Court denies University of Iowa motion to dismiss $20 million racial discrimination lawsuit against its football program

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

University of Iowa football's motion to dismiss a $20 million racial discrimination lawsuit brought forth by eight Black former players has been denied.

In a ruling issued on Thursday, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa ruled the lawsuit will proceed and that the plaintiffs, a group that includes all-time Hawkeye greats Akrum Wadley and Kevonte Martin-Manley, will have the opportunity to argue in court that the Iowa football program was "a racially hostile environment."

The court did approve some of Iowa's requests to dismiss certain counts. Count II, for instance, alleged that plaintiffs were retaliated against for making complaints about their treatment in the Iowa football program. That count was dismissed. Aspects of the lawsuit involving specific claims against head coach Kirk Ferentz were also dismissed.

Specific claims against former strength coach Chris Doyle and current offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz were not dismissed. Plaintiffs will have an opportunity to discuss those specific claims against their former coaches in court.

► Kirk Ferentz vows changeafter football inquiry finds 'Iowa way' led to systemic racism, player mistreatment

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks to reporters after the final Hawkeyes spring football practice of the season, Saturday, May 1, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

The former athletes informed the University of Iowa of the lawsuit in an Oct. 5 letter. The group is represented by Tulsa civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons and has additional demands, including attorney’s fees; the creation of a permanent Black male senior administrator position in Iowa athletics; mandatory anti-racist training for athletics staff; the establishment of a board of advisers that includes Black players and anti-racist professionals to oversee the program; and tuition waivers for any Black athlete who did not graduate with a degree during Kirk Ferentz’s 22-year tenure.

To date, Doyle is the only person to lose his job over allegations of racial bias that shook the program in early June.

Matthew Bain covers recruiting, Drake basketball and pretty much anything else under the sports sun for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network.  Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.