Public Safety

Double standard? University of Iowa volleyball coach not fired after parent complaints of verbal abuse

Former University of Iowa Deputy Athletics Director says he would have fired Jane Meyer for yelling at her boss

Iowa Deputy Director of Athletics Gene Taylor, left, and Director of Athletics Gary Barta watch Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz speak to reporters during Iowa’s football media day at the Kenyon practice facility in Iowa City in August 2015. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette/file photo)
Iowa Deputy Director of Athletics Gene Taylor, left, and Director of Athletics Gary Barta watch Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz speak to reporters during Iowa’s football media day at the Kenyon practice facility in Iowa City in August 2015. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette/file photo)

DES MOINES — Several parents complained about University of Iowa Head Volleyball Coach Bond Shymansky, saying he was “excessively punitive,” “manipulative and unprofessional,” treated players “without respect” and took pride in “making people want to quit,” according to court testimony.

Despite the concerns, Shymansky kept his job — unlike Tracey Griesbaum, who was fired as field hockey coach Aug. 4, 2014, based on similar complaints from student-athletes and parents.

This is according to testimony Monday in the trial of a lawsuit filed by Jane Meyer, former UI associate athletic director, against the university. Meyer, who was transferred from athletics in December 2014 and then fired last September, claims discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, as well as retaliation after she complained about the firing of Griesbaum, her longtime partner.

Meyer’s attorneys are trying to make the case that Athletic Director Gary Barta used a double standard when investigating and disciplining male and female employees. Attorney Tom Newkirk asked Mary Curtis, associate athletic director for human resources, about the 2015 investigation into complaints over Shymansky, who reported to her.

“A freshman volleyball player’s parents came in to see me,” Curtis said. “The parents were not happy with how their daughter had been treated.”

These parents, whose daughter had been put on a performance contract after getting a legal citation after a night at the bars, said Shymansky made no effort to get to know parents, did not have an open team banquet and was hard on the players, Curtis said. The parents said others also were concerned, but afraid Shymansky would retaliate against their daughters if they complained.

In June 2015, another parent came forward with complaints about Shymansky, Curtis said.

“Didn’t he suggest he (Shymansky) was treating his daughter like a dog?” Newkirk asked.

“Those were his words,” Curtis said.

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“Isn’t it right, these types of concerns are very similar to what were being raised about Tracey Griesbaum the previous year?”

“I would not know that,” Curtis said.

The UI’s response to Meyer’s claims is that she was transferred from athletics because she couldn’t get along with coaches, was insubordinate and wasn’t doing a good job.

On Gene Taylor’s first day as UI deputy athletic director on Aug. 4, 2014, he testified Monday he witnessed Meyer yelling at Barta after Barta told senior staff about Griesbaum’s dismissal.

“I would call it unprofessional,” Taylor said of Meyer’s behavior. “I’ve never been talked to by anyone in my entire career like that. After the meeting, I went down to Gary and said ‘Gary, if I were you, I’d fire her.’”

UI Head Baseball Coach Rick Heller testified about his frustrations working with Meyer on a renovation of Duane Banks Field.

“When I was hired, I asked that we have a picture, an architect’s drawing, so I could go out and fundraise,” said Heller, hired in 2013.

“Did you ever get such a picture from Ms. Meyer?” asked George Carroll, an assistant Iowa Attorney General representing the UI.

“Not while she was there,” Heller said. “I got it within a few months after she was out of the department.”

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Newkirk pointed out the architects may not have been done designing the renovation within the first six months of the project.

Heller also said he told Meyer he wanted the outfield fences brought closer in some places to make it easier to hit home runs, but that didn’t happen with the renovations.

“When they put it in, it was actually farther back in some cases,” Heller said.

Newkirk asked Heller whether he ever put his expectations about the fence into writing. Heller said he might have, but Newkirk said no such messages were found.

Meyer’s trial, which started April 17 in Polk County, is expected to conclude this week. She is seeking nearly $1 million in lost wages as well as emotional damages.

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