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Gary Barta's role as University of Iowa athletics director won't change amid a federal investigation into whether he mistreated female coaches, the university said Thursday.

An interview request with Barta, who has been the Hawkeyes' athletic boss for nine years, was referred to spokesman Tom Moore.

"We are cooperating fully with the investigation," Moore told the Des Moines Register, "and Gary continues to perform his duties as our athletic director."

The UI acknowledged Wednesday that it had been notified by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, which enforces Title IX, in a letter dated May 22 that it was under investigation following a complaint by four Iowa field hockey players that Barta showed gender bias in the Aug. 4 firing of longtime coach Tracey Griesbaum. The players, who support Griesbaum, contend that her firing was emblematic of Barta showing a different standard for female coaches than their male counterparts.

The UI continues to stand by Griesbaum's firing, saying that although there was no policy violations it found that the 14-year coach oversaw a team environment of "fear, intimidation, and/or mistreatment."

If the investigation determines the UI violated Title IX, which prohibits federally funded schools from discrimination, an extreme scenario would be for the UI to lose federal funding. The Associated Press reported that a more likely scenario would be for a settlement to be reached with steps outlined for the UI to come into compliance.

The gravity of a federal investigation, though, brings Barta's status under more scrutiny.

The Board of Regents met Thursday in Ames, but Barta's boss — outgoing UI President Sally Mason — was out sick. Mason is retiring as of July 31, at which point UI vice president of medical affairs Jean Robillard will become interim president until Mason's successor is named.

"First of all, from a global perspective, it's a complaint that's been filed. And so the university is responding," Regents President Bruce Rastetter said. "And it is has not been proven that the complaint is accurate. So we'll wait for all the information to come together before we make a judgment on that. I think the university has responded in swift fashion to the compliant."

Contributing: Jeff Charis-Carlson in Ames.

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