Hlas: Hawkeyes lose, 2-0 and 6,500,000-0

Looking ahead easier said than done for UI athletic department

Then-Iowa field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum directs Tiffany Leister (11) and Patricia Gillern (18) before the team's August 2000 media day. (The Gazette)
Then-Iowa field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum directs Tiffany Leister (11) and Patricia Gillern (18) before the team's August 2000 media day. (The Gazette)

Crazy. On back-to-back days, 6.5 became a number associated with Iowa Hawkeyes sports.

A Las Vegas sports book operator posted over/under wins numbers for the 2017 college football season Thursday, setting Iowa’s at 6.5. On a slow sports day in Hawkeyeland, that set off debate in Hawkeyeland about which was the way to bet. Although, no more than 6.5 percent would have chosen the “under.”

Something a lot more serious was Friday’s discussion topic. It was revealed the University of Iowa had settled a pair of lawsuits filed by former UI senior associate athletics director Jane Meyer and former UI field hockey head coach Tracey Griesbaum for a total of 6.5 … million dollars.

Speaking of millions, it would cost the UI another $2.3 million were it to buy out Athletic Director Gary Barta’s contract. That’s two years of base compensation plus the remainder of his four years’ worth of deferred compensation.

To paraphrase the late Sen. Everett Dirksen, $6.5 million here, $2 million there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.

But the thing is, that $6.5 million is real money and it has to come from somewhere. Maybe Barta can take out a long-term loan from the Big Ten Network.

OK, this isn’t the kind of news to be flippant about. But the reality is, a settlement of Griesbaum’s case became the expected end game after the UI lost the suit Meyer filed against it for gender discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, retaliation and whistleblower violations, and unequal pay.

Going through another court case charged with discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation was another public-relations beatdown waiting to happen. There are plenty of people who identify with the UI who rightly are deeply offended by discrimination, and they didn’t like what they read and heard from the Meyer trial one little bit.

You could see the checkbook coming out earlier this month when the UI’s attorneys asked for a delay in the Griesbaum/UI trial, claiming the university “will not be able to present an adequate defense” in the 10-day period originally envisioned for the trial.

Griesbaum announced she was suing the school 16 months ago.

You could see the checkbook coming out earlier this month when UI President Bruce Harreld announced the university would hire an independent firm to conduct an external review of university employment practices as defined by the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

The reviews will cover three phases. Phase One will cover — ta da! — the athletics department.

A question that hovers over Carver-Hawkeye Arena is whether Harreld will fire Barta. It would have happened late Friday afternoon at many workplaces.

For anyone defending Iowa and its athletic director, anyone who says Meyer (who was shuffled out of the athletic department) and Griesbaum should have been fired, they can save their breath. The scoreboard says 2-0 in favor of the plaintiffs, with discrimination wearing Hawkeye colors.

If you were the athletic director and your school’s attorneys couldn’t assemble a convincing enough argument that you didn’t discriminate against Meyer and Griesbaum, you dropped the ball.

“We are pleased to have this behind us and looking forward to participating in the external review of our employment practices,” Barta said in a press release.

Whether it’s truly behind the UI is open to debate. So is what happens regarding Barta’s future at the school once that external review is completed.



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