Four Iowa field hockey players -- a senior, a junior and two sophomores -- have filed a federal discrimination complaint against the University of Iowa in response to the August firing of coach Tracey Griesbaum. Chandler Ackers, Jessy Silfer, Natalie Cafone and Dani Hemeon filed their complaint with the U.S. Department of Education on January 28, claiming that they were harmed by Iowa's decision to terminate Griesbaum, and that the University's decision was based on gender.
Without getting lost too deep in the weeds, Title IX is the federal civil rights law requiring equality between the genders in higher education. The primary stated purpose of Title IX is as follows:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
Title IX has been credited with the widespread expansion of women's collegiate sports since its passage in the 1970s. It requires that schools receiving public funds provide "substantially proportionate" scholarship funding, facilities, accommodation of athletic interests, and scheduling between men and women. In the past, it has been invoked to challenge discrepancies in scholarship amounts and team trips.
It ha not been used to challenge a firing, as far as we know, and the argument is a bit convoluted. The four named field hockey players are claiming that Iowa's standards of conduct for female coaches are different than those for male coaches. As a result of those differing standards, Griesbaum was fired for coaching in a manner that would not get a man terminated. Griesbaum's termination harmed their athletic interests in a way that male athletes are not being damaged, or so it is claimed.
The complaint cites a double standard between male and female coaches at Iowa, and all of the dirty laundry from Gary Barta's tenure as athletic director makes an appearance. The players mention the rhabdomyolisis incident from 2011 and Kirk Ferentz's subsequent decision to defiantly give the assistant responsible, strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, a made-up award:
When male student athletes are actually physically harmed by the behavior of male coaches (13 male football players put into the hospital), the University not only supported the male coach who physically harmed the athletes by assuming the coach acted in good faith, but honored him by giving him coach of the year.
The Cedric Everson cover-up makes an appearance, as well.
This muted reaction to a complaint by a female against a male for sexual assault is simply on other side of the bias coin to what is causing the exaggeration of female complaints when directed at a female in a leadership role. This issue has appeared at Iowa just as it has around the nation. (See- Iowa Athletic Department Cover-Up of Sexual Assault Investigated The University of Iowa seems poised to join in ignominy the likes of University of Washington, University of Colorado, ASU, Hofstra and the University of Georgia, all of whom have had to defend their athletic departments in court for covering up rape and sexual assault promulgated by their football players.
There is also an allegation that, when asked by field hockey players to conduct an investigation of this perceived bias, the athletic department instead attempted to "bribe" players with iPads, which would sound ridiculous if it came from any other athletic department.
The argument has become a fight over method versus results. The UI has focused on the effects: players who left the field hockey program have been allegedly damaged. Former players have said that they required psychological counseling , a stunning claim that has not been denied by Griesbaum's supporters. Rather, Griesbaum has focused on process, correctly stating that her methods are no worse than those used by Iowa's high-profile male coaches. Where Iowa correctly states that it has not received similar complaints from male athletes, Griesbaum counters that male athletes are conditioned to avoid complaining to higher-ups. Griesbaum (and four of her former players) argues that female athletes should be treated identically to male athletes and female coaches should be able to follow the same process. Given the nature of complaints of departed field hockey players -- complaints that Barta and company simply don't get from male athletes -- that might not be possible.
It must be noted that this complaint is not a lawsuit. Rather, it opens the door for the Department of Education to investigate Iowa athletics for Title IX compliance. It is still widely expected that Griesbaum will eventually file a discrimination suit of her own, which will only expand the investigation of Iowa athletics. In other words, buckle up.