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After extensive research and compiling the following timeline, we can't help but believe that Tracey Griesbaum's termination is unjustified. We invite you to read the facts as they are presented and come to your own conclusions. Our story raises some interesting questions regarding field hockey in particular, but also college athletics universally. We will keep you informed of further developments as they relate to Tracey Griesbaum. We invite you to participate in our follow-up questions to expose the feelings you have as players, parents, and coaches on the issues and challenges we face in our sport today.
University of Iowa Athletic Director, Gary Barta, receives reports of concern on or about May 7, 2014 about the Field Hockey program, which include allegations of harassment (bullying, verbal harassment, and intimidation) of Field Hockey students and a prohibited relationship between Tracey Griesbaum, Head Coach of Field Hockey [Read Griesbaum's full Bio], and an Athletics Administrator. Barta requests an independent review of the Field Hockey program from University Human Resources and the Office of Equal Opportunity. The review is completed jointly by Josey Bathke, Director of University Employee and Labor Relations, and Tiffini Stevenson Earl, Compliance Specialist and ADA Coordinator.
Bathke and Stevenson Earl conduct a review of the Field Hockey program.
Excerpt from the final report outlining the review:
“The individual(s) who reported concerns to the Department of Athletics requested to remain anonymous during the review and requested that Bathke and Stevenson Earl not address any concerns that would/could potentially identify a specific SA. Bathke and Stevenson Earl honored these requests and proceeded to assess the overall environment/climate of the FH program to determine if there were any university policy violations. Bathke and Stevenson Earl conducted approximately 40 interviews during the review. The interviews were with current SAs, former SAs (noted that several former SAs did not respond), coaches (current and former), Department of Athletics administrators, parents of SAs, and university faculty members.”
While the final report had not been passed along to Barta yet, conversations had taken place between Barta and Bathke and Stevenson Earl about the review and the findings that there had been no policy violations by Griesbaum.
Gary Barta sends an email to Bathke and Stevenson Earl asking about how to break the news to the single complainant that the school was retaining Griesbaum:
“Question to the two of you,” Barta writes. “How shall we/I respond to the person who originally complained? My thought was to send an email indicating the inquiry has been completed.” And then later, Barta writes, “Should I indicate no policy violations found? –but areas to improve upon?”
Barta sends an email to the field hockey coaching staff that outlined a meeting they were to have later that afternoon to go over the findings from the review of Griesbaum’s program.
At the meeting in which Tracey Griesbaum, Lisa Cellucci, Michael Boal and Athletic Trainer Faye Thompson were present, Barta stated that he had not yet seen the final report of the review, but that he had met with EOD a couple of times for updates but didn’t think anything was going to come of it. He told the coaching staff to continue to maintain their same high expectations and standards for the program. Everyone who attended that meeting said they were given the impression that Griesbaum would keep her position as head coach and that they were all moving forward together.
JULY 28-AUGUST 2
University of Iowa hosts the AAU Field Hockey Junior Olympics at Grant Field and over 120 of the top youth field hockey players from around the country attend. Griesbaum and the entire field hockey coaching staff either coach or are present throughout the entire weekend.
Gary Barta is presented with the “Field Hockey Program Review of Alleged Harassment and Violations of Other University Policies” [View Complete Document]
"Bathke and Stevenson Earl considered all available information and reviewed the totality of circumstances and concluded that there was insufficient evidence presented to substantiate a violation of university policy; however, Bathke and Stevenson Earl have serious concerns about the communication within the Field Hockey Program, the perceptions of some SAs of program requirements/written and unwritten rules and the head coach, and the relationship between some SAs and the head coach.
The evidence indicates that the 2013 meeting wtih the seniors, prior to the Big 10 Tournament, was an isolated incident and does not rise to the level of a policy violation; however, the unprofessionalism demonstrated by the coaches is highly inappropriate and concerning given their leadership roles in the FH program. Even though the evidence does not rise to the level of a policy violation related to harassment, it is very concerning that several SAs consistently described a team environment of fear, intimidation, and/or mistreatment by Coach Griesbaum and that several SAs indicated they felt pressured to play injured.
The evidence also indicates that there was no prohibited relationship between Coach Griesbaum and an Athletics' administrator."
Barta terminates the contract of head field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum around 3pm. Griesbaum was an at-will employee in a 5-year contract that she signed last year. The termination was under the no-fault provision of that contract, which gives the athletic director the right to fire the coach and pay the buyout without giving any particular rationale.
Gary Barta informs the current Iowa Field Hockey team of Griesbaum’s firing at 4:17pm:
Dear Field Hockey Student-Athlete:
I apologize in advance for having to share this critical information via email, but I wanted to make you aware of this announcement prior to it becoming public. I plan to follow-up with the team in person in the days ahead.
Today, I made the very difficult decision to relieve Coach Griesbaum of her coaching duties. This decision was especially challenging because of her long and successful tenure at Iowa. In the days ahead, my focus will be to do everything possible to assist you in preparing for your upcoming season and academic school year.
I want you to know your status on the team is secure and will not be affected by this decision. I also want you to know I realize this news will be received with significant emotion. Again, I will attempt to address your questions and concerns directly in the days ahead.
In the meantime, please reach out to your assistant coaches to discuss your schedule(s) this week. You may also call my office (319-335-9435) to ask for a return call. I, or another senior administrator, will get back to you as soon as we can. I also want to encourage you to contact Athletics Department Staff Psychologist Kelli Moran-Miller if you would like to speak with someone outside of coaching or administration. She can meet with you directly – and/or point you to additional campus resources.
Again, I apologize for having to share this difficult news. I will try to update you when I have more details regarding next steps. Thank you for your patience as we work through the next few days.
Griesbaum's termination took place the same day as the University of Iowa Football's annual media day.
Griesbaum requests to meet with University of Iowa President Sally Mason in an email:
“I appreciate you wanting to meet, but Gary Barta informed me of his intended action and his reasons. I know Gary undertook a comprehensive review and based his decision for a change in leadership on all the information he received. The employment of coaches for athletics is the responsibility of the Athletic Director and he has my support.”
