The State Appeal Board, responsible for resolving lawsuits against the state of Iowa, agreed Monday to pay nearly $400,000 in attorney and expert witness fees as part of a settlement in a lawsuit in which University of Iowa officials reversed a decision to eliminate women's swimming and diving.
As reported by the Associated Press, the panel includes the state auditor, state treasurer and director of the Iowa Department of Management. Iowa solicitor general Jeff Thompson explained that the payment of $399,989 to five attorneys and three expert witnesses was part of a court-approved settlement.
"This reflects fees which are in my opinion much lower than we would have ended up paying had we continued to litigate this case," Thompson said.
Members of the University of Iowa women's swimming and diving team alleged that the August 2020 decision to eliminate their program violated the federal Title IX law passed in 1972 that bars sex-based discrimination in federally funded education programs, the AP reported. The lawsuit filed in September 2020 argued that Iowa was not offering equal opportunities for female students to participate in sports as required by the law.
While denying it was in violation of Title IX, university leaders said the program cuts — which also included dropping men's swimming and diving, men's gymnastics and men's tennis — were needed to help balance the athletic department's budget amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
University officials reversed the decision to cut the women's swimming and diving program in February, stating that a settlement, which also involved Iowa launching the first women's wrestling program among the Power 5 conferences, was "in the interests of serving our student-athletes, coaches and community."