Higher education

Jane Meyer trial turns focus to firing of Hawkeye field hockey coach

Both women, longtime partners, assert discrimination in UI Athletic Department

Former Iowa field hockey head coach Tracey Griesbaum shouts instructions during a game against Stanford at Grant Field on Sunday, September, 15, 2013 in Iowa City, Iowa. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
Former Iowa field hockey head coach Tracey Griesbaum shouts instructions during a game against Stanford at Grant Field on Sunday, September, 15, 2013 in Iowa City, Iowa. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

DES MOINES — There was pressure from all sides to complete a 2014 inquiry into allegations of player mistreatment by former Hawkeye field hockey Coach Tracey Griesbaum, a former University of Iowa official who played a key role in the investigation testified Thursday.

Former UI Director of Employee and Labor Relations Josephine Bathke finished on the witness stand in a civil trial brought by Jane Meyer, who was a senior associate athletic director until she was transferred out of the department and then let go in 2015. Meyer is suing the university, asserting gender and sexual orientation discrimination.

Griesbaum, Meyer’s longtime partner, is expected to testify later Thursday. She was fired in August 2014 and has also filed her own suit asserting gender bias.

On the stand Thursday, Bathke was questioned heavily about the timing, process and standards by which she and Tiffini Stevenson-Earl conducted the inquiry of Griesbaum’s conduct.

Meyer’s attorney, Tom Newkirk, spent the morning digging into whether those standards were uniform to all athletic departments or if they were specific to Athletic Director Gary Barta’s vision or feelings.

Over the course of summer 2014, the UI conducted an independent investigation into allegations of player mistreatment by Griesbaum.

The report co-authored by Bathke and Stevenson-Earl included specific allegations made by student-athletes and parents. It concluded there were no policy violations, but made recommendations to Barta about possible procedure changes to address communication concerns.

Barta fired Griesbaum soon after the report was issued.

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Bathke testified there was pressure from nearly every angle to complete the investigation and report. Bathke said there was pressure from Barta, Griesbaum and parents of players, all seeking answers.

Bathke detailed three interviews she conducted with Griesbaum over the course of the investigation. She said Griesbaum was upset complaints by student-athletes in her program were going to other officials in the department before her, including to former administrator Fred Mims.

Bathke testified Griesbaum referred to a specific student-athlete as “vindictive,” and that students going around Griesbaum undermined her coaching authority.

Bathke testified she found nothing inappropriate about that process because Mims “was supposed to be someone students go to.”

As of noon Thursday, three more witnesses were expected to take the stand Thursday, including Griesbaum.

This story will be updated.

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

 

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