A “Hawks forTG” twitter account is created: @ReinstateTG. Messages of support and sympathy are posted by field hockey and non-field hockey programs from around the country.
“I am aware of the allegations that have been made against Tracey by several former student-athletes. In my almost twenty years of coaching her, working with or observing Tracey, those allegations are so far out of character for her as to be impossible to accept as true. In all the time I have ever interacted or observed Tracey, I have never witnessed her to be anything other than respectful, honest and direct in her communications with student-athletes. Tracey is a person of highest ethical, moral and professional standards.”
"As reported by the Cedar Rapids Gazette, in January 2011, thirteen UI football student-athletes were hospitalized for rhabdomyolysis related to strenuous workouts (Read Story). In April 2011, the football strength and conditioning coach is named as UI Football Assistant Coach of the Year (Read Story). In March 2014, a former football student-athlete filed a lawsuit claiming UI football coaches, trainers and staff failed to properly supervise the workouts. No staff members appear to suffer any employment consequences.
In May 2012, eighteen year UI Rowing Coach Mandi Kowal was given the option to resign or be released. She resigned. Issues surrounding the resignation were a lawsuit by a former student-athlete and team performance.
As reported by USA Today, during the 2013-2014 men’s basketball season, the UI men’s basketball coaches behavior towards officials resulted in a one game suspension by the Big Ten and a $10,000 fine to the University (Read Story). He was also observed on television multiple times screaming at the student-athletes. Gary Barta discussed the matter with him, announced he had apologized and said he has his full support.
On August 4, 2014, UI field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum is fired for allegedly creating a “climate of fear and intimidation.” She denied the allegations and requested a meeting with UI President Sally Mason, who refused to see her to discuss the matter.
There appears to be a double standard of discipline for head coaches within the athletic department related to either behavior or complaints made by student athletes and/or parents and that double standard has created a climate of fear and intimidation for female head coaches, making it impossible to discipline student-athletes without fear of employment consequences."
University of Iowa alumnus and long-time associate head coach for field hockey Lisa Cellucci agrees to serve as interim head coach of the field hockey program. Barta also announces that current assistant coach Michael Boal has agreed to remain on staff and assist Cellucci. Iowa Field Hockey alum and former assistant coach Meghan Beamesderfer would be added to the staff shortly after.
Barta’s statement about naming Cellucci interim head coach:
“Lisa Cellucci is fully prepared to lead our field hockey program. She is well respected in the field hockey community, by our current student-athletes in our field hockey program, and by our former student-athletes. As a graduate of the UI and a three-time All-American at the UI, she is well aware of what is required to achieve at a high level at the UI, in the Big Ten Conference, and nationally.”
Cellucci’s statement on accepting the interim position:
“The last few days have been very emotional for me. Tracey (Griesbaum) has been my coach, my mentor and best friend. I love the field hockey program at the University of Iowa. I am a product of this program, this university, and the Iowa City community. The tradition of excellence in play and care for our current and former student-athletes that has defined the program will continue to be my priority in the year ahead. The program that our student-athletes committed to is the program that will continue as long as I am privileged to be a coach at the University of Iowa.”
An outpouring of phone calls and email letters in support of Griesbaum are made and sent to Athletic Director Gary Barta, President Sally Mason and the Iowa Board of Regents. The Reinstate Tracey Griesbaum Facebook and Twitter pages erupt with messages of support and disbelief.
The following are segments from some of the over 120 letters of support written for Griesbaum:
"I have known Tracey as a peer in the coaching community, both collegiately and within the US National Program, for over 18 years and I am stunned by the decision of Director of Athletics Gary Barta. Tracey is universally respected by everyone in the coaching community for her ethical behavior, her professionality, her dedication to the sport and her kindness. First and foremost, Tracey has been exemplary in developing powerful, confident and successful women. She is important to the coaching community not because of her excellence as a tactician or her technical mastery but because she embodies what our role is supposed to be about: being a mentor to young adults to facilitate real world preparation and success through the vehicle of DI athletics. There is no finer in our profession across all sports and all divisions of the NCAA in this regard.
The shock of this decision is a reminder that all of us are vulnerable to the power of a select few who are unhappy with how their experience played out. Lost in this decision are the other voices, invisible and mute until now, well over a hundred Hawks whose lives have been enhanced and shaped in the most profound ways. That a sea of positives- a life's work- can be overlooked and discarded is something that an esteemed institution like the University of Iowa should not permit. For while today it is Tracey, tomorrow it may be any of us."
-Division I Head Field Hockey Coach
"I can vouch for her character and tell you that if I were to rank all Division I head field hockey coaches on ethics- I would rank Tracey #1. If I were to rank all Division I head field hockey coaches on character- I would rank Tracey #1. If I were to rank all Division I head field hockey coaches on morals- I would rank Tracey #1. Never in a million years would I ever have predicted the situation that ensued yesterday."
-Division I Head Field Hockey Coach, Former Iowa Field Hockey Assistant Coach
"I was completely shocked to hear about the decision to fire Tracey. In my direct experience of who Tracey is as a person and coach, I have never experienced her as being less than completely professional, aware and sensitive to the needs of women athletes, and a person who is a driving force to propel women forward to succeed on all fronts: academic, athletics and social. No abuse. Challenging, direct, accountable, and setting clear, reasonable and high expectations. Nothing ever that could be construed as disrespectful, rude, uncalled for, or abusive."
-Iowa Field Hockey Alum, Olympian
"The Iowa women's field hockey program is respected at every level of the sport and as a member of the Umpiring community, I am shocked that she is being accused of any form of mistreatment. As an umpire, I'm sure you must know or imagine the demeanor of some of the coaches on the sidelines during a game. As the recipient and observor of some of those coaches I can say that Tracey is and has always been an excellent role model for not only the players, but for coaches too."
