DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A panel responsible for resolving lawsuits against the state of Iowa agreed Monday to pay nearly $400,000 in attorney and expert witness fees as part of a settlement in a lawsuit in which University of Iowa officials reversed a decision to eliminate women’s swimming.
The State Appeal Board, which includes the state auditor, state treasurer and director of the Iowa Department of Management, voted to pay $399,989 to five attorneys and three expert witnesses. Iowa Solicitor General Jeff Thompson explained that the payment was part of a court-approved settlement. .
“This reflects fees which are in my opinion much lower than we would have ended up paying had we continued to litigate this case,” Thompson said.
Members of the University of Iowa women’s swimming and diving team alleged that the August 2020 decision to eliminate their program violated the federal Title IX law passed in 1972 that bars sex-based discrimination in federally funded education programs. The lawsuit filed in September 2020 argued that Iowa was not offering equal opportunities for female students to participate in sports as required by the law.
The university denied it was violating Title IX. University leaders said the program cuts — which also included dropping men’s swimming and diving, men’s gymnastics and men’s tennis — were needed to help balance the athletic department’s budget amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
University officials reversed the decision to cut the women’s swimming and diving program in February, while saying that they still disagreed with the lawsuit claims. They said that settling the case was “in the interests of serving our student-athletes, coaches and community.”
Thompson said the settlement also included adding a women’s wrestling program. The university also agreed to hire a Title IX monitor to review programs for the next three years and publicly report compliance with the federal law, he said.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement,” University spokeswoman Jeneane Beck said in a statement. “The Iowa athletics department is committed to gender equity and has a rich history in the success of its women’s sports programs.”