University of Iowa to Cut Swimming & Diving After 2020-21 Season (Updated)

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

According to sources, the University of Iowa will be cutting its swimming and diving programs – both men and women, after the conclusion of the 2020 – 21 season due to the ongoing financial struggles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This would be the first school in the power five Division I conferences to cut its swim team since the COVID-19 pandemic began as East Carolina, Connecticut, Boise State and Dartmouth out of the mid-majors made similar announcements.

The announcement was made by University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld and Athletic Director Gary Barta as men’s gymnastics and men’s tennis were also cut.

In an open letter, Harreld and Barta make the following statement:

“The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a financial exigency which threatens our continued ability to adequately support 24 intercollegiate athletics programs at the desired championship level. With the Big Ten Conference’s postponement of fall competition on August 11, UI Athletics now projects lost revenue of approximately $100M and an overall deficit between $60-75M this fiscal year. A loss of this magnitude will take years to overcome. We have a plan to recover, but the journey will be challenging.”

The University of Iowa men finished sixth at the 2020 Big Ten Swimming & Diving Championships out of ten teams as the Hawkeyes become the first men’s swim team cut in the Big Ten since Illinois finished competing after the 1993 season.

Iowa’s women’s team was ninth at Big Ten’s this year out of 13 teams as no women’s team in the Big Ten, besides the University of Maryland, has cut women’s swimming, making this decision a truly historical one.

The University of Iowa is also scheduled to host the upcoming men’s NCAA Division I swimming and diving championships in 2021 as their world class facility first opened its doors in the summer of 2010 and has hosted the 2015 NCAAs as well as five Big Ten championships – three men and two women.

The University of Iowa qualified four swimmers to the 2020 NCAA championships before the meet was cancelled to slow down COVID-19 – two from each team. Senior Hannah Burvill qualified in the 200 free along with junior Kelsey Drake (200 butterfly), sophomore Anze Fers Erzen (200 back) and junior Daniel Swanepoel (200 breaststroke).

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University of Iowa set up for the 2015 Men’s NCAAs. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

University of Iowa Swimming History

Glenn Patton

Glenn Patton – Iowa coach from 1975 – 1998. Photo Courtesy: Swimming World Archive

The Hawkeye women finished as high as second at the 1986 Big Ten Championships in a tie with Minnesota as the Hawkeye men first started competing at the Big Ten Championships in 1919. The Iowa men celebrated conference titles in 1936, 1981 and 1982 as they were a consistent top five team from 1978 – 1996 under coach Glenn Patton.

During his tenure, Patton coached Artur Wojdat to nine individual NCAA titles, including four straight in the 500 from 1989 – 1992. He also won the 1650 three times from 1990 – 1992 and the 200 free in 1989 and 1991.

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National champion butterflyer Rafal Szukala. Photo Courtesy: Tim Morse / Swimming World Archive

Patton also coached Rafal Szukala to national titles in the 100 fly in 1994 and 200 fly in 1992 as he was the last individual national champion for the University of Iowa in swimming and diving.

Under coach David Armbruster from 1917 – 1958, the Hawkeye men won seven individual national titles from Ray Walters (1936, 50 free), Wally Ris (1948, 1949, 100 free), Ed Garst (1950, 50 free), Lincoln Hurring (1956, 100, 200 back), and Gary Morris (1958, 50 free).

On the women’s side, Iowa won 14 individual events at the Big Ten Championships, with the last coming from Becky Stoughton in the 1650 in 2015, as well as the 800 free relay in 1986. The men’s last individual Big Ten champion came from diver Timo Klami in the 3m in 2003 as well as the duo of Ales Abersek (100 fly) and Jay Glenn (200 free) in 2000. The Hawkeyes also won the 200 & 400 freestyle relays in 2012 in their home facility.

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Emma Sougstad celebrates a B-Final win at the 2016 NCAAs. Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

The Hawkeyes are currently coached by Marc Long, who has been at Iowa since the fall of 2004 and has coached both men and women since 2005, finishing as high as fifth at men’s Big Ten’s in 2012 and eighth at women’s Big Ten’s in 2014 and 2015.