-Division I Field Hockey Umpire
"I spent nine years working in the sports information department at Iowa, and Tracey was not only one of the finest coaches I dealt with, but one of the finest human beings as well. I observed her in practice, games, during bus trips, at team hotels, at team dinners... basically anywhere she dealt with student athletes and I never witnessed anything remotely approaching disrespect between her and her athletes. Of all the coaches I worked with, she was LITERALLY the last person I could believe was capable of doing something warranting her dismissal.
I understand that no amount of e-mails could get you to reverse your decision, however I implore you to look into this. There is no scenario my mind can come up with to believe this was justified. I urge you to talk to the multitude of players who's lives she's touched.
The words of a few young women with an axe to grind shouldn't end the career of an amazing human being."
-Former University of Iowa Athletics employee
"There aren't too many people in this world that I respect just as much as I respect my parents- but Tracey Griesbaum is one of them. Sure, during my four years there were certain things that I didn't always agree with Tracey on, but I can admit that looking back on those instances, she always had the program's best interest in mind. As an academic advisor for Division I student-athletes at [another University], I work with and report to five different coaches. My experiences at [my current University] over the past 4 years have taught me a lot, including one important lesson. You never really appreciate what you have until it's gone. I certainly have a level of respect for the coaches that I currently work with, but none of them are Tracey. None of them have created such a resounding culture throughout their program that lasts years and years after their student athletes have graduated. None of them are as organized and forward-thinking as Tracey. And certainly none of them have the passion and commitment to their University that Tracey Griesbaum has."
-Iowa Field Hockey Alum, Current Division I Athletics Academic Advisor
"For the over 25 years that I have known Tracey, she sets the standard of professionalism, character, passion for the game, love for the student-athlete , and the role of a Division I field hockey coach. I have had the pleasure of knowing Tracey in many different aspects of my life. She has been my teammate on the US Field Hockey team, a peer in the coaching field, the leader of the Iowa program of which I am an Alumna, a true pioneer in our game, and my friend. In my current role as a Field Hockey Club coach, I talk very passionately about Tracey and the Iowa program to my club athletes. I have the upmost respect for her and how she does things the right way! I would be very proud and honored to have one of my players be a part of her program. I will go even further in the statement, that if I had a daughter, I have two sons, I would be thrilled to have her play for Tracey. Tracey stands for everything that I would want my child to be involed with in a program. Her passion for the sport, her dedication and love for the University of Iowa, her lessons on working hard and being humble, her relentless pursuit of excellence for her student-athletes on and off the field, and her understanding that her greatest role is teaching her players to be good people."
-Iowa Field Hockey Alum, Current Club Owner/Coach
"In my ten years as a Division I coach, the two spent with Tracey hands down had the greatest impact on me as a person and as a teacher of the game. Tracey not only has impeccable tactical knowledge, but her attention to detail, her passion, her dedication, her preparedness, her intuitive problem solving, her love for the game is like no other coach I have ever worked beside. And that's just scratching the surface of all that is Tracey. I should also mention that she LOVES her kids, with every bit of her being. Their well-being, their growth, their development as young women, their ability to reach their full potential on and off the field is what resonates loudest when I think of Tracey."
-Former Iowa Field Hockey Assistant Coach
"I first came to know Tracey Griesbaum when I was about 18 years old. I wanted to develop youth field hockey where it did not exist. I dreamed that one day the University of Iowa would have players on its roster from Iowa. Just as I still imagine that more and more Universities will offer the sport, especially in states where field hockey does not currently exist. Most people in the field hockey community thought this dream was too big, especially coming from a young adult. But Tracey Griesbaum exceeded her first class reputation. Tracey immediately accepted me as a virtual stranger (at the time). Most importantly, Tracey made the most beautiful thing happen- she watered the seeds that I had virtually planted.
Through her upmost professionalism and leadership, for the first time ever, youth field hockey took place where it had never existed before. As a result, not only did little Iowan boys and girls feel what it was like to pick up a stick for the first time, they learned some of the same life lessons that Tracey imparts on her players: respect; teamwork; listening skills; and a love for a game that will provide you with self-esteem to guide one through life. Yet, what was priceless was how Tracey was not only doing some extra coaching, she was teaching her players how to coach and the importance of working with young people. For it is clear that Tracey recognizes the importance of giving back while sowing the seeds for the future.
Nearly 10 years later, I continue to do youth hockey development work for the Pan American Hockey Federation and the International Hockey Federation, respectively. Nearly 10 years later, having done this work all over the world, I realize how rare it is to find someone as excellent as Tracey in developing not only field hockey at all levels, but also current and future well-rounded female leaders through the players she attracts to your University. Tracey is in a class above first class. I hope that your University will act with dignity and make the right decision to restore the amazing legacy of female leadership development it has built through its field hockey program under the excellent professional and ethical leadership of Tracey Griesbaum."
-Field Hockey Professional
"The foundation of the Iowa FH program was built on integrity, professionalism, and BLACK AND GOLD PRIDE! Beginning with the ground work laid by Dr. Christine Grant, followed up by the thoughtful guidance of Judith Davidson, Beth Beglin, Tracey Griesbaum and the countless assistant coaches, many of whom are still involved in the sport or are now heading up their own programs. Tracey has been exemplary in her role as head coach of the Iowa FH program. I am speaking not only from an alumnae perspective, but also from that of a coaching peer and former President of our National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA). Coaches in our community are floored by this decision and all of us are most disappointed to learn that what has been termed a "thorough investigation" by the Athletic Dept. has seemingly targeted only "quitters" and disgruntled SA's from the program's past."
-Iowa Field Hockey Alum, Division I Head Coach
"To my understanding, the release of Tracey had something to do with a complaint that was filed earlier this summer. As I told the human resources department during my interview, the allegations were completely inaccurate. While none of the complaints were read to me word for word, I believe I have a pretty good understanding of where the allegations came from. I was present during most of the referenced situations. Words have been twisted in Tracey's mouth. Coaching tips were called bullying. The coaching staff has been misrepresented."
