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Judge Denies Iowa Swimmers' Restraining Order Request

Brock Fritz

The process to discontinue the University of Iowa women’s swimming and diving team is still underway after a federal court judge rejected a request for a restraining order.

According to The Gazette, U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose rejected the request of six female student-athletes one day after it was formally made.

“Because plaintiffs have not established the threat of irreparable injury ‘of such imminence that there is a clear and present need for equitable relief to prevent irreparable harm,’ … they have not established a need for such immediate emergency relief,” Rose wrote in an order Friday, according to The Gazette. “However, the court appreciates the time-sensitive nature of plaintiffs’ dilemma as a general matter, and finds expedited briefing to be appropriate.”

Related content: Iowa Cuts Four Sports as Deficits Hit Big Ten

A hearing has been set for Dec. 18, three months after Iowa swimmers Sage Ohlensehlen, Christian Kaufman, Alexa Puccini and Kelsey Drake filed a lawsuit against the school. The initial lawsuit alleged that Iowa cutting the women’s swim program after the 2020-21 school year, which was part of an August announcement that also cut the men’s swim, men’s gymnastics and men’s tennis programs, violates Title IX.

“Based on published information, before the decision was made to eliminate these programs, the University of Iowa was not providing women with equal sports opportunities or equal scholarships … placing the institution far out of compliance with Title IX,” the complaint read.

Related content: Iowa Student-Athletes Sue Over Swim/Dive Team Cut

The athletes have also stressed that their situation is time sensitive, as athletes have started to look at additional opportunities, including transferring. The September Title IX complaint said that 15 of the 35 swimmers and divers had already committed to swim elsewhere.

“Recruiting qualified women-athletes to participate in future UI women’s swimming and diving teams has crashed to a halt,” the restraining order request read, according to The Gazette. “With the program’s announced termination, incoming students who were set to swim at UI have changed plans and will not attend the UI after all.

“Further, the swimming and diving team stands to be permanently damaged as coaches are faced with critical career decisions given the finality with which the UI’s termination decision was voiced by defendants (UI President) Bruce Harreld and Gary Barta. Without temporary and preliminary relief, irreparable harm will result on each of these fronts.”

Prior to Big Ten reversing and starting football this fall, Iowa was projecting about $100 million of lost revenue and an overall deficit between $60 million to $75 million this fiscal year. Therefore, the university decided to discontinue men’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and men’s tennis at the conclusion of the 2020-21 academic year.

“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,” Iowa’s August release read. ”A loss of this magnitude will take years to overcome.  We have a plan to recover, but the journey will be challenging.

“We are committed to support and care for the impacted student-athletes, coaches and staff throughout the transition period.  All existing scholarships will be honored through graduation for those student-athletes who choose to remain at Iowa. If a student-athlete wishes to transfer to another institution, we will assist them in every way possible. In addition, we will continue to provide academic and mental health support as requested. The contracts of affected coaches will be honored.”

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