UI offers some (not all) answers over field-hockey flap
The University of Iowa provided information to prove it investigated past NCAA violations in its field hockey program even as new questions swirled Tuesday about the university's treatment of women's coaches.
Iowa officials continue to clarify events surrounding NCAA questions raised late last week in a story published by The Des Moines Register. The story outlined confusion about whether an investigation was conducted after former coach Tracey Griesbaum and faculty athletic representative Betsy Altmaier claimed they were neither included in nor informed about a probe.
Meanwhile, an ESPNW.com piece published Tuesday quoted former women's coaches at Iowa who contend there is a double standard for high-dollar, male counterparts and unsupportive work environment.
The ESPNW piece chronicled five women's coaches who were fired or forced to resign the past five years, including volleyball's Sharon Dingman. The report quoted Dingman as saying, "There is a culture at Iowa that is unhealthy. Women are treated differently, and it's frightening for coaches — it's not healthy. There are obstacles for success for all women, bottom line."
Iowa athletic director Gary Barta and deputy director Gene Taylor, whose duties include oversight for the field hockey, have turned down multiple requests for interviews through university spokespeople — citing an inability to discuss personnel matters.
Rick Klatt, Iowa's associate athletic director for external affairs, filled in some details in a series of interviews, e-mails and text messages between Friday and Tuesday. He hinted Friday at possible media coverage related to women's coaches and programs, four days before the ESPNW piece landed.
Klatt said Friday that the biggest percentage increase in money invested with programs during Barta's nine years — beyond salaries, regardless of gender — is the 141.5 percent growth of field hockey. Three of the top five programs measured that way, Klatt said, are women's teams.
"I think that speaks very plainly to the commitment we have to our women's sports programs," he said.
Iowa was asked this weekend for raw, overall dollars used to support each program — but had not provided that information as of Tuesday night.
Klatt, meanwhile, said Iowa investigated NCAA violations related to field hockey more than four years after they occurred and sanctioned the current head coach of the Hawkeyes. The university identified three violations it characterized as secondary and restricted then-assistant coach Lisa Cellucci from making contact with recruits.
Cellucci also was placed on probation for a year, Klatt said.
Altmaier, the faculty athletic representative at the time violations were reported to top athletic officials, indicated in last week's Register story that the violations emerged through discussions with the parents of a former player. Altmaier, a psychology professor at Iowa, reported the concerns to a senior athletic administrator in February 2011, but contends she later was told "they were not pursuing it."
The eventual penalties for Cellucci stemmed from emails to a recruit on Oct. 17, 2006; Dec. 3, 2006; and March 12, 2007, Klatt said. Sanctions were outlined in a memo to Cellucci on July 18, 2011, he said.
Griesbaum said in a Thursday interview with the Register that she never advised student-athletes to contact recruits during impermissible times and was unaware of those accusations related to her program until questioned by the newspaper. Klatt said, however, that Griesbaum was informed through an official memo from the university.
The coach was fired Aug. 4, two weeks after a meeting where Barta outlined a range of concerns with the program – but provided no indication Griesbaum's job was in jeopardy. In a July 12 email obtained by the Register, Barta told Griesbaum he was provided verbal account of findings from investigators and "we'll discuss getting beyond this issue." Barta added: "As hard as this has been, we can come out of it stronger than before … and I'm committed it (sic) that."
Iowa has declined to explain what changed, in terms of Griesbaum's status, between the July email and meeting and eventual firing.
It also remains unclear how an NCAA-related investigation could be conducted without the involvement of the program's head coach and without the knowledge of the faculty athletic representative who raised infraction questions that later produced sanctions.
The length of time between the infractions and sanctions, Klatt said, was a result of identifying the concerns for the first time years later.
"Why so much later?" Klatt said. "We investigated these once they were brought to our attention — and they were brought to our attention in 2011."
The possibility of NCAA infractions are mentioned in an internal report, dated Aug. 1 and obtained by the Register. Klatt said there are no NCAA issues connected to the program at this time. The report, though, highlighted concerns about "a team environment of fear, intimidation and/or mistreatment" and players who "felt pressured to play injured."
Tom Newkirk, an attorney representing Griesbaum, said those findings illustrate a double standard.
"The only possible way for a female coach to make concerns stop by female players and their parents is to lower her standards to such a point that she no longer was the coach that she was," Newkirk told the Register. "She would have to coddle everyone and make certain she didn't raise her voice or say the wrong thing. It is simply offensive that they would expect her to do that."
The Register's Jason Clayworth contributed to this report.