-Iowa Field Hockey Alum
"Tracey is the best coach I have played for, and the best coach I will ever play for. Her knowledge of the game is impeccable. She is able to get the best out of each and every one of her players. She is tough. The Iowa Field Hockey program, and Division I athletics for that matter, are not easy. Tracey expects her athletes to have skill, the highest work ethic, mental toughness, and elite level fitness. Multiple times in my career I have received what some may call "tough love" from Tracey. For example, my freshman year, I did not come in with elite level fitness, and Tracey informed me of that. She didn't sugar-coat it. And now, because of that, I am in the best shape of my life, and have become an even better player. She did not bully me or harass me. She simply let me know exactly what I needed to work on, and she did everything in her power to make me better. Tracey has not only made me a better field hockey player, but she has made me a better person. She has pushed me to my limits, and because of that, I know how strong of a person I can be."
-Current Iowa Field Hockey player
"I graduated this past spring. From what I understand of the whole situation so far, complaints were filed by athletes who were part of the program in the past 4 years. I even believe they come from my former classmates. And I feel ashamed having to call myself a former teammate of these girls. To know that I have spent 4 years with them. I have shared rooms with them, we had dinner together every single day of our freshman year, we worked hard together, we cried after losses together. And yet they could do this not only to Tracey, but to all members of the Iowa field hockey program. It astounds me and it makes me feel ashamed.
I was there. Whenever these people were in the same room as Tracey, I was there. When Tracey led practice, I was there. When we had games, I was there. I was there. All the time.
The allegations I have heard are- simply put- ridiculous. For every allegation they make, I can counter that with how the rest of the team saw it and how Tracey most likely meant it. She has never- absolutely never- used bullying tactics, intimidation tactics, verbally harassed someone, physically harassed someone, or even threatened to do so."
-Iowa Field Hockey Alum
"Many people will write and tell you about the wonderful relationship they have had with Tracey during their time as student athletes at Iowa; I was not one of those. We did not have the best of relationships, not seeing eye to eye with each other on many occasions. However, Tracey did always respect me, and my point of view was always heard. I made many mistakes as a student athlete, but Tracey was there to let me know I had done wrong and then push me to be even better. My last year at Iowa, I was a first team All-American and finished my college career with my highest GPA ever, a 3.18 (My first year I was on academic probation, so this was quite a personal accomplishment). Also, during my last year at Iowa, I was selected to the US National Field Hockey team, where I was fortunate to have played for six years. There is no doubt that Tracey's leadership and mentoring was a direct factor in providing the platform from which I was able to strive and accomplish goals so few even had the opportunity to encounter. I could ramble on and on about all of the times she would do individuals with me anytime I asked, or how she would meet with me weekly to make sure I was still on the right track."
-Iowa Field Hockey Alum
"I had a special experience throughout my time as an Iowa field hockey player. I have 0 athletic accolades, only academic. I rode the bench practically all four years. But I stuck it out. Why? Because I loved my team (coaching staff included). I stuck it out because this a TEAM sport. My individual success and my all-American teammates' individual successes did not matter. Did I resent Tracey for not playing me? No. Maybe some days I did not understand her decisions, but that is normal. I am a competitor. I wanted to compete. Tracey never hid from me why I was not playing. She had meeting after meeting with me explaining what I needed to work on, explaining which areas I needed improvement and continually re-iterating to me how much my role on this team mattered to the program. She cared about all of us.
Many people have asked me if I would've gone somewhere else if I had known I wasn't going to play much. Absolutely not. The discipline, work ethic, tradition, leadership, and selflessness that I learned while playing for Iowa field hockey, a program that Tracey molded and helped build, are values that are priceless to me."
-Iowa Field Hockey Alum
"My fear is that in today's environment of "helicopter parents" where younger generations are accustomed to only successes and shielded from failures (which are the most important growth opportunities), that there is growing pressure to intervene. My heart goes out to the current and future athletes that are losing the opportunity to develop strength, honor, and accountability through Tracey Griesbaum that will last long after a sports career. There are not enough positive, strong, and kind female role models in this world, and sadly you removed one; a great one. That's why you're receiving such an outpour of responses, because the world needs more Tracey Griesbaums. I hope that you know that numerous young women, even outside of Iowa's field hockey program, have always looked up to Tracey as an incredible role model and will continue to support her style of coaching that reaches far beyond field hockey."
-Former Division I Field Hockey Player
"When [my daughter] missed a class, Tracey wanted to know why. When she was hospitalized Tracey was in the room. When she underwent knee surgery Tracey stood watch outside the operating room. When she could not limp across campus Tracey organized the team to deliver and retrieve her from classes, carrying her up and down apartment stairs. Though [my daughter] could not strike a ball for Iowa, to Coach Griesbaum she was a Hawk.
There are so many more instances of Tracey Griesbaum's remarkable leadership, guidance and goodness I could relate, but why am I telling you who should know better than I. Tracey Griesbaum's greatest accomplishment is not her many victories, but the stellar young women she has molded and dispersed throughout the land, alumni who revere her and the many life lessons she imparted to them. Tracey Griesbaum is a strong, intelligent and wonderful lady of impeccable character and honesty. Her reputation for unflinching integrity, adherence to the rules and the highest ethical behavior is common knowledge in the field hockey world."
-Parent of Iowa Field Hockey Alum
"I was never promised success, I was never promised playing time, I was never promised a Championship. I was promised a family. A family is exactly what I found in the Iowa field hockey program. A second set of parents is what I found in the coaching staff. Tracey was tough but Tracey was fair. Tracey was demanding but she never demanded more than I could give. Tracey would get upset, but Tracey was upset for me, not at me. She wanted us to be better people, to be better students, to be better representatives of Iowa. She wanted us to be better for us, not for her and isn't that exactly what you want out of a coach?"
-Iowa Field Hockey Alum
"As a high school athlete, my dream was to become a Division I field hockey student-athlete. I went from being a super-star field hockey athlete in HS to an elite player surrounded by many other super stars in college. I was not a four year starter. Although it was difficult for me to support my team from the bench in my early field hockey career, I did not realize what an important life lesson I was about to learn during my four years on the team.
