March 6, 2023 8:00pm
Updated: March 7, 2023 5:32am
Iowa taxpayers will need to pay $2 million to former University of Iowa football players who said Coach Kirk Ferentz oversees a racially discriminatory culture.
The State Appeal Board voted 2-1 to approve a $4.175 million settlement Monday afternoon, The Athletic reported. About $1.9 million will go to attorney fees and court costs, the media outlet said.
Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand voted against the settlement. In a March 3 memo that the Iowa State Auditor’s office provided to The Center Square, Sand asked the other two members of the State Appeal Board to join him in voting against it.
“Under Gary Barta’s leadership at the University of Iowa Athletics Department, we’ve had Peter Gray scandal plus three instances of discrimination totaling nearly $7 million in damages (setting aside other suits),” he said. “After the largest settlement, Barta asserted no wrong was done. Now we have a new matter for $4 million more, and for the first time they want part paid from the taxpayers’ General Fund, even though they now collect tens of millions annually thru the Big Ten TV deal.”
He said that clear personal accountability is necessary and that real accountability would help prevent discrimination, which would also protect taxpayers.
“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,” he said.
State Treasurer Roby Smith, who along with Department of Management Director Kraig Paulsen voted for the settlement, said he made that decision to avoid having taxpayers face more liabilities through going to trial, The Gazette reported. He said the university should “re-examine” its relationship with Athletics Director Gary Barta, Offensive Coordinator Brian Ferentz and others named in prior lawsuits since discrimination is unacceptable, according to the news agency.
Paulsen said legislators should decide whether state money should cover university settlements, Des Moines Register reported.
Civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons’ firm will receive the full settlement amount, and each of the 12 players who signed the settlement agreement will receive about $184,000, the Des Moines Register reported.
As part of the settlement, UI has to give players who used $90,000 (up to $20,000 per person) in reimbursements for graduate or professional school expenses, a year of mental health counseling through the UI Athletic Department’s Counseling and Psychology Services Office, registration and travel fees for up to 10 student-athletes who wish to participate in the Black Student Athlete Summit annually through 2026, and hire University of Texas at Austin professor Leonard Moore to help the athletics department run its five-year diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan and review the department’s structure, programming and initiatives, The Gazette reported.
The University of Iowa, the Iowa Attorney General’s office, and Ferentz’s attorney’s office didn’t immediately respond to The Center Square’s request for comment and more information.