An investigation into the University of Iowa's field hockey program that led to the firing of coach Tracey Griesbaum cited potential NCAA rules violations and raised questions about the relationship between Griesbaum and Iowa's senior women's athletics administrator.
Possible NCAA infractions are mentioned in an internal report, dated Aug. 1 and obtained by The Des Moines Register. The report concluded that although no university policies were violated, interviews raised concerns about "a team environment of fear, intimidation and/or mistreatment" and players who "felt pressured to play injured."
It was not immediately clear whether the university addressed the alleged infractions. Griesbaum, meanwhile, told the Register on Thursday that no one approached her about potential NCAA recruiting violations.
Iowa athletic director Gary Barta and Gene Taylor, the university's deputy athletic director in charge of field hockey, through a spokesman declined to comment Thursday on specifics related to handling of NCAA violation questions.
No specifics about possible NCAA violations were outlined in the report, conducted by Iowa's human-resources department and its Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity. However, former faculty athletic representative Betsy Altmaier said in an interview that emails from a player showed contact with a recruit deemed too young by NCAA rules and during a "no contact" period.
Altmaier said eight emails from late 2006 to July 2007, forwarded to a senior athletic administrator, also indicate that coaches and the player orchestrated contact in ways that were not allowed and were acknowledged as such in the communications.
"I referred the matter and sent all the emails," Altmaier said. "I was told they were not pursuing it (at the time). Not that there weren't violations, but that they were not pursuing it."
Griesbaum said she never advised student-athletes to contact recruits during impermissible times and was unaware of those accusations until questioned by the Register.
"That was never brought up in my interviews, ever," she said.
Griesbaum continued: "I think that's the due diligence of the athletic department to investigate if they thought there was any wrongdoing in any sports program in the university."
The field hockey program under Griesbaum, in 14 seasons, was one of the most successful in the Iowa athletic department. The Hawkeyes won three Big Ten tournament championships and reached the NCAA Tournament six times — including the 2008 Final Four. Iowa currently is ranked No. 14 in the country.
Tom Newkirk, an attorney representing Griesbaum, raised concerns Thursday about Iowa's handling of the investigation and dismissal of the coach.
The majority of allegations in the university's investigation, Newkirk contended, were made by a single player and could not be substantiated by other student-athletes. The report, however, indicated concerns raised by multiple student-athletes.
"Tracey was objectively an incredible coach respected by the most powerful schools in her sport," Newkirk said. "It would be like taking Kirk Ferentz at his height and saying 'Someone has complained from your football team. We're canceling your contract, you're out of here.' Can you possibly imagine the school doing that?"
A Facebook page called "Reinstate Tracey Griesbaum" had nearly 1,500 followers Thursday afternoon. Griesbaum, through Newkirk, has asked the university to reconsider its decision. Newkirk said Griesbaum plans to file a civil rights complaint within the next month and, ultimately, a lawsuit against the university.
The potential lawsuit, Newkirk said, is because the coach contends there are disparities and double standards in how the university treats male and female coaches.
"There is zero evidence to support that Tracey has done anything wrong," Newkirk said. "The dirty secret is that almost all female coaches already live with a double standard that they are not permitted to behave toward their players in ways that males are permitted to behave. And when someone decides to complain, then the administration will enable it, embrace it and exaggerate it."
Barta, Iowa's athletic director, said in a previous statement released through the university: "The claims made by coach Griesbaum's attorney in the series of letters to the university simply aren't true."
Altmaier, who worked as the faculty athletics representative for a decade through June 2011, said at least six university policies were breached by the former coach and university in areas related to anti-retaliation, harassment, human rights, safety and well-being, sexual harassment and nepotism.
Questions about the possibility of an improper relationship between Griesbaum and Jane Meyer, Iowa's senior women's athletics administrator, were addressed in the report — but the relationship was determined not to be prohibited.
Griesbaum and Meyer have been in a decade-long relationship and live together, Newkirk confirmed. Both have met with human-resources officials and were advised that a management plan wasn't necessary and a conflict of interests didn't exist.
When asked about the university investigation's conclusion that no policies were violated, Altmaier stood by her assessment. "I strongly disagree," she said.
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