Higher education

Kirk Ferentz, Tom Brands testify at trial to issues in working with Jane Meyer

'There was a lot of turbulence at times,' Ferentz said.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during a news conference introducing new offensive line coach Tim Polasek and new wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during a news conference introducing new offensive line coach Tim Polasek and new wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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DES MOINES — Iowa Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz often talks about “doing your job” when it comes to his football players and coaches.

Friday, he was called to testify on the University of Iowa’s behalf in the trial brought by for former Senior Associate Athletic Director Jane Meyer, who accuses it of gender and sexual orientation discrimination.

Ferentz applied that logic to what he thought of Meyer’s job performance as a key leader in the athletic department. She wasn’t working on the same team as the others there, he testified.

“There was a lot of turbulence at times,” Ferentz said.

Iowa wrestling Coach Tom Brands, who also testified Friday, was more direct.

“It was a mess,” Brands said repeatedly, when questioned by attorneys for both sides.

Meyer was transferred out of the Athletic Department in 2014 into the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She kept her $177,000 salary, but her new job was eliminated and she was let go in late 2016.

She is seeking lost wages of nearly $1 million, plus emotional damages, in Polk County District Court.

When UI Athletic Director Gary Barta testified earlier at the trial, one of his key points about why he denied Meyer a promotion and transferred her out of the department was that coaches had issues with her job performance.

Ferentz and Brands were among those Barta mentioned, and their working relationship with Meyer was a central focus of UI’s defense that Assistant Iowa Attorney General George Carroll began Friday.

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Meyer was the point person for athletic facilities in her role as an administrator. Ferentz worked closely with her on the design and building of football’s Hansen Performance Center, which Ferentz testified cost about $55 to $57 million. She also was the point person for renovations to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, which involved rebuilding the wrestling portion of the facility.

It was on this that Brands had most of his criticisms for Meyer. His testimony reflected the often intense personality with which he coaches.

He said Meyer wouldn’t take his input or that of Assistant Coach Terry Brands, who is his twin, or the rest of the wrestling staff.

“It was a mess because Jane Meyer inserted herself as an expert, asserted herself as an expert, and we lived and trained in that facility,” Tom Brands said. “We knew the direction we wanted to go.”

He said he was met with resistance when he suggested a change to solve a drainage issue with the showers after the renovations were complete. He said the same about suggestions for photos, posters or paintings he wanted to line hallways.

When asked by plaintiff’s attorney Tom Newkirk about Meyer getting an “outstanding” review after the Carver-Hawkeye Arena renovations, Brands was curt.

“That would surprise me,” he said.

An issue given a lot of attention by Carroll in the UI’s response Friday was the quality of diagrams and renderings of the proposed football facility that Ferentz requested to show potential donors and recruits.

After visiting “eight to 10” other facilities with Meyer and the initial primary donor, Bruce Rastetter, Ferentz said it was the University of Oklahoma’s facilities that stood out most.

But the rendering of the proposed Iowa facility left Ferentz unhappy.

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“This graphic was a memorable moment,” he said. “I was not pleased with what we got back.

“The biggest thing was what we were hoping for was something that resembled Oklahoma’s. Our vision was to put something in front of donors and recruits what we want to become and our vision was. It missed the mark in terms of what the athletes on the field were (and) it’s kind of generic.”

Ferentz detailed a trio of issues he had with Meyer on specifics of the facility, including a sauna that “wasn’t working” at first, some landscaping and nutrition stations for athletes.

On cross examination, Newkirk asked Ferentz to detail positive experiences with Meyer, given he’d had “memorable” moments with her that were described only as negative situations.

Ferentz didn’t recall any specifically, though while complimenting the way the facility turned out he deferred to the adage he applies to his football team.

“The way the building turned out was outstanding,” he said. “I’d throw that under the category of doing your job. Whoever was in charge, that process should work smoothly.”

Newkirk finished his questioning of Ferentz simply by putting a note from Ferentz to Meyer on a projector for the jury to see. “Thank you for all you do on our behalf!” it said.

Ferentz and Brands both testified they did not take their complaints about Meyer directly to her. Both echoed Barta in saying there is no documentation of their specific issues.

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Newkirk asked Brands if he considered some of Meyer’s refusals to him had to do with Title IX requirements and appeasing other coaches — specifically over roster management and wrestling’s total numbers as an equivalency sport.

“That may be the case, but I was not communicated to,” Brands said.

“It was a one-way street; it was zero follow up,” he said. “I’m talking about a dialogue with Jane Meyer. The way the issue was treated, it was a mandate and it wasn’t even — it was just, ‘do it’ (and) no dialogue.”

The trial is expected to continue next week.

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

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