Iowa Hawkeyes

With loss of TV revenue looming, Iowa discontinues 4 sports

Men's gymnastics, men's tennis and men's and women's swimming and diving fall; news conference on Monday

Iowa's Kelsey Drake swims the women's 200 yard butterfly consolation final event during the 2020 Women's Big Ten Swimmin
Iowa's Kelsey Drake swims the women's 200 yard butterfly consolation final event during the 2020 Women's Big Ten Swimming and Diving Championships at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center in Iowa City on Saturday, February 22, 2020. (Stephen Mally/

Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said Monday that Hawkeye athletics faced a $65- to $75-million budget shortfall with the loss of football TV money in 2020. On Friday, the reality set in.

In a joint open letter released Friday, Barta and UI president Bruce Harreld announced plans to discontinue four varsity sports programs at the end of the 2020-21 academic year: men’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and men’s tennis.

The four programs will have the opportunity to compete in their upcoming 2020-21 seasons, if circumstances surrounding COVID-19 permit, before they are discontinued. All existing scholarships will be honored through graduation for those student-athletes who choose to remain at Iowa, Iowa announced. Also, the contracts of affected coaches will be honored.

Iowa revealed that factors considered included sponsorship at the NCAA Division I level, impact on gender equity and Title IX compliance, expense savings, history of the sport at Iowa and engagement level.

Barta will speak on a Zoom video conference call Monday afternoon, but the UI released an FAQ on its reasoning for the cuts.

One factor that needs to be highlighted: The FAQ that came with this news said the decision is final, even if a donor stepped forward to try to save one of these four programs.

“Our decision to reduce our program offerings is final,” the release stated. “While we are grateful for our many loyal and generous donors, private support has not met the escalating and compounding costs of supporting excellence across the board.”

More from the FAQ on the cuts.


Impact of revenue losses

The loss of the Big Ten basketball tournament last spring and the postponement of fall football in the Big Ten will hit Iowa with a loss of $100 million in revenue.

From the release: “A loss of this magnitude will take years to overcome. In collaboration with the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, and UI President Bruce Harreld, we determined the current circumstances require us to adjust our sports sponsorship offerings. By making this announcement now, it affords our student-athletes the opportunity to make decisions on their future education and athletic endeavors.”

Iowa now has 20 officially sponsored varsity sports.

Title IX compliance was a factor in the decision making

“The University of Iowa remains committed to adhering to federal Title IX gender equity compliance. This plan will allow us to continue to provide equitable national championship and academic opportunities for our student-athletes in compliance with Title IX.”

Why these sports?

Again, from the release:

“The following specific factors were considered in determining sport sponsorship at Iowa:

• History of the sport at Iowa

• Sponsorship of the sport at the NCAA Division I level

• Historical competitive success, within the Big Ten Conference and NCAA Division I

• Impact on diversity within our student-athlete and staff populations

• Investment required to achieve competitive excellence on the conference and NCAA Division I level

• Impact on Gender Equity and Title IX compliance

• National, State, and local interest

• Impact on the student-athlete experience across all sports, now and in the future

• Current and future prospect for success of the sport

• Expense savings from the elimination of the sport

• Iowa High School Association sponsorship of sport(s)

• Current and future facility opportunities/needs”

It’s likely these are the only sports Iowa will have to cut, but the message from Barta and Harreld’s letter was there is more budget cutting that needs to happen. In July, Iowa announced a round of salary and spending freezes, including a 50 percent reduction of Harreld’s base salary.

“Over the past few months, several budget cuts including reductions in compensation, operations and position eliminations have been, and continue to be, implemented. While the impact of these savings reduces our expenses, a significant deficit remains. We are working to secure financing to cover the shortfall that provides a repayment plan that allows continued success for our remaining sports.”

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