JANE MEYER VS. THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA: COACHES, GENE TAYLOR TESTIFY

By Mike Jones on May 2, 2017 at 2:00 pm
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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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Last we spoke, Gary Barta’s testimony was winding down and Lisa Bluder was expected to take the stand. There was an expectation that Bluder would be asked questions about her relationship with Meyer, etc. Instead:

Jensen is Iowa women’s basketball’s assistant head coach and played for Bluder when she was at Drake in the 1990’s. Bluder also testified that her working relationship with Barta was “good” but there were no questions asked about Meyer by either side. I’m sure there was other information obtained that wasn’t Tweeted out but if not, I’m not sure why they wouldn't just call Jensen to ask her questions about how the athletic department treats her, as she is gay herself.

Thursday’s testimony closed with testimony from Jennifer Modestou, Director of Iowa’s EEOC office and Deputy Title IX Coordinator, and Josey Bathke, one of the authors of the memo regarding the investigation into the field hockey program. Modestou said that she’d seen the December 4th, 2014 memo from Meyer to Barta but that no investigation was opened. Bathke testified about her field hockey investigation and that there were no policy violations found. Also:

This probably came as a shock to Bathke as, y’know, there were no (founded) policy violations by Griesbaum. Bathke continued testifying on Friday:

Of course, this is pure speculation by Bathke but it’s wholly reasonable to think that Barta was feeling some sort of pressure from outside of the program to make a decision on Griesbaum. Bathke also testified that Griesbaum was upset that athletes had gone over her head about complaints and that some athletes were upset that no senior meeting was held that year.

Tracey Griesbaum took the stand next. She said she was surprised by the investigation into the field hockey program and was upset that questions were asked about her personal relationship with Meyer:

Griesbaum also denied the allegation that she refused to change her coaching style:

A recorded deposition from swimming and diving coach Marc Long was played for the jury. Long has been with Iowa for 13 years and was supposedly told by Barta:

Timing. Timing. Timing. So important in this case. Remember, Griesbaum was fired on August 4th, 2014 and her relationship with Meyer was publicly disclosed on October 30th, 2014. It wasn’t until December 5th, 2014, that Meyer was moved out of the athletic department, a day after she filed a written complaint about Barta’s actions. Further, Barta had been hearing rumors as far back as 2011 about Meyer and Griesbaum being in a relationship. So, it wasn’t that he had “just found out about” it.

On Thursday afternoon Meyer rested her case and the defense opened on Friday morning with Brian and Kirk Ferentz. Brian’s testimony was relatively uneventful as he was only on the staff for a brief time before Meyer was moved out of the athletic department. Kirk Ferentz’s testimony was more fruitful as he worked with Meyer during the construction of the new football facility. Apparently, the big issue was with the mock-up/drawing/design that Meyer was to provide to Ferentz (or the football program in general):

Ferentz also described the working relationship with Meyer as “turbulent” and said that he didn’t feel like she was on the same page as the rest of the athletic department. Despite this, the football program got everything they wanted with the new facility. A key aspect of Kirk Ferentz’s testimony: He never spoke directly with Meyer about any concerns that he had.

Tiffini Stevenson Earl briefly testified. You might recall her as one of the co-authors of the memo about the field hockey investigation. Her testimony was substantially the same as Bathke’s.

And then came Tom Brands.

As you’d expect, Tom Brands didn't beat around the bush. It’s problematic for Meyer’s case for the jury to hear the head coach of Iowa’s most decorated program to say that she believed “wrestling was an afterthought.” The defense is that Meyer was insubordinate and difficult to work with. If you’ve got the head coach of the Iowa wrestling program essentially saying “she was difficult to work with”, that’s not going to help. Same for Ferentz, who may have been a little more “restrained” in his testimony. Final note: Brands did say that he respected Griesbaum and her field hockey program.

And yes, Coach Brands, we think you’re a direct communicator as well.

Friday ended with former associate athletic director Mark Jennings testifying. He said that Meyer’s outburst upon hearing of Griesbaum’s firing was out of character but:

Monday’s testimony opened with the defense calling Gene Taylor, former deputy athletic director and current athletic director for Kansas State. Regarding Meyer’s August 4th outburst:

Now, Gene Taylor isn’t an expert witness in this case but with his resume, he might as well be. For him to say that Meyer’s conduct was unprofessional and that he would’ve fired her if he was in charge (wait, wasn’t he?) is in my opinion, a considerable blow to the plaintiff’s case.

Head baseball coach Rick Heller was called to testify next and tell me if you’ve heard this before:

Heller said he wanted the outfield fence moved in 8-10 feet:

There appears to be a common theme throughout the testimony of the defendant’s witnesses. They’re asking for work to get done on their facilities and Meyer doesn’t appear to be doing it. That’s another shot to the plaintiff.

Barbara Burke, the new deputy athletic director, retired senior associate athletic director for sports administration and operations Paula Jantz and associate athletic director Mary Curtis testified on Monday afternoon. Curtis testified that he’d never seen Barta make any decision based on gender and that:

Jantz is an important witness for the defendant for a couple of reasons. First off, she was a high ranking athletic official during the time that this was going on. Second, and perhaps more importantly for the jury’s perception of Barta and the athletic department, Jantz is gay.

However, Jantz did give some contradictory testimony. She mentioned an incident back in 2011 when Meyer came to her with concerns about a male rowing coach she (Jantz) hired and a female candidate being passed over. Jantz saw that as a challenge to her decision making. But she didn’t mention this incident in her previous deposition:

Also, Jantz said she would’ve liked to have known that Griesbaum and Meyer were in a relationship...but couldn’t exactly say why she wanted to know. A couple of positives for the plaintiff included Jantz stating that she doesn’t believe that Meyer acted unprofessionally after Griesbaum was fired, that she enjoyed working with Meyer, and that she opposed Griesbaum being fired. Actually, that last piece of testimony could cut both ways because if she opposed Griesbaum’s firing, she could be seen as a more neutral witness rather than a witness in favor of the defense.

This morning, the defense called an economist by the name of Eric Frye, who testified:

Rod Lehnertz, director of planning design and construction at the University of Iowa, who supervised Meyer after she was moved out of the athletic department, testified that he didn’t have any more work to give her following the FEMA contract ending in 2016. He was followed by Cathy Zaharis, a current official at the Tippie College of Business and former member of the Presidential Committee on Athletics Equity subcommittee (this is missing from her prior positions). Meyer was a liaison to this committee.

Even assuming that Meyer and Griesbaum’s relationship was cleared by human resources, it was in Meyer’s best interest to avoid even the possibility of a conflict of interest. Sitting in on this committee, as a liaison, when your significant other is the topic of an administrative hearing, is a conflict of interest.

I know that was a lot to catch up on but if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s that this is almost over. The defense is only expected to call a couple more witnesses before resting their case. It’s likely that any post-evidentiary issues will be handled tomorrow, along with proposed jury instructions, and then closing arguments and submission to the jury will occur on Thursday.

We’ll be back with another update at the close of evidence.

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