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Updating the discrimination lawsuit against the University of Iowa

Recent events have taken all of the named defendants off

NCAA Football: Michigan at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

We interrupt this delightful time in the Iowa Hawkeyes sports calendar to apprise the long-simmering situation between a group of seven former Hawkeye football players and their pending lawsuit against the University of Iowa, Board of Regents, Gary Barta, Kirk Ferentz, Chris Doyle, Brian Ferentz, and Seth Wallace.

All individuals were recently dismissed as defendants, with only the University and Board of Regents remaining.

On Seth Wallace

February 25th, Wallace was removed as a defendant with prejudice.* He was added as a defendant despite not having any racially charged allegations against him. It was a fishing expedition - a fair one in my estimation - because he did have one instance levied against him by former walk-on defensive lineman, Jack Kallenberger. Wallace bullied Kallenberger by publicly disparaging his learning disability.

According to Wallace, he has since made amends with Kallenberger. Nothing was found in discovery against Wallace to justify him moving forward as a named defendant and “with prejudice” validates nothing racially motivated applies to him. By every account he is a great coach, learned his lesson, and will move on from this.

*Editor’s Note: For those not trained in the law who find themselves Googling terms such as “with prejudice” like yours truly, it simply means the charges cannot be re-filed against the defendant. So I’m this case, Seth Wallace has been dropped and there is no chance for him to be added back at a later date.

Rumors exist that the lawsuit kept him from getting a defensive coordinator job this offseason (namely: Northwestern) so if he chooses to apply elsewhere, this is unlikely to be what holds him back.

On Kirk & Brian Ferentz (and Gary Barta)

Chad Leistikow had a write-up on Hawk Central on what it may indicate with the help of Tom Newkirk (just a hilarious name in this context), the lawyer who led a successful lawsuit against the University when representing Tracey Griesbaum & Jane Meyer. The whole thing is worth a read but the biggest takeaway is this quote from Newkirk:

What happens is if you name an individual or multiple individuals is that you give power to those individuals to refuse to settle or resolve. If I’m Kirk Ferentz, and I have to approve a settlement while I’m still a named defendant, I’m not going to do that when I know that I didn’t discriminate against African-Americans, for example.

Through this lens, Jon Miller spoke on his podcast with Iowa Everywhere which more or less confirmed this legal theory around the 2:30 mark:

A month or so ago, I talked with someone and another person to try and corroborate what I heard from the first person ... and what I have been led to believe which informs my opinion is that the University wanted to settle.

They approached the Ferentzes about their desire. I’m led to believe the Ferentzes, who have their own counsel ... [and] on the advice of their own counsel, they did not want to settle.

Now, what it means for their future is, of course, to be determined. As with Wallace, there were rumors circulating where Brian was searching elsewhere for employment and could not get a job with this hanging over his head. There are obvious nepotism angles because, well, with the offense he put forth the past two and the legal matter hanging over his head, Iowa might literally be the only place he could be employed because his father is in charge.

Both Kirk & Brian have been publicly apologetic on the racial discrimination seen at Iowa and put forth many changes to improve the Iowa football culture. Could the dissolution of the alumni council have been handled better? Obviously. But the consensus is that life is much better for athletes now than it was 3+ years ago.

All three could be added back into the lawsuit, as they were taken off “without prejudice.” Not a lawyer, but this distinction seems to add some amount of leverage to the plaintiffs to apply some urgency to receive a more favorable settlement from the University.

On Chris Doyle

To borrow on how Miller framed it in his podcast, this hardly seems like an actual “spike the football” moment for his exoneration. The lawsuit still exists against more pragmatic defendants in the University & BoR. The laundry list was longer and more detailed against Doyle than all other coaches combined. It consisted of highly credible athletes (James Daniels, Marvin McNutt, Jaleel Johnson, Jordan Lomax). His suspension was justified on the basis of the consensus surrounding those accusations.

Additional contextualization: Iowa had a 2018 report which said racial bias existed. Further details were brought forth by Daniels to Gary Barta in a 2019 meeting. Iowa had their chance to change how they operated without skeletons coming out.

His separation agreement was sealed when he Frankensteined boilerplate public relations talking points with his own screed in a since deleted tweet:

Editorializing: he couldn’t take it and has hidden from it! If he doesn’t add his own paragraph, there’s a non-zero chance he’s still Iowa’s strength & conditioning coordinator provided the changes we’ve seen made (more collaborative preferred weights, wider ranges for weigh-ins, optional sleep tracking instead of required, etc) still go through.

His only other pseudo-public comments, in my estimation, came from his short tenure on the Jacksonville Jaguars staff where the club released a joint statement from then head coach Urban Meyer and GM Trent Baalke, saying: “Chris did not want to be a distraction from what we are building in Jacksonville.”

(Further editorializing, that single sentence is retrospectively hilarious)

The man has never been apologetic nor understanding of what he put Black athletes through disproportionately. The lawsuit still exists because of what was in place during his time as strength and conditioning coordinator.

Let’s not lose sight of that.

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