Former University of Iowa field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum will receive $1.5 million in lost wages and emotional damages in her discrimination lawsuit. Credit: John Richard for Reveal

Admitting no wrongdoing, the University of Iowa has agreed to pay $6.5 million to settle discrimination lawsuits filed by two women who had been forced out of the athletics department. The money will come from the department’s budget.

The settlement, announced May 19, marks the end of the latest high-profile case in a decadeslong battle against discrimination in women’s college sports across the country. The University of Iowa, however, had long been seen as a bastion of gender equity – until a male athletics director took over the women’s department there.

Former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum will receive $1.5 million in lost wages and emotional damages. The coach was fired nearly three years ago following allegations that she had abused her players, though a university investigation found no violation of school policy. Griesbaum’s lawsuit claimed the university discriminated against her based on gender and sexual orientation and because she had openly criticized the athletics department.

The university also will pay $2.3 million to Jane Meyer, an ex-senior associate athletic director at Iowa and Griesbaum’s partner. Earlier this month, a jury awarded Meyer $1.4 million, ruling in favor of all of her claims: sexual orientation and gender discrimination, retaliation for speaking up and unequal pay. The new settlement adds $900,000 to Meyer’s award; the remainder of the $6.5 million will cover legal fees.

Last year, Reveal followed Griesbaum and Meyer in a larger story and Reveal podcast about discrimination against female college coaches across the country. In 1972, women coached 90 percent of women’s college teams. Today, that number is 43 percent. Reveal found that in the last decade, at least 29 female coaches and eight female sports administrators filed discrimination lawsuits against their universities.

While across the U.S. female coaches were replaced by men after the passage of Title IX, women remained in the majority at the University of Iowa for decades. In the last seven years, however, five women have been fired from Iowa’s athletics department.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the date of the settlement. It was announced May 19.