The Save Iowa Sports group is making an ongoing effort to reverse the University of Iowa’s decision to cut four Hawkeye sports after the 2020-21 academic year. To do that, it is proposing a new sustainable model outside of the UI athletics department.
UI President Bruce Harreld and Athletic Director Gary Barta announced on Aug. 21 that the Iowa men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis, and men’s gymnastics programs were being cut because of a $60-$75 million deficit caused by the Big Ten postponing the fall football season.
After the conference reversed its decision and implemented a football season this fall, Barta and Harreld both confirmed that the sports cuts were still final, and the department’s deficit was now closer to $40-$60 million.
In an open letter published in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Save Iowa Sports said it wants the UI to retain the four cut sports moving forward and move them out of the athletic department.
“We realized that the old model of housing all sports in a singular athletic department simply doesn’t work,” the group wrote. “The goals, budget and objectives of football are different from Olympic sports. Co-mingling of large revenue and nonrevenue sports has created a gross de-prioritization of Olympic sports, and lack of allocation of donations to specific sports creates the illusion that no one cares. Finally, and significantly, the burden of a bloated athletic department’s extensive financial risk-taking has been pushed to smaller programs that otherwise operate within their means.”
The group posted additional thoughts on the idea on Twitter:
“Then for each sport, the group proposes creating advisory councils of experts, advocates and alumni who would volunteer their time to fundraise, mentor student athletes, support the coaching staff and “help them be their own CEOs of their businesses.”
— savehawkeyesports (@saveiowasports) October 11, 2020
Save Iowa Sports has raised $3 million in pledges from over 500 people in two weeks. More than 25,000 people have signed a petition in support of the four sports being retained moving forward.
The group said it has not been successful in obtaining meetings with Harreld, Barta, or the state Board of Regents. Harreld and Barta have both said that it could take “20-to-30 times” the amount the group has raised to support the four programs moving forward.
“What they are asking us to do is reinstate the sports so they can run a campaign to raise the money,” Harreld told the Regents. “I’m sorry, I’ve been there so many times on other facilities and other activities on campus — that if you do this, raise the money — then we’ll end up with 10 percent of what we need.
“And now we’re on the hook to fund the rest of it. We don’t have that sort of money anymore. These sports are closed. But if we can raise an appropriate amount of money, which is a fairly large sum of money — tens of millions of dollars — then we’ll talk about if we want to reinstate them. But it has to be in that order.”