I learned to work harder than I ever worked before. Tracey Griesbaum forced me to. She pushed me past limits I thought existed, and helped to shape me into who I am today. She taught me how to be organized, well-prepared, and to always maintain the highest standards in all aspects of my life. Every single practice, meeting, team function, or game was thought out in such a precise way in order to maximize our time together and help us grow as a team.
After college, I immediately began both teaching and coaching. I found myself using her terminology and key phrases. As a coach of high level field hockey players, I quickly learned how well-respected Tracey was viewed throughout the coaching community. She is known to run one of the tightest Division I field hockey ships across the country. Some of my players and their parents took visits to the UI and could not pay more compliments to me when returning about the black and gold program that Tracey and Lisa Cellucci maintain. I feel so proud when that happens, and know that I am truly blessed to have been part of such a special family."
-Iowa Field Hockey Alum
"I need you to know that some of these kids that are making claims, have done this in the past! Have you asked them about their club or high school experience? If you did, I bet you would find disgruntled athletes and their parents blaming everyone but themselves!"
-Iowa Field Hockey Alum
"In being around one of the players who is making accusations, I found her tone to be very spiteful. This angers me. If the "victim" of the accusations truly feels that Tracey's behavior was wrong, why is she spiteful and not more hurt or damaged by the alleged accusations? Spite is nasty and only leads me to believe that some of the accusations are personal attacks based on 1 person's interpretation of a situation.
ALL Iowa Field Hockey players, past and present, are from out of state. Do you have any idea how ridiculously difficult that makes recruiting and maintaining an elite program? Do players quit, absolutely! Especially because when times get tough and you are being pushed out of your comfort zone, the easy thing to do is quit and/or point the finger."
-Iowa Field Hockey Alum
"Tracey simply is not capable of being an abusive coach. We were also teammates on the US team. Her temperament and professionalism is lengendary in our Field Hockey world. That is why you are seeing such strong support for her now.
Abuse in athletics is a serious issue and I can certainly appreciate your inclination to protect the players. So I pose this to you.
Option 1. Abuse did exist.
Option 2. Discrimination.
-Iowa Field Hockey Alum, Olympian
"I am very bothered by what I view as a double standard in the treatment of Tracey and male coaches at the University. The behavior of some of our men's coaches (basketball and wrestling come to mind) has been nothing short of embarassing to alumni and the University. Do you really think that the behavior of those coaches (grabbing athletes, thowing things and yelling like mad men) doesn't occur in practice sessions or one on one with those same athletes? Is that same behavior not "hostile"? Why have these individuals not been dismissed?
Mr. Barta's leadership of women's athletics given his treatment of this and of other newsworthy events over the last few years is inexcusable, and as it is aparently with Ms. Mason's support is inexcusable. Given the proud and groundbreaking leadership that Iowa has provided in the area of women's athletics over the last 40 years, alumni and supporters of women's athletics deserve more than what Ms. Mason and Mr. Barta have provided.
Iowa Field Hockey is one of the most successful women programs in Division I. If any "hostile" environment exists, it is one created by the athletic department itself, and directed at the coaches."
-Iowa Field Hockey Alum
"The recent firing of Coach Griesbaum is only the latest in a string of questionable dismissals of the coaches of women's teams at Iowa-- Tracey Griesbaum in 2014, Sharon Dingman in 2013, Mandi Kowal in 2012, Kelly Crawford in 2011, and Gayle Blevins in 2010-- which suggest that women's programs are being held to a different standard than men's programs, where coaches have been fined and suspended by the Big Ten, and now even sued for the treatment of players and their behavior during games, while they are at the same time supported and rewarded by the athletic department with raises to their already healthy salaries and other recognitions and have not lost their jobs. I join the many other supporters of Iowa Women's Athletics in calling for an investigation into how these decisions have been made and how Gary Barta is treating what used to be known as Women's Athletics. From the perspective of a fan and a member of the University community, there appears to be a systematic dismantling of the women's programs going on--minimally, the coaching staffs are being held to a very different standard-- and it deserves your attention."
-Staff member, University of Iowa
"I don't understand how a life altering decision like this could be made without taking the proper amount of time to discuss this with the appropriate parties. We were contacted by compliance in the beginning of the summer, asked a couple of very general questions and that was it. We were not contacted again. Why were we not contacted for more information? Why was this decision made so close to the start of our season? Why wasn't she given time to change her coaching style? Why was she fired when she didn't have the chance to coach another season and prove the allegations wrong? Why was the decision to terminate her given and not a strike against her? There are literally hundreds of former and present players that could have been contacted to discuss these allegations, why were the words of only a few heard so loudly that it has resulted in this action?"
-Current Iowa Field Hockey player
"I contacted your office on Wednesday via phone and spoke to one of your staff members. I raised many questions and concerns with her that I have with this decision. I was told that I would be getting a return call with some answers and it's now Sunday and I've heard nothing.
I just dropped my daughter off at the airport to return to Iowa City. She's been home for a few days prior to preseason. Before last week she had been in Iowa City for about a month. My family went out about a week ago to pick her up and bring her home for a few days and I can remember when I saw her for the first time when we had arrived in Iowa City, I asked how she was doing. Her reply, "I'm living a dream dad, living a dream." That dream has now become a NIGHTMARE becuase of the decision made last Monday.
I was aware of the compliance review at the end of the season because my daughter participated. She was asked a few general questions in a phone interview that didn't last 5 minutes. Is that a comprehensive review as your Athletic Director indicated?? She was never asked to have a face to face meeting with anyone from your athletic department's administration and from what I gather neither did anyone else. This seems hard to fathom. We terminate the most successful coach in the women's program at Iowa in the last 15 years and don't even speak with players face to face regarding the allegations leveled by only a few? I can tell you my daughter never witnessed any of this from Tracey! In fact, just the opposite. In one year with her she has gone from a naive teenager to a brilliant young women. And that's all thanks to Tracey and her program! With her, it's not all about the hockey, it's about life and making you a better person coming out on the other side! I can tell you this. I have a younger daughter in high school and if Tracey were reinstated today I would still consider sending her to Iowa! That's how much we don't believe these allegations."
