Get ready for a bombshell announcement that has sent shockwaves through the world of American football. A group of Black former University of Iowa football players, who have accused coach Kirk Ferentz of overseeing a racially discriminatory culture, have settled their lawsuit for a staggering $4.175 million. The settlement was approved by the Iowa Department of Management’s State Appeal Board in a 2-1 vote on Monday, with the state of Iowa set to pay $2 million to the players.
However, the settlement has not been without controversy. Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand, one of the three appeal board members, said he would vote against using taxpayer funds for the settlement unless Iowa athletics director Gary Barta was ousted. Sand opposed using state general funds in this settlement due to three previous racial discrimination cases totaling more than $7 million in payouts under Barta, who has been Iowa’s athletic director since 2006.
The settlement details include the state of Iowa paying $2 million to the plaintiffs, with the Iowa athletics department being responsible for the remaining $2.175 million. About 45.5% of the settlement will go toward attorney’s fees of $1,878,750, while the remainder will cover unspecified costs. Twelve former players signed the settlement agreement on February 23, with the University of Iowa committing to $90,000 toward the suing players to obtain graduate school degrees.
The University of Iowa also agreed to support mental-health costs for the 12 former players for one year, through March 15, 2024, and will hire the services of Leonard Moore, a former vice president for diversity at the University of Texas, through at least May 2024 to assist Iowa’s five-year Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) plan.
Ferentz, who is entering his 25th season as Iowa’s head football coach, said he was “greatly disappointed” in the outcome, adding that “the parties originally named disagree with the decision to settle, fully believing that the case would have been dismissed with prejudice before trial.” The settlement, which is being described as “financial” was reached between the plaintiff’s attorneys and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office before the judge had an opportunity to rule on the motion.
The lawsuit, which was filed in November 2020, stemmed from allegations of mistreatment in Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa Hawkeyes football program. The settlement may have closed the lawsuit, but it’s clear that this issue has not yet come to an end. Will we see more lawsuits or will there be significant changes in the football program? Only time will tell.