Iowa's Barta: Title IX Settlement Led to W. Wrestling

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Athletic director Gary Barta said a number of factors led to the decision to add women's wrestling at the University of Iowa — a rise in women’s wrestling both in Iowa and across the country and the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a Title IX lawsuit settlement from four women’s swimmers.

The Title IX lawsuit settlement — brought on by Sage Ohlensehlen, Kelsey Drake, Christina Kaufman, and Alexa Puccini after Iowa initially cut men's and women's swimming and diving along with two other sports in August 2020 â€” included an agreement that the UI would add another women’s sport.

As reported by The Daily Iowan, Iowa permanently reinstated women’s swimming and diving in February 2020. But the men’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis and men’s gymnastics programs all terminated at the end of the 2020-21 academic year.

“As part of the Title IX lawsuit settlement, we agreed to add a women’s sport,” Barta said at a press conference last week. “Our decision was to add the sport of women’s wrestling. Again, at the University of Iowa, we believe that sport makes the most sense in terms of adding.

“Were it not for the Title IX lawsuit, I wasn’t ready to add women’s wrestling yet. But I can tell you that why the timing may be challenging, the decision is awesome. We’re excited about it. We’re ready to go forward.”

Barta said women's wrestling has been on his radar for years, and men's wrestling coach Tom Brands has encouraged the addition.

Currently, Iowa is not among the 32 states that have sanctioned girls' wrestling at the high school level, but the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association sponsors a state tournament each year. Last season, more than 600 girls participated in the tournament, according to The Daily Iowan. The athletic department will initially offer 10 women's wrestling scholarships, which can be divided throughout a roster expected to reach 30 to 35 athletes.

As reported by NBC affiliate KWWL in Waterloo, Jim Larew, the attorney representing the female athletes, said settlement negotiations between the two sides have been ongoing for months. Settlement terms were not finalized until "shortly before" Barta's press conference Thursday announcing the addition of women's wrestling. They require the university to commit to the women's swimming and diving program's long-term success beyond restoring it. The university also agreed to decrease the number of varsity spots on its rowing team. It will put a cap at 75 women for Title IX compliance counting purposes. In the past, it has been as high as 90 or 104, according to Larew. Decreasing the number of rowing positions will allow for more spots on other women's sports, including wrestling.

Ohlensehlen left Iowa to study law at Southern Methodist University. "As a lawyer future lawyer, I'm gonna say I won my first case," she said, as reported by KWWL.

"I'm really glad that through the efforts I went through this year and, no matter how hard it was, I was able to make a difference in the world make a difference for young women in the state of Iowa and beyond and give them an opportunity that I had to compete for a division one school, which was life-altering, life-changing and has had such a positive impact on my life. I'm so glad I was able to get the opportunity to other people who deserve it."

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