An untold Iowa field hockey saga

A lot of former Hawkeye players rally behind Tracey Griesbaum

Tracey Griesbaum was fired Monday without cause after 14 years as Iowa’s field hockey head coach. This isn’t an everyday event in college athletics, Hawkeye or otherwise.

Iowa agreed to pay Griesbaum the $200,000 severance that was stipulated in her 5-year contract that ran through 2018.

Accusations of mental and verbal abuse and a negative environment came from more than five players who left the program with eligibility remaining.

Assistant head coach Lisa Cellucci became the interim head coach Tuesday. “Tracey has been my coach, my mentor and best friend,” Cellucci said in an Iowa press release.

And there will continue to be field hockey at Iowa.

There are many people who don’t understand the firing and vehemently disagree with it. They are include several of Griesbaum’s former Iowa players, family members of those who played for her, and fellow college field hockey coaches.

At a Facebook page entitled “Reinstate Tracey Griesbaum as University of Iowa Field Hockey Coach,” several former players and others wrote messages heralding the work and character of Greisbaum. One such post came from Kevin Blaum, who was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for 26 years.

“Tracey Griesbaum is a consummate professional, respected coach, beloved mentor, extraordinary role model and she possesses the most astute field hockey mind I have ever encountered,” Blaum wrote.

“Ten years ago today we entrusted Tracey Griesbaum with our daughter Caroline, her love of field hockey and her choice of university. We did so as we dropped Caroline off at The University of Iowa, unpacked the car and returned to Pennsylvania at the start of her freshman year and season.

“My wife and I would so entrust Tracey Griesbaum again, tomorrow, in a heartbeat. Our daughter could not have been embedded with a finer coach, teacher, character builder and caretaker.”

Former Iowa field hockey coach Judith Davidson offered this comment on that Facebook page:

“This is an incomprehensible situation. The University is fortunate to have a coach of Tracey’s caliber leading its most successful women’s team. Yes, being a student-athlete is tough, being a coach is tougher. Tracey handles it with purpose and class. She deserves better than to be treated in this manner.”

Beth Beglin preceded Griesbaum as Iowa’s head coach. Beglin recruited Griesbaum to play for her at West Chester University. Beglin called it an “incredibly unjustified” decision by the university, and added this on that Facebook page:

“For those of us who know Tracey, those allegations are so out of character for her as to be laughable. If Tracey, a person of the highest moral, ethical and professional standards, can be fired, there is not one person who should feel secure in their coaching positions.”

You can have 1,000 coaches, parents and former players call you a combination of Pat Summitt and Mother Teresa. But if more than five players had grievances that qualify as serious enough for Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta to take the action he did, it probably wasn’t something he could take lightly. This is a different era than 50, 25, 10, even two years ago when it comes to allegations of abuse from coaches.

Athletic directors certainly don’t take firing coaches lightly, because it’s bad publicity even if it’s released at 5:12 p.m. on their football team’s Media Day.

There are at least two sides to every story. But for all the responses from the baffled and disgusted, one party offered the $200,000 severance, the other party accepted it, and the athletic department and field hockey program have already moved on.

And had this involved the football or men’s basketball program? Oh, the humanity!

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