On Aug. 21, I and people I love were handed a betrayal by institutions I have loved and revered my entire life, the University of Iowa and the UI Athletic Dept. Anyone who has been betrayed by a loved one knows the sheer agony, unlike any other, of being angry and hurt to the very core of your being. In this case, the feeling is mixed with the utter grief and loss.
UI has announced it is dismantling the men’s and women’s Hawkeye Swimming and Diving program at the conclusion of the 2020-21 season. The reason given is that due to the loss of football revenue during a pandemic, four athletic programs need to be cut for the survival of other programs. Student athletes, who had spent their summer anxiously waiting for and trusting the guidance of the athletic department, found out at their first gathering with the team since early March, that, instead, their team is being discarded.
Their coaches, who have trained and cared for these young adults and who are the heart and soul of the program, had been given 30 minutes to process this knowledge before it was announced to their assembled student athletes, some were freshmen who had arrived on campus a few days prior and hadn’t even started classes let alone practice. Some had just survived the derecho that ripped through the state. All were young adults trying to come to terms with all the loss and change that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In their open letter, the U of I Athletic Dept. claims to be “transparent” and to have considered the importance, engagement, and history of Hawkeye Swimming and Diving before cutting the program.
History? Hawkeye Swimming and Diving is a program that originated in 1917 during World War I, survived the Spanish flu pandemic, the Great Depression, World War II, and Title IX cuts over its 103-year history. It is a program that has produced 27 Olympians, 476 NCAA All-Americans, and 19 NCAA champions. The butterfly stroke was invented at UI. Hawkeye Swimming and Diving not only had several athletes slated to compete in last season’s canceled NCAA Championships, but has athletes who are slated to compete at the 2021 Olympic Trials and the program is scheduled to host NCAA Championships in Iowa City in March 2021. After competing in the basement of the Field House for decades, a spectacular multimillion dollar facility was opened in 2010. It has 48 students on its roster from around the world.
Transparency? As far as anyone knows, no stakeholders in the program were told the program was in jeopardy. Within 48 hours, 13,000 people have signed a petition to save the program. Did UI athletic directors consider talking to Hawkeye athletic staff to field ideas, possibilities, or hear consequences of their decision? I cannot imagine that any coach within the UI Athletic Department wants to lose programs; how can they not think, but by the grace of God go I? They know fellow student athletes on campus support each other. They know engaging experiences are what bring and keep students at the university. The athletic directors did not even share the knowledge with University of Iowa supporters that some teams were potentially in danger due to the loss of revenue, giving them the opportunity to donate or help out. The stated deficit is $65 million. We all know what amazing things can be accomplished when a community knows it is in danger, and maybe money could have been raised; but apparently none of this occurred to the athletic director. No, instead, within a mere 10 days of Hawkeye football being canceled, four other programs were just simply gone. How can anyone who loves the UI and UI Athletics rest well in this decision?
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Amy Hoherz is a University of Iowa graduate who lives in Spring, Tx. Her son, Anton Hoherz, is a senior diver at UI who is slated to go to Olympic trials.