IOWA CITY, Iowa (WHO) — University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson said the school’s athletics department will repay the state’s general fund after $2 million in taxpayer funding was used to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit this week.
On Monday, a state panel voted 2-1 to approve a $4.175 million settlement with a dozen Black former football players who say they faced systemic racism in head coach Kirk Ferentz’s program.
$2.175 million of the settlement was paid by the UI Athletics Department, with the rest covered by the state’s general fund. State Auditor Rob Sand (D) said he would only approve the settlement if UI Athletic Director Gary Barta was fired. The panel’s two Republican members, State Treasurer Roby Smith and Kraig Paulsen, approved the settlement.
However, Wilson now says the Athletic Department will cover the full cost of the lawsuit. She released a statement on Thursday morning reading:
“I appreciate the work and due diligence of the Iowa Attorney General and State Appeal Board. 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.”Barbara Wilson, University of Iowa President
Ferentz released a lengthy statement on Monday after the settlement was announced that urged the state to continue fighting in court. “The parties originally named disagree with the decision to settle, fully believing that the case would have been dismissed with prejudice before trial,” Ferentz said in part.
Among the claims from the former players in the lawsuit were that they heard racial slurs, and were made to give up their culture — including hairstyles and fashion — to fit into Ferentz’s system. They say they faced retaliation when they spoke up against the alleged injustices as well.