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

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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 will be voted on by the three-member Iowa Department of Management’s State Appeal Board, Iowa athletics will pay $2.175 million while the state will pick up a $2 million tab. 

Despite the agreement, one key stakeholder is refusing to approve public funds for the settlement unless Iowa athletic director Gary Barta is fired. Iowa state auditor Rob Sand, one of the three members of the appeal board, plans to vote against the settlement pending Barta’s dismissal. 

“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 vote by the appeal board will take place Monday afternoon. 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. 

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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