By O. Kay Henderson (Radio Iowa)
A more than $4 million legal settlement has been reached with a dozen former University of Iowa football players and the three member State Appeals Board meets this afternoon to review and approve it. The players alleged the Hawkeye program was a racially hostile environment for black players.
State Auditor Rob Sand, a member of the Appeals Board, will vote against the settlement because Iowa taxpayers would pay $2 million of it. “This is now the fourth discrimination settlement while Gary Barta has been the athletic director at the University of Iowa,” Sand said during a news conference in his statehouse office. “Enough is enough.”
Sand, who is a graduate of the University of Iowa law school, said the only way he’d support the settlement is if Barta is ousted and forfeits any severance pay. “There’s a certain point at which an institution needs to communicate to the public that it isn’t just a group of insiders protecting each other and that’s what I think this settlement feels like unless Barta’s gone.”
Barta has not responded to Sand’s remarks, but issued a written statement this morning about the settlement. He said the University of Iowa Athletic Department “remains committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for every student-athlete and staff member involved in our program.”
The attorney general’s office is recommending approval of the settlement with the former Hawkeye football players. In similar instances, attorneys have argued the State of Iowa could likely spend far more money if the lawsuit is heard by a judge and jury. Sand told reporters that’s not a persuasive argument in this case.
“The easiest way to save taxpayers’ money is to have the person most responsible for these kind of decisions taking care of them and having some accountability themselves,” Sand said.
Sand, who has been state auditor since 2019, has opposed three other legal settlements involving state officials accused of sexual harassment because taxpayers were covering the entire cost of the settlements.