On Friday afternoon it was announced that the University of Iowa athletic department is under a wide-ranging civil rights investigation by the federal government. Most of the investigation centers around gender issues, including allegations that the department does not provide equal opportunities for female athletes.
Per the AP report:
The Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education is looking into gender bias allegations in 13 areas, including how the department counts participation levels, awards scholarships, schedules practices and games and delivers services such as tutoring, medical attention, housing and dining. A team of investigators will visit the Iowa City campus in April, according to documents released Thursday under the open records law.
This investigation has been more of a matter of when not if though, as the first allegations surfaced back in 2014. Much of this started when long time field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum was dismissed, along with three other female coaches.
ESPNW reported back then that allegations of female coaches and student-athletes being held to different standards than their male counterparts were beginning to surface. A number of the female coaches began speaking out on the issue, with up to six of them being fired over a five-year period. One such coach was Griesbaum, who told ESPNW the following after her firing just two weeks before the field hockey season was supposed to begin:
“I know the environment at Iowa is very fragile right now,” Griesbaum told espnW. “They’ve lost five female coaches in five years and their heads are spinning right now. I was one of those coaches who, two months ago, was looking around going, ‘Why are we losing our female coaches? Can we stop it? Can we bring light to the administration about these double standards and the challenges we have?’ I was one of the ones who called out the double standard.”
It wasn’t just coaches either, as former Associate A.D. Jane Meyer was strangely reassigned back in 2014 as well. She spoke out in 2015, telling the Iowa City Press-Citizen that she believes “strong women are not welcome in Iowa’s athletic department.”
Meyer also just so happens to be the long-time partner of Griesbaum, and clearly something was happening behind the scenes at the University of Iowa athletics department. Griesbaum suddenly had allegations of player mistreatment put against her and she was gone, soon after Meyer was reassigned and other coaches who have spoken up were put right back down.
The review from the federal government could end up taking years to complete, after all, it took two years to figure out that it needed to open an investigation at all.
If found to have violated the civil rights of women, Iowa could be forced to change policies, add women’s sports, or other measures to correct the issue.