Hawkeye fans react to calls for athletic director Gary Barta’s termination following racial discrimination settlement

Fans have mixed emotions about Barta’s tenure, with several discrimination lawsuits stemming from the athletic department.

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Henry B. and Patricia B. Tippie Director of Athletics Chair Gary Barta watches the Iowa football team warmup before a football game between Iowa and South Dakota State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. (Ayrton Breckenridge/The Daily Iowan)

Chloe Peterson and Liam Halawith


Hawkeye fans have mixed feelings about Iowa athletics director Gary Barta after the University of Iowa requested the state’s taxpayers pay $2 million in the settlement of a racial discrimination lawsuit, which was brought on by 12 former Hawkeye football players in 2020.

In a 2-1 vote on Monday, the State Appeals Board approved the use of $2 million in taxpayer funds from the state’s general fund balance to settle the lawsuit. The Iowa Athletics department will pay about $2.2 million in the full $4.2 million settlement agreement.

This is the first time the UI has requested the state to use taxpayer funds to pay out a settlement.

The Iowa Athletics department has settled multiple discrimination lawsuits over the last 10 years, including $6.5 million to former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum and her partner, Jane Meyer in a 2017 Title IX lawsuit. In a separate lawsuit in 2021, athletics paid $400,000 to four women’s swimmers.

State Auditor Rob Sand, a UI alum and Democrat, called for Barta’s resignation because of a history of discrimination lawsuits. Barta began his tenure as the athletics director at the university in 2006.

“Enough is enough. Clear personal accountability is necessary,” Sand, who voted against the settlement, said in a statement on Monday. “I will not support taxpayers funding this settlement unless Gary Barta is no longer employed at the university and forfeits any severance or similar pay. I encourage you to join me. Real accountability will help prevent discrimination, protecting both taxpayers and future victims.”

Sand said as a proud Hawkeye, the university needs to show taxpayers that there is accountability for bad actions.

“There’s a certain point at which an institution needs to communicate to the public that it isn’t just a group of insiders protecting each other — that’s what I think this settlement feels like unless Barta’s gone,” Sand said.

The lawsuit, accusing the UI, state Board of Regents, and multiple Iowa football coaches of racially motivated discrimination and harassment, was brought on by Akrum Wadley, Jonathan Parker, Marcel Joly, Aaron Mends, Maurice Fleming, Reggie Spearman, Kevonte Martin-Manley, Darian Cooper, LaRon Taylor, Brandon Simon, Javon Foy, and Terrance Harris in 2020.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, linebackers coach Seth Wallace, former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, and Barta were dropped from the lawsuit last week, leaving the UI and regents as the only defendants.

In a statement following the settlement, Kirk Ferentz said the coaches originally named in the lawsuit had no knowledge of the impending agreements, and they were disappointed in the result.

“For more than two years, our program has been unfairly and negatively impacted by these allegations,” Kirk Ferentz wrote. “Members of the staff had their character and reputation tarnished by former members of our team who said things, then recanted many statements when questioned under oath.”

Hawkeyes share mixed emotions via Twitter

Hawkeye fans shared mixed reactions to the settlement and Sand’s call for Barta to step down. Tom Kakert, publisher of The Hawkeye Report, said fans in general felt that taxpayer money shouldn’t have gone toward the settlement.

One Hawkeye fan, Scott Corrie, wrote in a tweet on Monday the settlement has distracted fans from other team’s achievements this week, like the Iowa women’s basketball team’s Big Ten Tournament title.

“We should be celebrating the Iowa Women winning the Big Ten Tournament and Caitlin Clark’s performance,” Corrie tweeted. “Yet once again we are dealing with a dumpster fire with Gary Barta in the middle of it and costing Iowa millions of dollars.”

Another Hawkeye fan, Todd Hermansen, wrote in a tweet that Barta’s not at fault for the football program’s lawsuit.

“Gary Barta was not the reason any of the lawsuits happened,” Hermansen tweeted. “The media pressure forced him to fire Chris Doyle, which was the only terrible decision he has made.”

Following allegations of racism and mistreatment, Doyle reached a separation agreement with the UI and Iowa football program in June 2020, about six months before the lawsuit was filed.

Kakert said a lot of fans agree with Sand that Barta should resign.

“I think there’s a number of fans, the majority of fans, who think the settlement was not the right thing to do,” Kakert said. “I think there’s a general unease with Gary Barta at this point, among the fans.”

Kakert added that the majority of fans agreed with Kirk Ferentz, and the UI should have fought the lawsuit on principle.

They wish they would have allowed this to be fought out in court,” Kakert said. “I know that Kirk and Brian and everyone else involved wanted to put this case behind them. It also potentially impacts recruiting, so they wanted to fight this and clear their names, and  I think that was important to them.”

Tom Miller was one fan who agreed with Kirk Ferentz. He wrote in a tweet that the former football players were despicable.

“Despicable behavior by players who did not embrace what it means to be a Hawkeye and play for the state,” he tweeted. “And then lied to further the fabrications.”

 

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