Current Iowa assistant Emma Sougstad was an All-American swimmer for the Hawkeyes when she finished sixth in the 100 breaststroke at the 2017 NCAAs, breaking 59 seconds for the first time.

Artur Wojdat Closes Successful Collegiate Career in 1992

From Swimming World Magazine, May 1992 issue:

The most dominant collegiate swimmer for the past three years has been Artur Wojdat of the University of Iowa. Coming in to this year’s NCAA Championships Wojdat had won seven individual titles. By winning all three of his individual events he would move into a second place tie with John Naber with 10 titles, one behind Morales who dominated the butterfly and the 200 IM in the mid-80s.

Wojdat came out steaming in his first race of the meet, the 500 freestyle.

“I wanted to be sure I could win this one,” said Wojdat, “so I took it out faster than usual in case Mariusz (Podkoscielny) had something up his sleeve. I felt more comfortable having the security of a yard lead in case he decided to make a charge.”

Wojdat finished the race in 4:12.79, nearly three seconds ahead of Podkoscielny, a senior from Arizona, and just over few tenths slower than his NCAA record time. The win was his fourth consecutive 500 freestyle title at the championships and gave him eight individual titles (with two races to go), tying him with a pair of swimming legends, Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi.

“It feels great to join such an elite group of swimmers,” said Wojdat. “It was my main goal (today) just to win the race. l wasn’t looking for a particular time.”

The loss to Wojdat by Podkoscielny marked the fourth consecutive second place finish for the Arizona swimmer in this event.

He said, “It is a frustrating sport. It could go any way, but if I didn’t like what was happening for me I wouldn’t do it. Only one guy can win. I’m just lucky enough to have finished second four years in a row to such a great swimmer.”

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Artur Wojdat – University of Iowa’s best swimmer. Photo Courtesy: Swimming World Archive

The next challenge for Wojdat would be his toughest, the 200 freestyle. Traditionally the 200 had not been his best event. He lost to Doug Gjertsen of Texas in 1990 before regaining the title last season by two-hundredths of a second over Arizona State’s Troy Dalbey. However, in prelims Wojdat managed to qualify the fastest time and earn the inside lane.

For finals, Wojdat again went out fast and bettered his prelim time. But, it wasn’t enough as Michigan’s freshman Gustavo Borges surprised everyone from the outside lane and out touched Wojdat by one-hundredth of a second, 1:34.66 to 1:34.67.

Wojdat said alter the race, “I think three years ago I won by just a few tenths, last year I won by only a couple hundredths. If you gamble this way, you can’t always win. But this happens. I’m disappointed but life goes on.”

“I had a bad feeling going into this race,” Wojdat continued. “I was not feeling real well after this morning’s heat. I got out of the pool tired and just knew I wasn’t going to swim real well. I think the swims from yesterday took a lot out of me and I didn’t get a good rest.”

The next test for Wojdat would be to go after his ninth title in his favorite race, the 1650. “Next to the 400 IM and the 200 fly, this is the hardest race in swimming. Not only does it take a long time to prepare for this race, but you really have to battle with yourself. It is a real test of endurance. This is the essence of athletics for me,” he said.

Once again, Wojdat took the pace out very fast, splitting a 50.38 in the opening leg and averaging near 53.70. Podkoscielny gave Wojdat some stiff competition from laps four through eight, but couldn’t hold the pace, eventually finishing third behind a terrific effort by Cal’s Rob Darzynkiewicz. Wojdat retained his title in the event with a 14:43.09.

Wojdat responded to winning his ninth title and the prospect of someone winning 12 saying, “Twelve titles is very hard. That person must be an excellent swimmer and the rest of the competition pretty weak. I don’t see it ever happening, not now. It would have been possible in the past like in the ’70s when John Naber used to swim and he won championships when you could swim different strokes and do so successfully. There may be only one exception right now, being Tamas Darnyi from Hungary. He holds world record in two events. There is no other guy who would hold world records in two events, the specialty is too hard.”

“It was a pleasure to compete here for Iowa. I gained a lot of experience. I am very satisfied and proud of my wins,” he ended.