-Parent of Current Iowa Field Hockey Player
Thank you for contacting me regarding Iowa field hockey. I am sharing this message with you and all those who contacted me about this issue. I support Athletics Director Gary Barta’s decision. I realize this is a difficult transition for our student-athletes, our alumni, and all those who admire and support our field hockey program.
On Wednesday of this week, Gary was able to announce that University of Iowa alumna and long-time associate head coach for field hockey Lisa Cellucci has agreed to serve as interim head coach of the program. Current assistant coach Michael Boal has also agreed to remain on staff and assist Cellucci. While I understand the transition will still be challenging, I am glad to know the program will be in such good and familiar hands.
My primary commitment is always to the success and well-being of our students—in the classroom, on the field, and throughout their collegiate experience. All of us at Iowa value and respect the proud history and impressive achievements of the field hockey program.
One Iowa field hockey alum even packed up her family and drove 16 hours (over 1,000 miles) to meet with Athletic Director Gary Barta and administrator Paula Jantz. Hearing about this alum’s meetings is the first and only time Paula Jantz’s name has ever come up, which is interesting because Jantz was Griesbaum’s direct supervisor for her entire 14 years at the University of Iowa.
Information gathered from the meeting with Gary Barta:
1) Barta had very little interaction with Griesbaum. They would have meetings every six months or so. There were too many coaches and Tracey reported to Paula.
2) When asked if he had a good working relationship with Tracey- he said that he did not work with her on a day-to-day basis.
3) Did you have reviews of performance and were there goals set? Did Tracey meet those goals or make changes when needed? Response: Can’t discuss
Information gathered from the meeting with Paula Jantz:
1) Paula Jantz did not know that Tracey was getting fired. She found out when everyone else found out, through the email announcement.
2) When asked if she had any input into the firing, she replied no. She confirmed that she was Tracey’s direct supervisor. When asked if she was asked or had any discussion with Gary Barta about it, she responded no.
3) When asked if she had any issues with Tracey, she said just in the handling of some situations, but overall no.
4) At the time of this meeting, she said that she had not been in contact with Tracey since she had been fired (over a week ago).
5) The alum got the impression that Jantz may have been scared to say much because she had 2 more years left until retirement.
Note: We have been told by other sources that Paula Jantz DID know about Griesbaum's firing prior to the email announcement that Gary Barta sent.
Longtime Athletic Trainer Faye Thompson requests a meeting with Gary Barta to review the decision to fire Griesbaum. Thompson also includes a drafted letter of resignation from the UI Department of Athletics for Barta to review.
An excerpt from Thompson’s email letter: [Read Full Letter]
As a 33 year Professional and Scientific employee of this UI Department of Athletics, in the role of ATC direct health care provider for UI Student-Athletes, 14 of those years assigned as primary health care provider in the Iowa Field Hockey Program, I respectfully and urgently request that you reconsider your decision to terminate Head Field Hockey Coach Tracey Griesbaum. I am aware of the EOD investigation initiated by you to examine “reports of concerns” about the program, including “allegations of harassment” of FH Student-Athletes. I have examined the findings from this report, and consider that the “evidence” cited therein, registered as concerns, directly contradicts the participation and observations of numerous professionals employed by you to direct, execute, and safeguard the FH program and its SA participants.
Tracey Griesbaum speaks out publicly for the first time and says that her firing was unwarranted and was based on false claims by former players that she bullied and mistreated them. She said she did nothing to justify the abrupt end to her 14-year tenure leading one of Iowa’s most successful women’s athletics programs. She denied claims that she created an atmosphere of intimidation that included verbal abuse, bullying and communication problems that caused some players to quit and upset their parents.
Iowa Field Hockey players issue a statement on Tracey Griesbaum’s firing:
This is the 2014 University of Iowa Field Hockey Team wanting to clear Tracey Griesbaum’s name.
Not even a week before our preseason started, we were left with the statement that Tracey Griesbaum was released from her coaching duties. The abrupt termination leaves us unprepared and questioning the leadership of the Iowa Athletic Department. The “truths” that were allegated towards Tracey were anything but truthful.
Her being fired was unfair and unjust.
This season, we as a team, are going to play, but we are going to do so for Tracey, and play the season the way she taught us, which is with both respect and hard work. Preparation breeds confidence, a statement Tracey instilled in us. Tracey prides herself on attention to detail, having the utmost respect for her players and colleagues, and displaying a strong character.
We were completely unprepared and heartbroken. All we have been told is vague presumptions about Tracey through an incomplete investigation. However the vast majority did not make the complaints. We want to reiterate that we don’t support this decision and are continued to be confused and saddened by it. We don’t benefit from her being fired, despite those believing that this was in our best interest; Tracey being our coach is in our best interest.
Hawks fly together. 21 strong.
Faye Thompson confirms her decision to resign from her position as Athletic Trainer assigned to the Iowa Field Hockey Program.
In Thompson’s resignation letter, she mentions “a chronic culture of a one-sided, open invitation for Student-Athletes to complain and claim mistreatment” and talks about the double standard that seems to exist between male and female head coaches at Iowa [Read Full Letter]:
The latest in a series of terminations of female head coaches at the University of Iowa, I find the decision to terminate Tracey Griesbaum to be the most bewildering, and the most torturous. Having logged many hours among many UI coaches and teams in practice and competition sessions/venues, team meetings, team travel and individual meetings, and comparing the respective public and behind-the-scenes behaviors/interactions among male vs female head coaches at Iowa, the appearance of a double standard of accountability is very clear to me.
Comparing male and female head coaches at Iowa in terms of a) performance based accountability, and b) administrative endorsement/support for the head coach to hold staff and student-athletes in the program accountable for high standards of behavior, both on and off the field, again, the appearance of a double standard is very clear to me. The steady/progressive elimination of female coaching leaders who strive for excellence is insulting to female student-athletes who seek high levels of tutelage, accountability and achievement. Further, it robs those student-athletes of the opportunity to be led and mentored by strong, professional female role models. Tracey Griesbaum is most certainly an example of a first-class female role model. This phenomenon, in my view, is a travesty for female student-athletes. It is in direct opposition to their welfare. It seems criminal to me.
