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University of Iowa Former Football Players Settle Claims of Discrimination

Twelve former football players sued the University of Iowa based on claims of racial discrimination and mistreatment by the head coach, Kirk Ferentz. In 2020, many former Iowa players publicly shared personal stories of mistreatment as members of Ferentz's program. Husch Blackwell investigated the program and found “the program’s rules perpetuated racial or cultural biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity.”

Thirteen black players filed suit following the publication of the law firm's report, including the program’s all-time leader in receptions. Many of these players said it was "difficult for black players to walk around the facility and be themselves," and they felt "constant anxiety." One player said program staff told him his tattoos and cornrows did not fit within the "Iowa culture." A former university linebacker spoke of team rules disguised as "culture" that made it hard to be a black player at the school. Much of the specific conduct allegedly came from strength coach Chris Doyle. The institution placed Doyle on administrative leave shortly after the lawsuit was filed and later reached a separation agreement with him.

In addition to a $4.175 million settlement amount, the university must also remove athletic director Gary Barta. Barta had previously been involved in three other racial discrimination lawsuits, amounting to more than $7 million in payouts. The university will also commit $90,000 for the suing players to pursue graduate degrees at any school and support mental health costs for one year. Iowa agreed to hire a consultant to help with its five-year Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan. Iowa's Department of Management State Appeal Board approved the settlement. Ferentz asserts the Iowa Attorney General's Office, which represented the university in negotiations, did not consult with any of the coaches named in the lawsuit before agreeing to settle. He objects to the settlement.