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Thoughts on Iowa’s $4.175 Million Settlement

Former players will receive about $180k per person in the settlement

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North Texas v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

On Monday, litigation brought by former Iowa football players against the University of Iowa and the Iowa Board of Regents was settled. The suit was settled in the amount of $4,175,000. Settlements and legal losses under Athletic Director Gary Barta now reach 8 figures. Scott Dochterman broke it down in an excellent summation on The Athletic.

This was going to be the result of this case once individual defendants were removed from the case in the last 10 days. First Seth Wallace was dropped from the lawsuit, then Kirk and Brian Ferentz and Gary Barta. Boiler covered it here. That left the University of Iowa and the Board of Regents as remaining defendants in the case, opening the door to settlement.

On it’s face, it’s run of the mill. It’s a decent amount of money, with a good chunk of it consumed by court/attorney fees. The Plaintiffs in the matter will split roughly $2.26 million.

But the plot thickened when State Auditor Rob Sand said he would not vote in favor of the settlement if taxpayer funds would be used for the settlement, and that he believed Gary Barta’s time at the University of Iowa should expire. The State Appeal Board later voted 2-1 Monday afternoon in favor of the settlement. Sand, the lone dissenter, released this statement:

With the appeal board vote in favor of the settlement, Iowa taxpayers are footing nearly HALF of this settlement.

This whole thing veered into state politics beyond just Sand. Rules still apply* as to politics on the blog but the move to have Iowa taxpayers footing part of this bill led to incredible statements being made in the Iowa Senate and they cannot be ignored.

(Editor’s note: he’s correct. Please keep commentary as apolitical as possible)

For those scoring at home – you have Sand, a Democrat, and Sweeney, a Republican, meeting in the middle and we now have bipartisan support as to Gary Barta’s tenure at the University of Iowa. Senator Sweeney called for reviewing the whole budget. THAT might be the most remarkable moment in all of this.

(Also adding...Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson was in the room and captured quotes from Sand’s counterparts. Most notably State Treasurer Smith saying Iowa should “reexamine relationship with Gary Barta, Brian Ferentz, and others named in recent lawsuit.)

Of course, the fact that this settled at all made Kirk Ferentz mad.

I’m not in PR, and my name isn’t involved in any litigation, but my advice on this would’ve been to keep a low profile and move on, as this is bigger than Kirk Ferentz. Move on, as was Kirk’s wish at the end of this statement. The attached document showing recanted statements as to Brian Ferentz is also bizarre – Brian Ferentz turns 40 in 3 weeks (so he’s not a man yet, per Mike Gundy), but surely he can stand on his own on this? What about statements as to other coaches? Were those recanted? That statement looks like a “save Kirk and Brian, first and foremost” statement more than anything else.

And look – I’m not an attorney. Previous editor Patrick Vint is and tweeted a great thread as I was writing this. It’s a great summation from a lawyer point of view and I’m compelled to include it. After all - it’s not plagiarism if you link to it.

There must be SOMETHING that would’ve come out in a jury trial that would’ve been incredibly damaging to Iowa. Plus there is the small matter of Chris Doyle’s dismissal, which is not nothing – if there were no problems, he’d still have a job. The Husch Blackwell report was also damaging in its conclusions. Is there more that wasn’t covered and would’ve made an appearance to the public during a jury trial? Perhaps. Iowa’s counsel would know that. And that’s before we get to the defendants in this – we’ve seen some of these characters on the stand in previous litigation and it didn’t go well! So while I understand completely Kirk Ferentz wanting his day in court to clear his (and Brian’s) name, at the end of the day this was about risk assessment, and neither the University of Iowa nor the Board of Regents were interested in exploring that in any way.

Perhaps rulings would have gone in favor of the defendants on the pending motions to dismiss in this matter, as Kirk believed would happen…but what if the motions were denied and the case moved forward? What if you roll the dice, go to trial, and lose (again), like they did in the Jane Meyer/Tracey Griesbaum matter? $4.175 million balloons into a much larger figure, to be determined by people other than counsel for the Board of Regents and the University of Iowa. $4.175 million then looks like a bargain if the figure balloons out of control. “Should have settled!” becomes the chorus.

It was believed Iowa had good defenses in the Meyer case. That’s all well and good, but then you get to trial and…poof, it blows up in your face. Now you have a jury deciding this, and many of the people that testified in the Meyer matter are back on the witness stand? No. That’s a risk Iowa was unwilling to take.

The taxpayer part of this – well, I’m sorry, Iowans. Somehow, we’ve reached a new low with Gary Barta at the helm. And so far we have silence from President Barbara Wilson. It’s one thing if Kirk is told to keep a low profile, like I think he should. The President of the University of Iowa? No. She should surely speak up at this point in time.

Back to Gary - I really can’t believe this guy. This is an athletic department that will get oodles of money from a new TV deal. Most things on the field/court/mat are in good shape. Just stay out of the way! Document things properly! Nope. Not Gary. Ol’ Gar saw previous mismanagement at Iowa and went even beyond “hold my beer.” (For a good refresher on this, take a look back at this excellent series from The Director, which JP reupped in 2019; it’s football-centric but hits on overall mismanagement in the athletic department. This is something else, and we shouldn’t have to endure this anymore.

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