University of Arizona Swimming Alums Challenge NCAA to Protect Women’s Athletics

A group of retired swimmers associated with the University of Arizona program has written to the NCAA to express their serious concerns about the future and current state of women’s collegiate athletics after Lia Thomas’s win in this year’s championships.

Almost 40 former athletes, including Olympians, several NCAA champions, and a USA Swimming national team director wrote of their concerns about the fairness of allowing transgender athletes to compete against women and to suggest some solutions to protect the integrity of women’s sports.

The letter said that the group finds it hard to express the “anguish” felt by the women’s swim community after watching this year’s NCAA Swim & Dive Championships.

Former NCAA champion Marshi Smith signed the letter and told Fox News that most of the women who competed in the past for the University of Arizona now have small children. She said those mothers feel for the first time that their daughters are in danger of not having the same educational and competitive opportunities they enjoyed under Title IX, which mandates that colleges cannot discriminate based on sex in funding programs.

After biological male Lia Thomas won the 500 meters freestyle championship last month, Smith said the Arizona group decided to come together because they felt they did not have an effective voice individually.

Smith began competitive swimming at age six and went on to win the 2005 NCAA 100 meter backstroke championship while attending Arizona on a full athletic scholarship.

The group has not yet received any response to their letter from the NCAA, although Smith said she has received a reply from NCAA president Mark Emmert to a letter she sent individually before this year’s championships.

She said Emmert told her that the organization’s Board of Governors “firmly and equivocally” supports transgender athletes having an opportunity to compete in college sports. Emmert went on in his letter to say that the NCAA policy is “anchored in the evolving science.”

Smith said that the “evolving science” is not good enough as an explanation to women athletes for why they should consider it fair that they must compete with men for scholarships on women’s teams. Smith suggested that a possible solution for allowing transgender athletes to compete would be to “welcome this new class of athletes of any gender” to compete in men’s competitions.