Former Hawkeye swimmers say they're getting no answers from University of Iowa on dropped sports

'There's been nothing but really closed doors.'

Iowa’s Andrew Fierke celebrates winning the bonus final of the 500-yard freestyle at the 2019 Big Ten Conference Men’s Swimming & Diving Championships at the University of Iowa Campus Recreation and Wellness Center Natatorium in Iowa City on Feb. 28, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Former University of Iowa swimmers and parents of current Hawkeye swimming and diving team members continue to fight for the reinstatement of men’s and women’s swimming at that school, as well as the men’s gymnastics and men’s tennis programs.

“We heard it was 100 percent COVID, it was related to (no) football season.” Mark Kaufman said Wednesday afternoon about Iowa’s August announcement to discontinue those four programs after the 2020-21 school year. “Now that football seems back on track we should expect the University of Iowa to reinstate those four sports, and I hold them to it.”

Kaufman is the father of Hawkeye swimmer Christina Kaufman and the founder/executive chairman of Athletico Physical Therapy.

Charges of a lack of transparency by the university and its athletics department were repeatedly cited in a conference call with media. Vickie Nauman, a music/technology consultant and adviser in Los Angeles and former All-America swimmer at Iowa, said Iowa’s Board of Regents has refused to meet with them.

“Twice we got shot down by the Board,” Nauman said. “They largely sent us form letters. So they don’t seem to be standing up to their part of accountability and responsibility of governance. We have tried to speak with the university and the athletic department. There’s been nothing but really closed doors.

“When we look at the numbers, and the fact that they said this decision was final and no amount of private capital can be raised (to save the programs), to me that really posed the question that they’re saying it’s about finances but it’s actually really not about finances. Because other universities, there are plenty of examples that have gone public and said ‘We have a shortfall, cutting programs is the last resort.’

“And the University of Iowa hasn’t done that. … This is not just a plain-vanilla overleveraged corporation, this is a university and a public university at that. There should be a minimal amount of transparency around why the university athletic department is $209 million in debt.”

Ron Kaminski is a former Hawkeye swimmer who is the president of HBK Engineering, headquartered in Chicago. He said he thinks past overspending is the root of Iowa athletics’ current economic problem.

“When the increase in revenue went in hyperdrive in 2009 and growing by 90 percent,” Kaminski said, “I looked, and their expenses in the athletic department rose 105 percent in that same time, based on data available at the U.S. Department of Education.

“I think what happened is they never thought the music was going to stop. And I think that they got into a spending mechanism that was just financially not sustainable.

“If this were to ever happen in corporate America, there would be changes immediately at the executive level. … I think they’re spinning. I think these are places at which they’re grabbing and they’re pulling at, and they’re hurting hundreds of athletes, hundreds of alumni, and it’s catastrophic.”

The people on the Zoom conference represent a much-larger group, and say they aren’t done trying to get answers and accountability from the university.

“I haven’t seen anything that makes any sort of rational sense,” Nauman said.

“The lack of process, the lack of notice, the fact the university didn’t adhere to many of its own policies including putting the students’ well-being first.”

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