Group of Black Iowa football alums moving forward with lawsuit after $20 million demand not met

Several former Iowa players are moving forward with their lawsuit against the university after alleging racial discrimination and mistreatment during their playing days under longtime coach Kirk Ferentz, according to The Des Moines Register.

Eight Black ex-football players threatened to sue the university in a letter last month if their demands — which included Ferentz, his son and assistant coach Brian Ferentz and athletic director Gary Barta being fired and $20 million — weren’t met.

“Even though we are withdrawing our offers, we are receptive to revisiting settlement discussions after filing our lawsuit,” their attorney, Damario Solomon-Simmons wrote in a letter, via The Des Moines Register, “and using the discovery process to depose coaches, players, recruits, and staff and review litigation related documents including the four personnel reports regarding current and former employees you have hidden from the public."

Former players demanded $20 million, firings

Dozens of former Black players have spoken out in recent months about their experiences playing for Ferentz at Iowa. Many said they were treated unfairly and were unable to be themselves there, and several complaints were directed at former strength coach Chris Doyle.

Doyle was placed on administrative leave, and eventually reached a separation agreement with the school. Ferentz admitted that he had a “blind spot” in his program, and that an advisory program will be formed. He allegedly was briefed on the racial issues more than a year before the first complaints surfaced.

Ferentz, who is the longest-tenured coach in college football, has been with the Hawkeyes since 1999. Eight former players — defensive back Maurice Flemming, receiver Andre Harris, running back Marcel Joly, receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley, linebacker Aaron Mends, running back Jonathan Parker, linebacker Reggie Spearman and running back Akrum Wadley — signed their names to the initial letter.

“I am disappointed to receive this type of demand letter,” Ferentz said last month after their initial demand letter. “Due to the threat of litigation, I am not able to address the specific comments made by our former players. As you know, this past summer we made adjustments to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all of our student-athletes. These changes include both policies and rules, as well as an expanded leadership council of current players and a new advisory committee comprised of former players.

“I am deeply committed to helping everyone who joins the Hawkeye Football program reach their full potential on and off the field.”

The lawsuit has not yet been filed, and the former players did not provide a timeline for when they would do so.

"The stories shared by former athletes this summer resulted in a strong commitment to improve,” the university said in a statement on Tuesday, via The Des Moines Register.

"To that end, the University of Iowa continues to work hard to become a more inclusive campus for all students. We appreciate the athletes using their voices, and we are on a positive path forward with our team.

"As has been stated previously, any student-athlete who left the university without obtaining a degree is welcome to return as part of the UI athletics department degree completion program, which provides financial assistance for former student-athletes."

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz
Eight former Black Iowa players sent the school a list of demands last month, which included Kirk Ferentz being fired and $20 million. (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

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