Iowa reaches settlement in football racial bias lawsuit as state official calls for AD Gary Barta to lose his job

A settlement has been reached in a discrimination lawsuit involving the University of Iowa football program.

In 2020, a group of black former football players from Iowa sued the university alleging racial discrimination and abuse in the Hawkeyes football program under head coach Kirk Ferencz.

On Monday, a $4.175 million settlement was reached. Des Moines Register reported. Under the terms of the settlement, the Iowa Athletic Department will pay $2.175 million of that amount, with the state taking the rest.

One of the three-man appeal panel members from the Iowa Department of Management, Iowa Auditor Rob Sand, said he would object to the use of public funds in the settlement unless Iowa Athletic Director Gary Bartha loses his job.

In a letter to the Iowa Board of Appeals, Sand cited several other Iowa athletics-related lawsuits that occurred during Bartha’s tenure as athletic director and cost the school and the state millions of dollars. Sand said “personal responsibility is essential” for Bartha, who has been athletic director at Iowa since 2006.

“I will not support the taxpayers funding this settlement if Gary Bartha is no longer employed by the university and forfeits any severance pay or similar payment. I encourage you to join me. Real accountability will help prevent discrimination by protecting both taxpayers and future victims,” Sand said in a letter to the board of directors.

Also on the board are State Treasurer Robbie Smith and Director of Management Craig Paulsen. On Monday afternoon, they voted 2-1, approving the terms of the settlement.

12 Former Players Involved in Iowa Lawsuit

Twelve players participated in the lawsuit, including All-Big Ten runner Akram Wadley and Kewonte Martin-Manley, the program’s all-time leader in receptions.

According to the Des Moines roster, the 12 players are expected to receive approximately $184,000 each in compensation. In addition, Iowa will provide funds for players to earn degrees and will also cover the cost of mental health resources.

Bartha, Ferenc, Brian Ferenc (Kirk’s son and longtime offensive coordinator) and former strength coach Chris Doyle were originally named in the lawsuit. They were fired from the lawsuit last week.

The players initially demanded $20 million and called for Kirk Ferencz, Brian Ferencz and Bartha to be fired. In 2020, many former players spoke about their negative experiences in Iowa, saying they were treated unfairly and couldn’t be themselves. Many of the complaints concerned Doyle, Ferenc’s longtime strength coach, and included alleged racist comments. Doyle was initially placed on administrative leave before he and the school reached a separation agreement.

An investigation by law firm Husch Blackwell found that Iowa’s football program rules “perpetuate racial or cultural bias and devalue cultural diversity.”

From the report:

“Virtually all the players have spoken positively about their coaches and the impact these coaches have had on their lives, both personally and sportingly. However, many players have described feeling unhappy and unwelcome, citing the culture of the program, which they feel requires strict conformity and strict adherence to the “pattern” of the ideal player, a template that many black players feel they will never can’t really fit in because it was built around the stereotype of the pure white midwestern jock. In addition, numerous current and former players and coaches of all races described an environment in which a small number of coaches felt free to intimidate and humiliate athletes, especially black athletes.”

Ferenc, who has admitted to having a “blind spot” about concerns about black players, has remained as head coach since 1999. coordinator since 2017. Even after Iowa finished 130th out of 131 teams in FBS in the 2022 season, Brian Ferenc will remain as offensive coordinator in 2023.

Iowa athletic director Gary Bartha (left) stands with head coach Kirk Ferencz (right) before an NCAA college football game against Miami, Ohio on Saturday, September 3, 2016, in Iowa City, Iowa.  (AP Photo/Charlie Neubergall)
Iowa athletic director Gary Bartha (left) stands with head coach Kirk Ferencz (right) before an NCAA college football game against Miami, Ohio on Saturday, September 3, 2016, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neubergall)


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