76 comments

      • avatar
        Debra Solomon

        This is horrible. Iowa has one of the best natatoriums in the Big Ten. If Penn State can keep their program, Iowa should be able to do the same. All athletic programs in the nation are facing the same issues with COVID.

    • Miles Allie

      Mariah Kay very sad to see this happening.

  1. Tricia Mills Frericks

    This is devastating news to hear!!! The fallout of CoViD & Big 10 not having football when other conferences are at least trying it! Feel horrible for Iowa, coaches, swimmers & future swimmers! Praying for other teams that they don’t suffer this huge loss too!

    • Tricia Mills Frericks

      Brian Park I know!!! I am a parent of an Iowa FB player too & part of the parent group fighting to Let Them Play!!! What a hypocrite!

      • avatar
        John

        Doubling down and playing will only cause more spread of covid and further loss of jobs and revenue. Tourniquets exist for a reason: lose an arm, save the life. This isn’t what you want to hear. But it’s what true. “Trying” to swm against the tide is a losing proposition. Facing reality requires sacrifice. It’s time to stop and think about what is truly important, and what is not. If your son was a COVID front-line medical worker, believe me you’d feel differently.

    • Brian Park

      Tricia Mills Frericks good luck. I swam varsity at University of Maryland. Our athletic director cut swimming & diving years ago and I feel bad for the athletes that won’t get the chance I did.

    • Tricia Mills Frericks

      Brian Park A very sad day! I have a daughter who is a swimmer. Not looking good for future swim/dive athletes who work so hard to get the experience to swim in college.

    • Brian Park

      Tricia Mills Frericks I agree non revenue sports may be in trouble.

  2. Matt Gold

    Ashwin Ramakrishnan

  3. Scott Martens

    Poor. Not a proud Hawkeye today…

  4. avatar
    Oldbacksroker

    And the senseless slaughter continues

  5. Lance Holter

    They have such an amazing swimming and diving facility.

  6. Tammy Arbogast

    They hosted B1G men’s champs in 2019. Love the facility.

    • J David Hillery

      Tammy Arbogast NCAA’s a few years ago and again next year.

  7. Jason Cronk

    Open everything up. Let’s get back to normal. Be smart, be careful, but open the country 100%. This has got to stop.

    • Les Shew

      Jason Cronk yep. Football funds so many other things. Unbelievable bad decision by the Big 10.

    • avatar
      John

      Doubling down on a losing hand is for amateurs. Leave public health policy to the experts please.

  8. David A. Heinold

    Why? Swimming is one of the safest activities to do

    • avatar
      Jennifer Parks

      I live in the Great Lakes State, Michigan. I coached Women for Michigan State for 14 years, won 2 Big 10 Championships, Runners -Up twice, many All-Americans. Money is tight, but I don’t understand why schools can’t have less traveling teams, spend less money. Our non- $$ sports give opportunities to student-athlete, who become some of the biggest donors, supporters for those big teams. Are we in the Entertainment business or the Academic business. ??? Think about the future.

  9. avatar
    Mathew O'Brien

    How is this possible in the B1G? The B1G Network sends more than enough money each year to keep the programs.

  10. John Messina

    It’s difficult to understand why they wouldn’t at least look at alternative funding models before making this decision. The facility is a fixed cost so unless they shut it down that isn’t going away. Boise State raised close to $1M in a week or two and that was a relatively new team with a small alumni network. Iowa could easily raise enough to fund the program for the next few years and get through this. They clearly lack any vision or understanding of the power of a proud legacy.

  11. Doug Schack

    Correct me if I’m wrong but this isn’t strictly caused by Covid19, is it?

  12. avatar
    DP Spellman

    I feel terrible for the athletes. Lots of great people have gone through the Hawkeye program over the years.
    I place the blame squarely at Gary Barta and Marc Long’s feet. The historical account written above is missing the MAJOR issues that have plagued the UI Athletics Department and in tangent ways the swimming programs. The stewardship of these programs has been problematic for years (even when Patton was the head coach).
    Like Nebraska there will be now be ZERO Division 1 swimming opportunities for Iowa males.
    There are no silver linings in this decision and there are no heroes to be found.

  13. Ryan Connell

    NCAA should pull the 2021 Championship. This should not be rewarded.

