Q&A: Title IX icon Christine Grant on the Meyer verdict and its implications for Iowa's future
Christine Grant was University of Iowa's women's athletic director from 1973-2000. A trailblazer for women's rights in collegiate athletics, Grant guided the Hawkeyes through Title IX's infancy stages after fighting for its implementation in 1972. Today, Grant is known as one of the foremost advocates for the rights of women in sports. Among her many honors is her place in the Des Moines Registers' Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.
The following is a question-and-answer session the Des Moines Register had with Grant Friday afternoon, the day after an eight-person jury found in favor of former associate athletic director Jane Meyer in her lawsuit against the University of Iowa. Meyer was awarded $1.4 million. Grant was a regular attendee at the trial.
Des Moines Register: What was your initial reaction to the verdict Thursday?
Christine Grant: "I thought immediately this was a much, much-needed win for women in athletics across the entire country."
DMR: Do you think this verdict will encourage women in similar positions to avoid settlement and go to trial in the future?
Grant: "From my observations over the last 40 years, women in athletics, particularly, are very, very hesitant to speak up when they think things are not the way they ought to be because they pay such a high price for speaking up. I can’t tell you the number of women I personally know who have been released from athletic departments simply because they tried to get the athletic departments to do the right thing.
"It’s a very dangerous thing for a woman to do, because if she brings up a problem, then she’s gone. It’s been heartbreaking to watch this over the decades. And as you know, the women in administration and coaching have been steadily disappearing from the scene in intercollegiate athletics since Title IX was passed. You need only look at the data, and it’s so sad. We are releasing very talented women from an area that they are highly qualified for.
"So it’s been honestly heartbreaking to sit and watch this over the decades and to know that nobody’s doing anything about it. That’s the saddest part about it. I mean, where are our athletic directors? Where are our presidents? We cannot continue as a nation to continue discarding the dreams and the talents of half of our population. It’s a topic I’m very passionate about. And I think this is going to be a landmark case, I really believe that."
DMR: What kind of impact do you think the Meyer verdict will have women's rights in college athletics?
Grant: "No institution wants to put the reputation of that institution in court. Nobody wants to do that. And I think for that reason, perhaps presidents will now start thinking about things like, 'Are we in compliance with Title IX? Do we have an athletic department that is diverse and inclusive? And if we’re not in compliance, and we don’t have diversity and inclusion in our athletic department, how do we get it done?' I mean, it’s not that hard to do an analysis and then create a plan to rectify a problem. And I would hope the presidents throughout the country will take note of this case and really do something positive."
DMR: What are some potential consequences for Iowa as a result of this trial?
Grant: "Well, I think the university has got to sit down and discover how it can become better — how it can become compliant with Title IX and how to become diverse and inclusive. The plan has got to come from the university. And they could do it. I have faith in the university being able to do this."
DMR: Is current athletics director Gary Barta the person to lead that plan? Or does Iowa need to make a change?
Grant: "That’s really not my decision."
DMR: This case felt big in Iowa. But how much attention was paid to it outside the state?
Grant: "I was at the NCAA Inclusion Forum a couple of weekends ago ... and I can’t tell you the number of people who stopped me to ask about the case. I was inundated with questions. … The topic of conversation was actually overwhelming at times from people that I knew and people I didn’t know."
Unprompted, regarding the trial's jury — Grant: "I am extremely proud of the Iowa men and women on that jury. I am really proud of them. I don’t think anything like this verdict has ever come out before. And that’s another reason why it’s landmark."
DMR: What does this jury giving a unanimous verdict in favor of Meyer signify to you?
Dr. Grant: "I have always found — and I mean always found — the Iowa people to be very fair. And that’s what that jury represented to me. I know that this is a Hawkeye state, I know that. Believe me, I know that. But there’s a basic fairness that is inherent in Iowa people and that came through in that jury."
DMR: Any final thoughts?
Grant: "I would just like to tell you how frustrating it’s been for many of us in intercollegiate athletics to watch the never-ending loss of good women from our profession. And I see that verdict as, perhaps, doing something to slow down this loss that we cannot afford. It’s been going on since 1972."
Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.