Iowa settles racial discrimination lawsuit as state auditor calls for AD Gary Barta to be removed from post

Iowa settles racial discrimination lawsuit as state auditor calls for AD Gary Barta to be removed from post

The University of Iowa and state government reached a settlement worth more than $4 million with a group of Black former football players who alleged mistreatment based on race by Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz, according to the Des Moines Register. 

Twelve former Iowa football players were plaintiffs in the lawsuit, most notably All-Big Ten running back Akrum Wadley. In addition to the payout, which comes out to $184,201.05 per player, Iowa will provide financial support for the players to earn graduate degrees from any institution and provide mental health services for a period of one year. 

As part of the agreement, which was approved by a 2-1 vote by the three-member Iowa Department of Management’s State Appeal Board, Iowa athletics will pay $2.175 million while the state picks up a $2 million tab. Iowa state auditor Rob Sand, one of three members on the appeal board, voted against the settlement and called for Iowa athletic director Gary Barta’s resignation. 

“Enough is enough,” Sand wrote in a statement obtained by the Des Moines Register. “Clear personal accountability is necessary. I will not support taxpayers funding this settlement unless Gary Barta is no longer employed at the university and forfeits any severance or similar pay. I encourage you to join me. Real accountability will help prevent discrimination, protecting both taxpayers and future victims.” 

The lawsuit stems from allegations of racism that came to light in June 2020 when several Black former Iowa football players spoke out on social media about mistreatment. Longtime strength coach Chris Doyle was fired after an independent investigation by law firm Husch Blackwell. The lawsuit initially called for the jobs of both Barta and Ferentz, the longest-tenured coach in FBS football. 

In a statement, Ferentz took issue with the settlement, saying the agreement was reached without consulting the coaches involved in the decision. Instead, the Iowa attorney general’s office reached the settlement with the players’ attorneys. No members of the Iowa staff were required to admit any wrongdoing. 

“These discussions took place entirely without the knowledge or consent of the coaches who were named in the lawsuit,” Ferentz said “In fact, the parties originally named disagree with the decision to settle fully believing that the case would have been dismissed with prejudice before trial.

“For more than two years, our program has been unfairly and negatively impacted by these allegations. Members of the staff had their character and reputation tarnished by former members of our team who said things, then recanted many statements when questioned under oath. Today we move forward. My focus is entirely on the players, coaches and staff as we prepare for the 2023 season.” 

This is not the first instance of Iowa facing controversy under Barta. Former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum and her partner, former Iowa staffer Jane Meyer, were paid $6.5 million as part of a discrimination suit in 2014. In 2012, Iowa associate director of student services Peter Gray resigned after an internal probe found he sexually harassed athletes. 

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