Iowa Field Hockey opens the 2014 regular season against Wake Forest University in the Big 10/ACC Challenge in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Players wear warm-up shirts in support of their recently fired coach that say “TG – We Support Our Coach” on the front and the #24 (Griesbaum’s uniform #) and “Preparation breeds Confidence –Tracey Griesbaum” on the back. Players also show their support with TG24 stickers on their sticks. These t-shirts would be worn by the team during the warm-up of every contest of the 2014 season.
Support for Tracey Griesbaum and in protest of Gary Barta’s termination of her contract was heard around the country throughout the Fall season- from alumni, parents, friends, family members, Tracey’s former teammates, opposing coaches, former players who had experience playing for Griesbaum at youth events, umpires who umpired her Iowa games, fans of the game, and even general supporters who had heard about the firing and thought it was unjust. This support continued to come in the form of letters to the Athletic Director, Iowa President, Board of Regents, and media outlets - Facebook and twitter postings, and it also was shown at Iowa and even non-Iowa games across the country.
Over 80 TG t-shirt were purchased and worn to games throughout the Fall. 100% of the t-shirt proceeds went to Tracey’s charity of choice: The Pat Summit Foundation.
The message on the t-shirt website:
“Supporting TG: Alumni members of the Iowa field hockey team designed this t-shirt as a way to voice our discontent and utter disapproval of Gary Barta’s (Iowa’s Director of Athletics) unjust firing of beloved head coach Tracey Griesbaum. We hope you’ll consider buying this t-shirt to protest Barta’s decision and as a sign of your solidarity with Tracey, the current team, alumni, Iowa field hockey fans, and supporters of high quality field hockey across the nation.”
The firing had other financial implications for the University, in the form of loss of sponsorship. Angie Eichhorst, Owner of Precision Lawn Care, LLC demanded the removal of her company’s support of the program:
Newkirk claims: "There is zero evidence to support that Tracey has done anything wrong. The dirty secret is that almost all female coaches already live with a double standard that they are not permitted to behave towards their players in ways that males are permitted to behave. And when someone does complain, then the administration will enable it, embrace it and exaggerate it." Newkirk added in another statement: "It would be like taking Kirk Ferentz [Iowa's football coach] at his height and saying 'Someone has complained from your football team. We're cancelling your contract, you're out of here.' Can you possibly imagine the school doing that?"
Newkirk commented that the allegations of verbal and mental abuse and bullying were also made against Lisa Cellucci, who worked under Griesbaum for the past 14 years. He posed the following question in an interview- "If Mr. Barta thought Tracey's behavior was even close to the line.. Why would you fire Griesbaum and keep Cellucci?" The hiring of Cellucci has forced Newkirk and his team to examine what other possible explanations there could be for Griesbaum's termination, including her sexuality.
Fagan even used her recent "soundoff" on Around the Horn to address the situation: "Since 2010 the University of Iowa has fired or forced to resign five female coaches. The most recent was Tracey Griesbaum the field hockey coach, who was one of the most successful coaches in that program. They fired her on August 4th after hearing her investigation. They have not actually released all the documents pertaining to why Tracey was fired. She says it was gender bias with in the Athletic Department, but Iowa has not come forward with all the documents. They need to tell us what's going on."
A simple internet search will find you a number of stories about different aspects of the situation. The majority of the stories are just bits and pieces put together, heavily tipped to one side, with no full story or full picture to shine through. It is nearly impossible to know what is real and what is spun or taken out of context.
For example: a recent news story begins with the following: "University of Iowa field hockey players ended up in therapy due to their coach's actions, which included forbidding them from eating white bread during the season and calling them stupid, an undisclosed number of players claimed." This article is one of the few articles that actually addresses the other side of the story. Later in the article Griesbaum comments, "I was asked (during the investigation), 'Is it true that you don't allow your team to eat white bread?' " Griesbaum said. "It was a complaint put forth by a student-athlete to prove how mean and horrible of a coach I was, because we don't eat white bread. Actually, it's not even true. We eat white bread. I eat white bread right in front of them. So that's just an example," said Griesbaum, of the University's investigation that has failed to substantiate the anonymous students' statements.
We have attempted to clear up a couple of the issues that have been brought up in the media:
1) Claims of Griesbaum's inappropriate relationship with an athletics administrator:
Griesbaum has been in a long-term relationship with Associate Director of Athletics Jane Meyer. Years back Meyer went to Sue Buckley, University of Iowa Vice President for Human Resources about her relationship with Griesbaum. Buckley told Meyer her relationship with Griesbaum was not a conflict of interest. According to the University's policy that was last updated in 2004, conflicts of interest are triggered when an employee, 1) has direct supervision of a person with whom they are in a relationship or, 2) an employee "has the responsibility to make, or participate actively in making, decisions or recommendations relating to the employment status" of their close friend, relative or partner. Conflict of interest reviews and management plans have been done for other situations at the University, but it was deemed by Human Resources unncessary in Meyer and Griesbaum's case. The "Field Hockey Program Review of Alleged Harassment and Violations of Other University Policies” agreed and found that there was no prohibited relationship between the two.
Griesbaum calls herself a private person and commented in a October 30th article, "that there's an expectation in college athletics to keep same-sex relationships quiet for public relations reasons." Jane Meyer added: "I didn't have any need to [tell Barta]. I conduct myself professionally in the workplace." Both Gary Barta and President Sally Mason recently commented that they were not aware of the relationship until it was recently released in the media.
2) Potential NCAA violations
4) Outspoken Iowa professor Betsy Altmaier's comments
State of Iowa Field Hockey
Current Iowa Field Hockey players have been very active in the fight for Griesbaum. We have been in contact with a couple of them and they have said how grateful they are at our willingness to listen to their thoughts because as female student athletes they have been denied the ability to speak directly to some of the University's administrators, including Gary Barta and President Sally Mason.
