Women’s swimmers amend Title IX complaint

The amended complaint requests that women’s rugby and wrestling programs be established at the University of Iowa.


Megan Nagorzanski

Swimmers compete 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.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

After their initial Title IX complaint was filed on Sept. 25, Iowa swimmers’ Sage Ohlensehlen, Christian Kaufman, Alexa Puccini, and Kelsey Drake filed an amended version of the same complaint Oct. 16.

The amendment expands the swimmers’ initial Sept. 25 demands that called for the reinstatement of the Division I women’s swimming and diving program and the establishment of new women’s sports at the UI. The complainants’ revised demands advocate for the UI to establish NCAA Division I women’s rugby and wrestling teams, specifically.

Currently, women’s wrestling and rugby are both labeled as “emerging sports” by the NCAA. This means that, while some Division I schools do offer these programs, the sports are not considered championship sports by the NCAA. Thus, NCAA-sponsored championship series for the sports do not yet exist.

The “emerging sports” list was created in 1994 in conjunction with the NCAA’s Gender Equity Task Force. A minimum of forty Division I varsity programs are required for an emerging sport to become a championship sport.

In total, 35 NCAA Division I women’s wrestling programs have been established thus far, despite the sport being approved at the Division II and III levels. Seven Division I women’s rugby programs exist across the country.

At Iowa, women’s rugby is available at the club level.

Two plaintiffs’ names have been added to the now-amended Title IX complaint.

Abbie Lyman is a freshman at the University of Iowa. She wrestled in high school, but has not found any opportunities to continue her career at the UI thus far. She characterized the UI’s lack of support for women’s wrestling as being “unusual and disappointing” as the Hawkeye wrestling program is internationally prominent and could easily support a women’s wrestling team because the sport is so popular at the high school level in the state of Iowa.

Miranda Vermeer is a senior at the UI and president of the women’s rugby club. Vermeer claims that the UI offers the club “minimal” support, and that there are enough nearby universities with teams to support a full schedule should the UI ever establish a competitive women’s rugby team.

RELATED: Title IX complaint filed by Iowa women’s swim and dive student-athletes

The complaint also notes that the UI would have to add 81 new athletic opportunities for women to ensure complete Title IX compliance.

According to the complaint, “The University will still be providing male students with far more athletics opportunities, more scholarship dollars, and better treatment than its female students, even if it moves forward with the announced cuts to the men’s sports programs.”

Federal law dictates that schools must provide a proportionate number of athletics opportunities for women based on the institution’s full-time enrollment.

As stated in the complaint, women comprised 53.56 percent of the UI’s student body in 2018-19, but they are only provided with 50.77 percent of athletic opportunities.

The complaint also alleges that emerging women’s sports have not received a great deal of recognition at the UI.

Athletics Director Gary Barta and President Bruce Harreld are also attached to the complaint following the revision.

James C. Larew is the attorney working with the plaintiffs, and he argues that Barta and Harreld have yet to provide “a full and more truthful accounting for wrongful and discriminatory conduct by the UI.” Larew noted that the amended complaint adds material facts that have happened since the complaint was originally filed.

Barta and Harreld have been persistent, reaffirming and confirming the UI’s discontinuation of its men’s gymnastics, tennis, swimming and diving, and women’s swimming and diving programs at every juncture.

Despite Big Ten football’s return this fall, Barta said Iowa’s athletics department is still facing a $40-60 million budget deficit. He also called the Save Iowa Sports group’s fundraising efforts admirable at a Sept. 23 State Board of Regents meeting. There, he stated that it would take 20 to 30 times the amount of funding the Save Iowa Sports group had raised to revive the four sports the UI discontinued Aug. 21.