QC Native working to save Iowa Swimming and Diving program

The program, along with men's tennis and men's gymnastics, will discontinue after this season
Published: Aug. 24, 2020 at 7:08 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWQC) - “They said ‘good news, you’ll be able to compete this year, but after that we’re done,’ it was the saddest news I’ve ever received in my life, it was heartbreaking,” said Iowa swimmer and Bettendorf native Sage Ohlensehlen.

As colleges across the country deal with new challenges in athletics in the age of covid-19, Iowa is one of the latest schools to cut varsity programs. On Friday the university announced that after the 2020-21 season, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis, and men’s gymnastics would no longer be varsity sports. This takes Iowa’s total number of varsity programs from 24 to 20. The news came as a complete shock to Ohlensehlen.

“It was so unexpected,” said Ohlensehlen “There are six different club teams in the quad cities that are full of swimmers who are aspiring to go to a school like Iowa and it’s not right that they’ve had that dream stripped from them.”

On Monday Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta held a press conference to talk about the cut programs. He said the cuts were a direct result of the Big Ten cancelling their Fall football season.

“Why these four sports? That’s a question any reasonable person would ask and I’m going to tell you there’s no good answer,” said Barta, “We ended up cutting the sports we felt were going to best position us to come out of this pandemic once it’s all over we created that list of 12 factors that we thought of, we considered, but at the end of the day we come out of this, we couldn’t move forward supporting 24 sports at a competition level we expect.”

But Ohlensehlen was not pleased with how Barta handled the situation.

“If he would’ve told us earlier ‘hey, this could happen’, we would have fundraised we would have contacted donors we would have done everything we possibly can and we’re still going to do all those things so I don’t agree with that statement that they did everything they can that’s not correct,” said Ohlensehlen.

Now Ohlensehlen is doing what she can to revive the program.

“You dust yourself off and you make the next moves and now we’re looking at how we’re going to save the program,”

A petition has been started titled “Save UIowa Swim & Dive” has garnered over 16-thousand signatures and Ohlensehlen has reached out to over 40 Olympic athletes herself.

However, in Barta’s announcement about the four sports being discontinued, he said “Our decision to reduce our program offerings is final. 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.”

The University’s swimming and diving program started back in over 100 years ago in 1917.

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