Here is a segment of our correspondence with one player:
"Female student athletes are supposed to be guaranteed the same resources and assets that are given to male student athletes. For the Iowa field hockey program, Tracey was that special asset that helped each member of the team grow as a player and person. She held her players to a strict standard, one that many male coaches hold for their male athletes. One male coach who has the same coaching philosophies as Tracey is Nick Saban, the head football coach for the University of Alabama. I encourage you to watch the following 60 minutes interview with Nick Saban: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVIjjISL-3A. Tracey managed to hold her players accountable to the same standard that is portrayed in the video without becoming "volcanic." Watching the video, I get inspired by Saban's coaching, but also angry, because while Nick Saban is praised by the University of Alabama as, "the best financial investment this University has ever made," for his coaching philosophies and successes, Tracey Griesbaum was fired by Iowa for coaching the same way. Therefore, it is clear that there is a double standard for female coaches in athletics. Female athletes want to be pushed to their limits just as much as male athletes. We want to be held accountable so that we can live our lives at the highest of standards, but how can we without having role model coaches such as Tracey?
The University has been dodging complaints that relate to Tracey's unjust termination, which is why it is important to raise the issue of gender bias and how female coaches are required to have lower expectations of their female athletes to avoid losing their jobs. The population of female coaches who are strict and challenging are dwindling and that population took a major blow when Tracey Griesbaum was fired from the University of Iowa."
We have answered the other questions: Were accusations of this kind pervasive throughout the program over several years? Was there physical abuse? Did players leave the program in unreasonably large numbers? Did athletic trainers complain to the AD about the coach forcing players on the field? Were there major NCAA violations or policies violated? A resounding “No” appears to be the answer to all of these questions. From everything we have found, it seems to actually be quite the opposite. You can arguably say that Tracey Griesbaum may be THE most well respected Division I field hockey coach in the nation for having the highest level of character, integrity, and care for her players. And that is not a swaying opinion- every day of her life she is known to carry herself professionally, with integrity and pride, and with the University and program's best interest in mind. The outpouring of support has been incredible. Letters have been written by players that had all different experiences at Iowa- some starters, some not, some that liked Griesbaum's coaching style, some that butted heads with her occasionally. In all of the letters the message is the same- they speak to the extraordinary leader and person Tracey Griesbaum is and the positive impact she has had on the lives of others, especially young females. Even players, parents, and coaches from other Universities felt so compelled to fight for Griesbaum that they too shared their stories about her character. Do the accusations of a few disgruntled players really outweigh the words of a such a highly respected individual?
The "comprehensive" review of the program as reported is very questionable. First- was the requested review by Gary Barta even necessary in the first place? Did the Athletic Director ever address these claims with Griesbaum? Did he ever address these claims with Griesbaum's direct supervisor, Paula Jantz? Did he ever reach out to the Athletic Trainer who dealt with one of the major concerns- players being forced to play through injuries? We have testimony (as does Barta) from long-time Athletic Trainer Faye Thompson directly refuting the allegations/concerns registered in the report related to injury. Isn't that the proper way to address that issue- through the professionals he employs and trusts with the student athletes' welfare? We have testimony from current and recently graduated student athletes that were present when the alleged situations of abuse, bullying, and intimidation took place. They say that Griesbaum has absolutely never used bullying tactics, intimidation tactics, verbally harassed someone, physically harassed someone, or even threatened to do so. These athletes also told University officials this during their interviews. Was that not enough to bring the truth of these accusations into question? Or to at least warrant a further and more complete investigation?
Several news stories have highlighted things like "players went into therapy resulting from their coach's actions." Is that necessarily a bad thing- for a player to reach out and talk to somebody if they are having a hard time with their coach and/or the demands of Division I athletics? How many kids see therapists because of issues they have with their parents? Are all of these parents bad parents and should their kids be taken away from them? Gary Barta himself included in his letter to the current field hockey team (in which he announced his firing of their coach) the name and contact information of a psychologist for them to talk to if they had trouble dealing with the news.
President Sally Mason recently claimed that she and Athletic Director Gary Barta had no knowledge of Griesbaum and Meyer's relationship, saying they just learned of it in the news. But the program review Barta initiated in May claimed "a prohibited relationship between Tracey Griesbaum, Head Coach of Field Hockey, and an Athletics Administrator." Would he really not have asked around or looked into this prohibited relationship at that time? And then Betsy Altmaier just spoke out and said, "In 2011 I told Sally, I told Gary, and I told a member of Sally's staff." Now with Jane Meyer's recent reassignment from athletics, you have to wonder if this relationship, that Human Resources knew about and said was not prohibited, played into Gary Barta's decision to fire Griesbaum.
Could it be possible that Coach Griesbaum’s life-long career and passion has been abruptly ended by a handful of disgruntled players that just were not prepared for the coaching style and intensity of Division I athletics? Will she ever be able to get another coaching job with these claims of alleged abuse and bullying tied to her? Furthermore, there are claims that these "anonymous" players have a history of pointing fingers and getting coaches fired. Their own teammates are calling them out on social media: the latest in a post titled "To the Anonymous." What are the motivations behind these players' accusations and what did they threaten when reporting these concerns? Why did they back down when Tracey was fired and not Lisa?
One thing is for sure, if this is the complete story, a double standard exists with other marquee programs and certainly with many male sports programs at Iowa and all over the country. Would the head coach of any sport at Iowa still have their job if they were held to the same standard that was used to determine the fate of Tracey Griesbaum based on the information that has been presented?
If the direction of college sports is stepping toward the current situation with Tracey Griesbaum, why would any coach (especially a female coach) aspire to work at this level? What are the new limitations on the coach? Where is the line drawn? Can the coach yell at a player? Can they help a student-athlete with their nutrition? Can they do their job effectively without delivering some “tough love?" Can the coach no longer hold players to a high standard?
How can you coach with genuine passion and emotion while constantly fearing that one athlete may take things out of context and ruin your entire career?