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Iowa alumni make plea to Board of Regents to save four sports targeted for elimination

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

University of Iowa alumni seeking to save four sports targeted for elimination have taken their fight to the Board of Regents, sending a letter late Thursday with more than 260 signatures complaining about the "reckless manner" in which the decision was made and asking for it to be reversed.

The letter was written by Vickie Nauman, a Des Moines native who was a swimmer at Iowa from 1982-86. Men's and women's swimming and diving, along with men's gymnastics and tennis, are the four sports that Iowa athletic director Gary Barta announced Aug. 21 needed to be cut in order to help offset an expected revenue loss of $100 million after the fall football season was canceled over health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barta has said shedding those four sports, out of 24 total that Iowa has offered, will save $5 million annually.

Nauman, who lives in Los Angeles and works in the music and technology industry, complains in her letter that the decision caught current athletes and alumni by surprise and "has caused a growing concern among the broad community that the University did not abide by its own policies and procedures, put the students’ interests last, and did not operate in good faith to its current teams and their families."

The letter includes the names of more than 260 alumni of Iowa, mainly former athletes, dating back to the 1950s.

Nauman questions whether the university's Presidential Committee on Athletics was provided any input into Barta's decision and whether it was even truly made because of finances.

"If this was truly driven by a lack of revenue, the University would have provided notice and response in the community, thereby enabling private donations and capital from alumni," she wrote.

"This announcement was given to everyone as a unilateral, unchanging position, which negates most plausible arguments other than the Athletic Department simply didn’t want to support these sports any longer. Is this really how the University treats its student athletes in a time of crisis?"

Barta has said that his decision will not be reversed. Iowa President Bruce Harreld also has signed off on it, and the Board of Regents was made aware of the university's plans ahead of time, Barta said.

The five-page letter concludes with a request of the Board of Regents: "We formally ask the Board of Regents to hear us, to provide much needed governance, and to reverse this decision so that we reinstate the programs and in parallel can develop alternative solutions to preserve the legacy of the programs and show utmost respect to the current athletes."

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at memmert@registermedia.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.

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