Hlas: Trials far from over for Hawkeyes athletic department

Thursday's verdict hurts UI, all right. The question: How much?

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld, (left)  and athletics director Gary Barta speak to a crowd at the Hawkeye Huddle at Channelside Bay Plaza in Tampa, Fla., last Jan. 1. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld, (left) and athletics director Gary Barta speak to a crowd at the Hawkeye Huddle at Channelside Bay Plaza in Tampa, Fla., last Jan. 1. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

When it comes to understanding law, courts of law, or anything using legalese, I’m a walleye out of water.

I can only guess if the decision by the jury to award Jane Meyer $1.43 million in damages from the University of Iowa is fair and just, outrageous, or anywhere in-between. But it’s a verdict, which is like a sports result in this way: No matter how you viewed the game, the winner was the winner and the loser was the loser.

With the Tracey Griesbaum/UI trial scheduled to start in four weeks, there is a lot more dust left to swirl before we get a clearer vision of how much damage has been done to the UI and its athletic department.

It will be interesting to see if the university tries and/or succeeds in getting that lawsuit settled before going to trial.

Just how much more of a public pounding can the UI take in this sphere? Thursday, a jury found in favor of former school senior associate athletic director Meyer on all five of her claims against the university: Gender discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, retaliation, equal pay violation and whistleblower violation.

Wow. Just one of those would have been a dropped hammer. All five make for a full toolbox falling on the feet of Gary Barta’s athletic department and school president Bruce Harreld’s university.

That’s the president who, 15 months ago, extended Barta’s contract five years through June 30, 2021, guaranteeing $4.6 million in compensation.


Money is so mighty in major-college athletics. If $1.43 million was all the UI was getting nicked for in this thing with Meyer, just write the check and forget about it. The Big Ten Network leaves bigger tips than that in steakhouses.

But this is about reputation. Try paying someone to scrub off terms like “gender discrimination,” “sexual orientation discrimination,” “retaliation,” “equal pay violation,” and “whistleblower violation.”

Try being a coach of a women’s program (or a men’s program, for that matter) at Iowa who has to respond to a recruit who had just heard from another coach who noted “gender discrimination” or “sexual orientation discrimination” was something a jury said Iowa was guilty of committing.

In his or her heart, the Iowa coach might be 100 percent sure there is no actual such discrimination in his or her athletic department. That coach might be 100 percent correct. But a jury in Polk County saw it otherwise, so that opinion will stick for a while.

The hammering may get even louder, depending on how the Griesbaum suit turns out. If it does, you can’t help wondering if Barta might join Meyer on the outside of the UI looking in.

In an (I think) unrelated matter, several other UI coaches and administrators were witnesses in the Meyer/UI trial.

I’m sure some of you found the reported portions of their testimony to be persuasive. I certainly did. Wrongly, as it turned out.

It was a reminder that though their influence extends a long way in this state, there are limits. The jury clearly wasn’t swayed by them.


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But as every one of the coaches knows, you can’t win ‘em all. While their fortress was shot at and hit this week and their commander is under heavy fire, this too will pass.

Major universities’ sports-entertainment divisions are built to withstand a lot more adversity than what Iowa is facing. The names at the top change from time to time, but the game remains the same.



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