UI President Barbara Wilson says Iowa Athletics will pay full $4.2 million in racial discrimination lawsuit

Iowa’s taxpayers were originally on the hook for $2 million of the settlement, leading to outcry from fans and politicans.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

University of President Barbara Wilson speaks with members of The Daily Iowan in Jesup Hall on April 20, 2022.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson released a statement on Thursday regarding the use of taxpayer funds in a racial discrimination settlement with Iowa Athletics.

“I appreciate the work and due diligence of the Iowa Attorney General and State Appeal Board,” Wilson said in a statement. “After listening to the concerns of Iowans, and in consultation with Board of Regents leadership, I have determined that the University of Iowa Department of Athletics will reimburse the state general fund for the $2 million due to the recent settlement. I am deeply committed to our students’ success and well-being on and off the field of play.”

Iowa Athletics is self-sustaining and does not receive taxpayer support or funding from students’ tuition.

Earlier this week, Iowa Athletics settled a lawsuit for about $4.2 million dollars with 12 former Iowa football players, who accused the UI, Board of Regents, and multiple coaches of racial discrimination within the football program.

In the original settlement agreement, Iowa Athletics was going to pay about $2.2 million, and the state would have paid about $2 million.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, linebackers coach Seth Wallace, former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, and athletics director Gary Barta were all dropped from the lawsuit last week, leaving the UI and Board of Regents as the only defendants.

Following the settlement, Kirk Ferentz released a statement that he was disappointed with the settlement . He thought the case would be dismissed and a settlement wasn’t necessary.

“These discussions took place entirely without the knowledge or consent of the coaches who were named in the lawsuit,” he wrote. “In fact, the parties originally named disagree with the decision to settle, fully believing that the case would have been dismissed with prejudice before trial.

“For more than two years, our program has been unfairly and negatively impacted by these allegations. 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.”

Because of the use of taxpayer funds, the State Appeal Board needed to approve the settlement.

State Auditor Rob Sand, one of three members of the board, said on Monday he was not going to approve the use of taxpayer funds until Barta left the university. Barta and Iowa Athletics have been part of four discrimination lawsuits since he started his tenure in 2006.

“Enough is enough,” Sand said in a statement. “Clear personal accountability is necessary. 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.”

The other two members of the appeals board, treasurer of state Roby Smith and department of management director Kraig Paulsen, voted for the motion, allowing it to pass with a 2-1 vote.

The use of taxpayer funds led to outcry from state politicians and fans alike. Multiple fans took to Twitter to express their feelings about using taxpayer funds, including Brent Blum, who tweeted, “I’m not a smart person, but why would all Iowa taxpayers be on the hook for a racial discrimination settlement by an athletic program that can’t control its own finances?”


Iowa House Republicans also introduced a bill in the legislature on Wednesday that would have required the university to reimburse the state in any settlement including an athletic department employee. The bill was passed through the subcommittee on Thursday morning.

Following Wilson’s statement, Sand tweeted, “President Wilson: Thank you for listening. This is doing right by Iowa taxpayers. U of I Athletics Dept: please fix your issues and mail a copy of the check to my office, Room 111 in the Iowa State Capitol.”