Iowa men’s swimming and diving reflects on turbulent season coming to a close

The men’s swimming and diving team was the first of the three programs slated to be cut at the end of this year to end its season.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s Ricky Williams competes in the 1000m freestyle during a swim meet at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. The women’s team hosted Nebraska while the men’s team had an intrasquad scrimmage.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

No members of the Iowa men’s swimming and diving team wanted to leave the pool deck March 6.

The fourth and final day of the Big Ten Championships in Columbus, Ohio, did not only mark the end of the 2021 season for the majority of the athletes but also the last time a men’s swimming and the diving team as a whole would represent Iowa.

The 104-year-old program is the first of the three Iowa teams slated to be cut after this academic year to finish its season.

Iowa head swimming and diving coach Marc Long told his male swimmers to keep their heads down and block out the noise following the UI’s August decision to cut the program, but the team felt the weight of the discontinuation set in after the Big Ten Championships concluded.

“We were so driven to get better, to move forward this year that I think we were trying to block out any of some of the outside noise,” Long said. “I think [the team] grew closer because of that, but I will say that last session that Big Ten’s, certainly that last relay, was emotional. We had trouble leaving the deck. We all sat together. A lot of emotion at that time. That’s I think when it started to really hit us.”

Sophomore Ryan Purdy noted the adversity of the past eight months made this season’s men’s swimming and diving team the closest-knit group he’s ever been a part of. Purdy said nearly every member of the team cried on the pool deck after that final meet.

“There’s no question in my mind that this is the strongest-bonded team in Iowa swimming history,” Purdy said. “When I committed here, I thought it was a great team, I thought the bonds were really strong. It felt like a family. My freshman year, I was like ‘man, this is even better than I thought it would be,’ and we kept building that. This year, it grew so much more into a family, not just a team.”

Long, who has been the head coach of the women’s team since the 2004-05 season and took the helm of the men’s team as well a season later, said he’s still unpacking the many emotions that come with an end of a program.

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A Hawkeye swimmer from 1987-89, Long also noted the honor and pride he has felt as head coach at his alma mater and was especially proud of this year’s men’s team for its handling of the situation.

Long mentioned the men continued to work hard throughout a season where they had to worry about performing well this year as well as deal with the stress that comes with transferring to a different school next year.

Purdy, who will transfer to Arizona next season, said he will always remember the Iowa swimming team fondly but will look back on the UI in the opposite light.

“[The team] is going to be my first home,” Purdy said. “I grew so much with these guys. They’re my best friends. They’re my family now. My experience swimming for this team has been unreal. Swimming for this university has been awful. They have shown no respect to us. They have no pride in us. It is the most disrespectful athletic administration in this country. There’s no clarity, it’s blatant disrespect, blatant obliviousness to their athletes, and it doesn’t start with just one person. It’s a branch of people that has plagued this athletic establishment here. We weren’t competing for this university. We were competing for each other and for ourselves.”