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Hawkeye football coaches dropped from racial discrimination lawsuit

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz walks off the field.
AP Photo
/
Charles Rex Arbogast
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz walks off the field after a loss to Illinois in 2022.

Former Hawkeye football players sued University of Iowa athletics for racial discrimination and harassment in 2020. Now, the former football players have dropped their claims against head coach Kirk Ferentz, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz and athletic director Gary Barta. IPR’s Clay Masters spoke with Vanessa Miller from the Cedar Rapids Gazette, who has been following the case since the lawsuit was first filed.

Clay Masters: Why was this lawsuit filed in the first place?

Vanessa Miller: Former players filed it back in 2020 and it happened around the time of some of the racial reckoning that was happening on social media following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Some players began to speak out about their experiences the University of Iowa and from that stemmed this lawsuit from former players saying that they experienced racial discrimination while in the program. They said they were harassed and were treated differently because of their hair or what they were wearing. They also accused some of the coaches of using derogatory language and even accused some of the coaches of hindering their post college careers in some ways.

That was what the original lawsuit outlined, and there were 13 players named as plaintiffs originally.

This includes some of the most high profile people within the University of Iowa football program with Kirk Ferentz, the offensive coordinator and the athletic director. Who are left as defendants now that this is moving to this juncture of the case because of the dismissals?

Should they all go through and a judge approve all of it, I think just the University of Iowa and the Board of Regents.

What does this mean for the lawsuit moving forward, then?

It could go on. It was sent for trial in May of 2023 and a judge recently, indefinitely postponed that because of sort of pending motions. So, it's unclear there could be a settlement in the works,. It could be that they just need to work out some of the disagreements about depositions or responses to dismissals. So, it could go to trial, or it could settle and I think we're all just going to be watching the court docket to see what happens there.

I think it's also worth pointing out that the dismissals filed against the Ferentzes, athletic director Gary Barta and former strength coach Chris Doyle were all done “without prejudice,” which is different than what happened recently when these former players dropped claims against linebackers coach Seth Wallace, why is this an important distinction?

With when something is filed or dismissed with prejudice, that usually indicates that a judge has made some determination in the case and that this dismissal is a final deposition, which just means it can't go on, like they can't try again. They can't refile. There's some indication that this is the end for that. So, “without prejudice,” typically, it means that the players could retry that a judge hasn't made a decision and this and they could refile in some way in some capacity. So Kirk Ferentz, Doyle and Barta have not oppose the dismissal without prejudice but Brian Ferentz has opposed the type of dismissal according to the court documents.

Vanessa Miller is a higher education reporter from the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Clay Masters is the senior politics reporter for MPR News.