Iowa Settles Racial Discrimination Suit Amid Criticism from Every Angle

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The University of Iowa has reached a $4.175 million settlement with former football players who sued the athletic department alleging racial discrimination in head coach Kirk Ferentz's program.

As reported by The Associated Press, $2 million of the settlement will be covered by taxpayers.

State auditor Rob Sand, who was the only dissenter in a 2-1 vote of the state's Appeal Board that approved the settlement, said it would take Gary Barta's removal as Iowa athletic director for him to back such a settlement.

According to the Des Moines Register, Sand said he opposed using state general funds in this settlement because of three previous racial discrimination cases totaling more than $7 million in payouts under Barta, who has been Iowa's athletic director since 2006.

“I can’t imagine a private company that would still have someone at the helm after four discrimination lawsuits under that person’s leadership,” Sand said at a news conference before the vote, as reported by the AP. "The athletic department, they’ve got the funds for it. The broadcast deal brings tens of millions of dollars every year going forward. I don’t know why they can’t cover their own mistakes and pay for their own mistakes instead of having taxpayer’s do it.”

The settlement comes more than two years after eight former players decided to sue the university. In doing so, they sought $20 million and the firings of Ferentz, assistant coach Brian Ferentz and Barta. They alleged they were demeaned with racial slurs; forced to abandon Black hairstyles, fashion and culture to fit the “Iowa Way” promoted by the elder Ferentz; and retaliated against for speaking out, according to the AP.

Related: Lawyers Pull Iowa Players' Settlement Demand, Will Sue

Ferentz, who is entering his 25th season as Iowa's head coach, released a statement Monday expressing his disappointment with the settlement.

"The settlement negotiations took place between the plaintiffs' counsel and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, which represents the University of Iowa and the Board of Regents," Ferentz said. "These discussions took place entirely without the knowledge or consent of the coaches who were named in the lawsuit. 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.

"A motion for summary judgment was filed which outlined why the case should have been dismissed. Unfortunately, this settlement was reached between the plaintiff’s attorneys and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office before the judge had an opportunity to rule on the motion. We have been told the reason for the settlement is financial. As a part of the settlement, the coaches named were dismissed from the lawsuit, and there is no admission of any wrongdoing."

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