IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa athletic department administrators ordered a woman be hired over male candidates for an assistant track coaching job regardless of qualifications, one applicant alleges based on an internal email from the head coach.
Attorneys for a male coach who says he was illegally passed over portrayed the email -- which the coach's attorneys received last week as part of a lawsuit against the school -- as a smoking gun that will help prove his gender discrimination allegations.
"It's in writing. The administration said, 'We want a female in that position,'" said Brooke Timmer, an attorney for Mike Scott, now an assistant at Missouri State.
Timmer provided the June 4, 2013, email, which she had sought for almost two years, exclusively to The Associated Press. In it, coach Layne Anderson tells assistants that he had rewritten the position's job description in a way to attract more female candidates after earlier searches failed.
"It is once again largely driven by the mandate from the administration to hire a female (qualified to them being optional -- but not to myself or Wiz)," Anderson wrote, referring to program director Larry Wieczorek.
Anderson noted that one "ideal" male candidate had already been rejected by the administration.
The job description was changed to recruit a coach with expertise in distance running because "a greater number of qualified females" would exist, Anderson wrote.
Any gender-based mandate would violate university policy and Iowa law, which bar discrimination in employment. The university has denied discriminating against Scott.
University spokeswoman Jeneane Beck said that the other five paid staff members in the program then were men. She said it was important to attract candidates of both genders because track is a combined men and women's team, adding that searches are sometimes delayed to improve a pool's diversity.
She said the department ultimately "hired the assistant coach it deemed the most qualified," Molly Jones, who had been a volunteer assistant at Florida State for two years.
The email's release comes at an awkward time for the university, which is also facing scrutiny for alleged bias against female coaches. The U.S. Department of Education is investigating gender bias complaints against athletic director Gary Barta over his firing of field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum and other female head coaches. Critics say Barta held them to a different standard than male coaches, which he denies.
Griesbaum's attorney Tom Newkirk said Scott may have a strong case given the content of the email. But Newkirk argued that the department's bias against female coaches is a far bigger problem and shouldn't be discounted given one instance of apparent anti-male discrimination for a low-level job.
Scott's allegations arise from the search to replace assistant coach Christi Smith in 2012.
Then a volunteer assistant, Scott believed he was qualified to replace Smith since he was already working in her areas, including pole vault and vertical jumps. He alleges that he was warned that administrators wanted a woman, with Wieczorek joking that a sex change might improve his prospects.
Scott, 39, was a finalist, but another male candidate was recommended and rejected by the administration. A second search failed when a preferred female candidate accepted another job. The program then gave Scott an 11-month contract as an assistant, with the understanding that another search would occur after the 2012-13 season.
Scott alleges the decision to rewrite the description disqualified him because he had no distance experience and that the description made no sense because the Iowa program already had two coaches with distance experience.
He didn't apply, and that search failed. The university again rewrote the description so that it was more general. Scott applied but didn't get an interview. Jones was hired.
Scott alleged that Anderson's email existed in a complaint filed in 2013 with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. It took until now for the university to share the document during the discovery phase of Scott's civil lawsuit, in which he is seeking damages for lost wages and emotional distress. Trial is scheduled for May.