Judge temporarily saves Iowa women’s swim and dive

A federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction brought against the University of Iowa, momentarily stopping the school’s plan to cut its women’s swimming and diving program.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa swimmers embrace each other after the 800 Free Relay during the first session of the 2020 Big Ten Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships at the HTRC on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

On Tuesday, United States District Court Judge Stephanie Rose granted a preliminary injunction brought against the University of Iowa by four members of the Hawkeye women’s swimming and diving team – Sage Ohlensehlen, Alex Puccini, Christina Kaufman, and Kelsey Drake. For the time being, Rose’s decision effectively blocks the UI’s plan to cut the sport at the end of the 2020-21 academic year.

Rose’s actions are latest in an ongoing legal battle between the four women’s swimmers, the University of Iowa, President Bruce Harreld, and Athletics Director Gary Barta. The women’s swimmers’ initial Title IX complaint was filed Sept. 25, and alleged that the UI’s decision to cut the women’s swim and dive program caused irreparable harm to the plaintiffs’ academic and athletic careers. The original complaint also stated that the UI’s decision to cut women’s swimming made it non-compliant with Title IX of the federal education amendments of 1972.

On Aug. 21, the UI decided to discontinue its men’s and women’s swimming and diving and men’s tennis and gymnastics programs. Barta attributed the cuts to a COVID-19-related budget deficit of about $40 to 60 million. That figure accounts for the money Iowa’s athletic department gained from playing football this fall.

Barta has previously noted that all sports cuts are final.

While the women’s swimming and diving program may be temporarily saved, men’s swimming and diving, tennis, and gymnastics still remain in limbo – facing extinction at the end of the 2020-21 academic year.

In an effort to revive the other three dying programs, a group of parents, alumni, and other stakeholders – known as the Save Iowa Sports group – is working on a plan to remove Olympic sports from the UI Athletics Deparment’s umbrella. The plan would place the sports under independent supervision or under the watchful eye of another UI entity like the Tippie College of Business. The group has also launched a pledge-based fundraising campaign to aid the ailing programs. That campaign has garnered nearly $2.85 million in pledges to date.

The 2019-20 season schedules for the four discontinued sports have yet to be released. But, Barta said he expects schedules for Olympic sports to come out in early January.