5 thoughts on Iowa adding women’s wrestling, including Title IX impact

IOWA CITY – The stories of a young Tom and Terry Brands fighting in their basement in Sheldon are legendary, just as the resumes of the twin brothers would become academically and internationally.

But every year when they were kids, Tom and Terry faced one of their fiercest opponents – a cousin, Misti. She was a year older and lived in Wyoming, but stayed with the Brands family in northwest Iowa for about two months each summer.

“She used to beat Terry and I. She was a fierce competitor,” Tom Brands, 1996 Olympic gold medalist and now in his 16th season as a wrestling coach, told The Register. ‘University of Iowa. “We were best friends, but she kept us both apart. A lot of little brothers who have big sisters have this story.”

In other words, Brands’ appreciation for women’s wrestling dates back almost five decades. This passion will no doubt be felt when women’s wrestling becomes an officially sponsored sport in Iowa in the 2023-24 academic year.

Here are four more thoughts on the college’s announcement Thursday morning to add women’s wrestling as the 22nd varsity sport (and the first addition since women’s football in 1996).

Without the Title IX trial, women’s wrestling would not have been added so quickly.

Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta has confirmed that a settlement agreement regarding the Title IX lawsuit (originally brought forward a year ago by four female swimming and diving athletes after Iowa announced that it would eliminate four sports in response to financial problems caused by COVID-19) has been completed, with paperwork being the last hurdle. The center of the deal, according to Barta, was that Iowa would add another women’s sport (in addition to restoring women’s swimming). Barta said it was obvious to choose wrestling “for obvious reasons”.

Barta noted that the timeline for adding a women’s sport has been sped up by the lawsuit.

“Without COVID, we wouldn’t have cut sports,” Barta said. “If it hadn’t been for the Title IX trial, I wasn’t ready to add the women’s wrestling yet. But I can tell you that while the timing may be tough, the decision is awesome. are delighted and we are ready to move forward. “

Lawyer James Larew released a statement from Iowa’s female swimming athletes, who applauded the decision and believe it will create more opportunities for female athletes nationwide – as other universities are expected. follow the example of Iowa. Brands said he knew of other people who were about to make a similar announcement.

The NCAA defines Title IX compliance as requiring dollar-for-dollar spending on scholarships for both men and women, and it must be commensurate with the student body. According to the Iowa Fiscal Year 2020 report provided to the NCAA, $ 6,524,387 was spent on athletic assistance for men and $ 5,860,477 for women. (This was, of course, before the elimination of the three men’s sports.)

Barta pointed out that a growing trend in the number of women attending university nationwide was one reason her department was considering adding the fight before COVID and up to five years before.

Wrestler Megastar Spencer Lee, right, and associate men's wrestling coach Terry Brands attend Thursday's press conference announcing the start of women's wrestling in Iowa.

Iowa’s premier women’s wrestling coach will be entering a new facility… and a high level.

Private funding and logistics have enabled the proposed $ 20 million self-contained wrestling facility – which will be built adjacent to the Carver-Hawkeye Arena – to gain board approval. The land is expected to be cleared in the spring or early summer of 2022. And yes, the women’s locker rooms were part of the architectural designs in anticipation of the addition of women’s wrestling.

But beyond that, Iowa’s first female wrestling head coach will step up to a high standard that was set by Dan Gable and now Tom and (associate head coach) Terry Brands. These standards are, without risk of being mistaken, national championship level. The Hawkeye Wrestling Club recently added three women, a sign of the preparatory work underway to put Iowa in a good position when – not if – the sport achieves sanctioned NCAA championship status.

“When you become the next coach of women’s wrestling, there’s a lot at stake,” said Tom Brands. “There’s a lot at stake right out of the gate. “

And think about this: a current teenage wrestling enthusiast knows that if she competes for Iowa, she’ll be rubbing her elbows and likely getting some advice from the great Spencer Lee. I exchanged a few direct Twitter messages with three-time NCAA champion and megastar Hawkeye on Thursday, who has no plans to leave wrestling in Iowa after his eligibility expires after the 2021-22 season. .

“Yes, it’s true!” Lee wrote. “This is a big deal.”

Gary Barta says he wouldn't have added women's wrestling so quickly without the recent Title IX trial.

Adding a sport after the pain of cutting three cannot be lost.

After Barta made the announcement 13 months ago to cut four university-sponsored track and field programs, he said the decisions were final. “The dollars are so important that there really is no way to go to change this decision,” he said in August 2020.

While women’s swimming was ultimately rescued after their Title IX complaint was filed, three men’s sports had their final seasons in the 2020-21 academic year – gymnastics, tennis and swimming.

These three men’s sports, on average, created a deficit for Iowa track and field of about $ 2.67 million per year. Those cost savings were the rationale for the cuts, and athletics ended up borrowing $ 50 million from the university to cover the losses created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Women’s wrestling is almost certain to run at a loss as well, with Barta expecting spending in the order of $ 500,000 – including coaching salaries and up to 10 authorized scholarships for women. Only two sports in Iowa (and most of the Power Five universities) are profitable: football and men’s basketball. So the financial argument for eliminating sport rings hollow now … especially for male athletes who have had their sport slashed.

“That’s what we thought we had to do (then). I’m expected to be self-sufficient (as a department),” Barta said on Tuesday. “And that was our collective decision and certainly mine in terms of the responsibility of defining how we were going to deal with this crisis and this deficit. And the decision we came to was to eliminate these sports.”

Tom Brands’ press conference remarks began and ended with standing up for women.

First, he congratulated the Iowa Assistant Director of Sports. Barbara Burke was not part of Thursday’s press conference, but she should have been. She directly oversees wrestling and has been a strong partner in helping Brands bring Iowa wrestling back to the top of the NCAA, with a national title in 2021.

“I’ve had some great bosses in my career, and she’s outperforming them all. And I’ve told everyone else (bosses) that too,” Brands said. “Not just because the relationship is strong, but because of the forward thinking, the ability to problem solve.

Iowa Assistant Director of Athletics Barbara Burke has been a strong ally in the Hawkeyes' wrestling program.

“She shares a vision for things that have impact. And you talk about impact, you have an incredibly historic and exciting announcement that… the University of Iowa is adding women’s wrestling.”

Brands was fired on Thursday. After answering questions, but before leaving the stage, he blew up the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union. Thirty-two US states sanction the women’s wrestling state championships, but Iowa does not.

Currently, the Iowa Women’s Wrestling Championships are hosted by the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association.

“You know what, team up. And let’s use some common sense here and have a dog-sanctioned high school tournament for these girls,” Brands said. “They deserved it. Enough. And they need it. And we need it, I need it.… Go put this thing in this new arena (Coralville).

“Do it. Come on. Let’s get together and do it.”

I could not have said better myself.

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow covered the sport for 26 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.


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Joseph D. Whitman

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