will save Iowa $5 million annually.

“The reckless manner in which this decision was made has caused a growing concern among the broad community that the University did not abide by its own policies and procedures, put the students’ interests last, and did not operate in good faith to its current teams and their families,” Nauman wrote.

Nauman is a Des Moines native and swam for Iowa from 1982-86. The letter includes the names of Iowa alumni, primarily former athletes, dating back to the 1950s.

The three main points in the letter are:

  • “The conduct of the university in this debacle certainly did not have athlete health, safety, and well being as a guiding imperative.”
  • “The university is lacking adequate financial oversight in the athletic department, with a history of problems that precede COVID-19.”
  • “There appears to have been lack of adherence to PCA procedures, notice, and Iowa Open Meetings Law, nor was there notice given of any special meeting on the topic of financial constraints or potential termination of programs.”

The letter questions if the decision to cut these sports was strictly financially motivated and if the university’s Presidential Committee on Athletics was provided with input on the decision, stating that “it does not appear that proper due process was undertaken and there was not adherence to PCA operations manual and policies.

Harreld and Barta said that these cuts took into consideration sponsorship at the NCAA Division I level, impact on gender equity and Title IX compliance, expense savings, history of the sport at Iowa, engagement level, and other factors. The decision to cut these sports was made in consultation with the Board of Regents.

Barta has confirmed that these cuts are final.

RELATED: Members of Iowa swimming and diving programs reflect on ‘heartbreaking’ sports cuts

“If this was truly driven by a lack of revenue, the University would have provided notice and response in the community, thereby enabling private donations and capital from alumni and community,” Nauman wrote. “This is a well-honed and successful path for other universities and various non-revenue producing programs that round out the student experience.

“This announcement was given to everyone as a unilateral, unchanging position, which negates most plausible arguments other than the athletic department simply didn’t want to support these sports any longer. Is this really how the university treats its student athletes in a time of crisis?”

The five-page letter concludes by formally asking the Board of Regents to provide the “needed governance” and to reverse the university’s decision.

Nauman says the group is open to joining the Board of Regents meeting scheduled on Sept. 23, or a hearing to further the discussion.

“Alumni, students and parents have mobilized and united around this recent action and we request reversal of the announcement on Aug. 21 so that we can pull in alumni and experts to reimagine the manner in which these legacy programs operate in the near and longer term,” Nauman wrote.

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