University of Iowa Will Reimburse State $2M in Discrimination Settlement

Paul Steinbach Headshot
52 A 55 X34

The University of Iowa athletics department will repay $2 million to the state to cover the costs of a recent legal settlement over racial discrimination in the university's football program.

As part of the $4.2 million settlement between 12 Black former football players and the university, announced Monday, it was negotiated that the Iowa athletic department would pay $2.175 million, with the state paying the remaining $2 million.

As reported by the Des Moines Register, the agreement drew immediate criticism, with State Auditor Rob Sand, a Democrat and the lone dissenting vote regarding the settlement on the state Appeal Board, saying he did not support using taxpayer funds for the deal unless Gary Barta was relieved of his duties as athletic director.

Related: Iowa Settles Racial Discrimination Suit Amid Criticism from Every Angle

Republican state Sen. Annette Sweeney called for holding up the Board of Regents budget until Barta resigned or was fired, and State Treasurer Roby Smith, a Republican, said he "would encourage the university to reexamine the relationship" with Barta, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz and others named in the lawsuit, Stephen Gruber-Miller of the Register reported.

"There is no admission of wrongdoing by university officials as part of the settlement agreement," Gruber-Miller wrote. "But Damario Solomon-Simmons, a Tulsa-based civil rights attorney who represented the 12 Black ex-players who will receive payouts, said his clients have been 'vindicated' by the settlement."

Iowa lawmakers introduced a bill Wednesday requiring athletics departments at the state's regents universities to repay the state for any settlement costs that had not been budgeted for by lawmakers.

"After listening to the concerns of Iowans and in consultation with the Board of Regents leadership, I have determined the University of Iowa Department of Athletics will reimburse the state general fund for the $2 million due to the recent settlement," university president Barbara Wilson said in a statement read during a legislative subcommittee meeting on the new bill Thursday. "I’m deeply committed to our students’ success and well-being on and off the field of play."

Republican lawmakers said their bill on the settlement remains active for discussion purposes.

"We are going to continue to move on with this bill for future settlements or lawsuits, continue that conversation, but again I do appreciate the university and their self-evaluation and understanding that taxpayers should not be on the hook for $2 million," said Rep. Carter Nordman (R-Panora), as reported by the Register.

Sand likewise praised Wilson's decision, stating, "I am delighted that she listened to the outcry from taxpayers who wanted real accountability."

According to Gruber-Miller, Barta is signed through June 30, 2024, as part of a contract he signed in 2006. The contract stipulates that the university president can fire him for cause without making any additional payments to the athletic director. But if a judge later determined that Wilson didn’t have legal cause to fire Barta, the university would owe him damages equal to two years of his base salary, which would come out to $1.3 million.

Page 1 of 366
Next Page
AB Show 2024 in New Orleans
AB Show is a solution-focused event for athletics, fitness, recreation and military professionals.
Nov. 19-22, 2024
Learn More
AB Show 2024
Buyer's Guide
Information on more than 3,000 companies, sorted by category. Listings are updated daily.
Learn More
Buyer's Guide