  14. avatar
    Brandi West

    Heartbreaking…

    • Liz Jones

      So very sorry to hear of this

  15. Donna Furse

    I am so sad for the swimmers.

  16. Charity Adams-McCafferty

    Swimmers are devastated!! A family friend just transferred there from Purdue swimming and now this!! Such a beautiful facility as well. Have coached my swimmers there several times!! So sad. My heart hurts for all!!

  17. Lori C Taylor

    Parents need to stand up and be heard. I’m sick and tired of all that’s been taken away from our kids. This virus like all the others before won’t go away but we all will have to learn to live with it. Quit shutting schools and business. Start living. I’m not going to be an ostrich with its head stuck in the sand. If you have to wear a mask to keep your job or go to school. Wear it. When you leave that place take it off.

  18. Jennifer Fortney Lutz

    The Big10 should be ashamed of their decision to cancel football! So many repercussions!

    • Lisa Alcorn

      Jennifer Fortney Lutz EXACTLY ?

  19. Paul Cate

    Swimming is the most abused, most cut sport there is. Has pissed me off forever 50 years. Bureaucrats take ANY excuse to try to nix our beloved sport, or not support it in the first place. BUT, this happened at ASU and the swimming community fought back. The have swimming today, with Bob Bowman as coach. Don’t give up!!!

    • Beth Zielazny Medvedev

      Paul Cate gymnastics as well, especially men’s gymnastics. And wrestling…basically non-revenue sports…

  20. avatar
    Migs

    No NCAA swimming team should go to Iowa for the upcoming championship. This is the time to boycott if it is not moved. Condolences to those swimmers and families who have worked so hard to get there.

    • avatar
      Anonymous

      Completely agree.

  21. avatar
    Anonymous

    NCAA should pull the 2021 championships from the school. Don’t deserve it.

  22. Jean Hill

    Having gone to Iowa and then years later watching my daughter swim in that amazing pool (for another team)…this is just heartbreaking! I am sorry for all involved!!

  23. Hugh Rote

    I swam a time trial for them after the Texas State swim meet, was offered a partial scholarship.

  24. Katie Lundbeck

    What’s up with all the swimming programs being cut!! ?? ?

    • Justin Kinney

      Katie Lundbeck pandemic. Football and basketball revenue support all minor sports. With the seasons in the spring and fall being cancelled or drastically curtailed, there is no money. It’s a difficult situation with no easy answers, especially as the pandemic continues well into the next year.

  25. Kyle Cowan

    All sports are too dependent on Football to survive…that is where the change needs to happen.

    • avatar
      Anonymous

      Agreed!!! Start supporting both financially and physically non revenue sports!!!!

  26. GMX7

    So unnecessary and so devastating!!! We understand the magnitude of something we love and have trained for our whole lives being taken away. To all athletes…… stay strong and find a way to continue to follow your dreams. To the parents……help support them find a way to keep competing. Do not give up, never give up. ???

  27. Michele Eytalis Drogemuller

    This is so sad! All three of my kids swam in college and it was an amazing experience for them! My cousin’s daughter swam there and met her now husband on the team. I hope they reconsider their decision. It’s not football or basketball but such a great sport.

  28. Kimberly Warren

    What these sports need to do is install a no travel policy for a few years to recoup costs, ALL sports. Travel within state, region. No more winter training trips to the Bahamas. Compete and ignite local rivalries – this will help save our non-revenue sports.

  29. avatar
    Paul Eaton

    I was Coach Glenn Patton’s first recruit in 1975…The obstacles and hurdles that the program overcame to progress from last to first over six seasons in the Big Ten was a testament to courage, persistence and desire. Shoddy facilities, limited budgets, recruiting struggles were all overcome with the Blood, Sweat and Tears of hundreds of committed student-athletes, leadership, detailed planning and “Fast water”…I have always been immensely proud to say “I swam at IOWA”…now…just sadness and tears…

  30. avatar
    JIM WHITEHEAD

    Somebody get the report the athletic dept. sends to the NCAA and have a CPA turn it into a spreadsheet. The result will almost certainly show that most sports lose tons of money, with swimming likely not one of the worst. Good luck!