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New details emerge in the firing of former coach Tracey Griesbaum

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | NOVEMBER 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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Dismissed Iowa field-hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum and her legal counsel plan on filing a wrongful termination suit against the Iowa Athletics Department stemming from her August firing.

They will file the suit next year unless they hear any new information from the department.

Tom Newkirk, Griesbaum’s attorney, said many of the allegations of verbal and mental abuse and bullying alleged by former Iowa players, which led to the termination of Griesbaum’s contract on Aug. 4 by Athletics Director Gary Barta, were also made against then-associate and now head coach Lisa Cellucci.

A source close to the team, who has asked not to be identified, confirmed last month that Cellucci was included in the allegations. Cellucci worked under Griesbaum for 14 years before Griesbaum was fired.

“If Mr. Barta thought Tracey’s behavior was even close to the line, why would he hire [Cellucci, who] has said ‘Why would you fire [Griesbaum] and keep [Cellucci],’ ” Newkirk said. 

Following Griesbaum’s dismissal, many former and current members of the Iowa field-hockey team came to Griesbaum’s defense, claiming any accusations of verbal and/or mental abuse, as well as bullying, were false. A Facebook page was set up for the purpose of reinstating Griesbaum as Iowa’s head coach.

In addition, the current Iowa field-hockey team has worn shirts that call for her reinstatement when warming up before games this season.

Cellucci was named interim head coach shortly after Griesbaum’s dismissal and quietly had the interim tag removed from her title a few weeks later, without a release from the Athletics Department disclosing that information.

“It’s a program that Lisa grew up in over the last 15 years,” said attorney Jill Zwagerman, who also represents Griesbaum. “Yes, she has her own certain way of doing certain things and her own style, but it’s all part of the program that Tracey built.”

Despite repeated attempts over the last several days, Athletics Department officials have failed to follow through with scheduled interviews or make any comment.

An ex-Iowa player from last year’s team was contacted on more than one occasion as well; however she also failed to respond.

The situation with Cellucci has forced Griesbaum and her camp to examine other possible explanations for her termination, including the former coach’s sexuality.

Griesbaum, who identifies as gay and according to Newkirk, was close to publicly disclosing her relationship with Senior Associate Athletics Director Jane Meyer before being fired, has recently started to realize that sexual orientation may have well come into play in the decision to fire her.

“Barta knows full well that all the allegations against Tracey were false or misleading or exaggerated or, he would not have hired Lisa,” Newkirk said. “This is a reason Tracey’s being gay and possibly him knowing she was about to come out in her relationship may have been more behind this than we thought.”


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