DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The former top female athletic administrator at the University of Iowa testified Thursday that she functioned with a "don't ask, don't tell" mentality while maintaining a decade-long relationship with the Hawkeyes' field hockey coach, adding she feared she'd never achieve her goal of becoming a Division I athletic director as an "out lesbian."
Jane Meyer is suing the Hawkeyes for discrimination after being transferred out of athletics and ultimately laid off in 2016.
Meyer told jurors at her trial in Des Moines that she only disclosed her relationship with field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum to human resources staff in 2013 after she and Griesbaum decided to move in together. She said she had pored over university guidelines to ensure it didn't violate policy.
"You have to be very careful with your personal life unless you're heterosexual," Meyer said.
Meyer's lawsuit stems from issues beginning in 2014, when athletic department officials began an investigation of Griesbaum following complaints about her treatment of some players. During that investigation, Meyer was asked whether she had been in a relationship with Griesbaum.
Meyer said the question was inappropriate and that she'd never discussed the athletic department's inquiry with Griesbaum.
"It's wrong. It should have never been asked," an emotional Meyer told the court.
Athletic director Gary Barta later fired Griesbaum, a move that outraged many players and fans. Griesbaum argued she was treated more harshly than male coaches and planned legal action.
When Iowa fired Griesbaum, who was coming off three straight winning seasons, Meyer said she was shocked and asked Barta about the move at a staff meeting.
"I said 'Why are we firing our best coach? This makes no sense to me,'" Meyer said, adding she raised her voice but didn't yell, as a state lawyer has alleged.
During a university inquiry, Meyer said investigators with the school alleged her relationship with Griesbaum was inappropriate, a description she contended was discriminatory in part because she didn't supervise the coach. Meyer testified Barta later told her that her relationship did not violate policy although he transferred her outside the athletics department.
The same day Griesbaum was fired in August 2014, Iowa hired Gene Taylor to replace Meyer as the second-in-command under Barta.
Kansas State University announced last week that Taylor will become its new athletic director. Iowa elevated associate athletic director Barbara Burke to fill Taylor's vacancy.
Another point in contention for Meyer has been that Taylor received a significantly higher salary despite fewer responsibilities than Meyer said she performed. Meyer had testified Wednesday that she had also twice requested raises during her tenure but never received one.
"Not even close to the work," said a teary-eyed Meyer when asked if Taylor's workload matched hers.
Meyer said Thursday that after Griesbaum's firing, she handed Barta a memo detailing concerns about her status along with other departmental issues. Meyer said that on the following day, Barta told her she was being placed on administrative leave because of her relationship with Griesbaum and the fact that Griesbaum had threatened legal action.
A six-woman, four-man jury is considering Meyer's claim that she suffered workplace discrimination as a gay woman in a relationship with a coach. Meyer also alleges in a lawsuit the school retaliated against her.
Meyer is seeking damages for pay and emotional distress.
Barta is expected to testify Friday.