IOWA CITY — The reassignment of a senior official in the University of Iowa Athletics Department and the reorganization of two athletic units was partly under discussion for several months, but the timing of the changes also reflects the recent investigation of sexual harassment allegations by a former staffer, Athletic Director Gary Barta said.
Longtime department official Fred Mims has been reassigned, Barta announced Friday, and the department’s compliance and student services units will become separate units under the leadership of two interim directors, effective immediately.
Many details of the changes remain to be worked out, Barta said, including Mims’ new salary in his reassigned role. Mims, who has been with the department more than 30 years and most recently was associate athletics director for student services and compliance, will remain an associate athletics director on the senior staff who will continue to work day-to-day with student-athletes, Barta said, but Mims’ salary “will be adjusted to reflect his new responsibilities.”
Mims was the supervisor of Peter Gray, the former associate director of athletic student services who resigned Nov. 5 after the university investigated sexual harassment complaints against him. Gray worked for the department from 1993 to 1995 and was rehired in 2002.
When asked if the Mims’ reassignment was disciplinary action in the wake of the Gray investigation, Barta said disciplinary action is a personnel matter and he would not comment on that.
“We’ve been going through this process and lots of steps along the way,” Barta said. “At the end of the day, I just decided I’m going to create this separation, this reorganization and reassign Fred in the process.”
The idea of separating compliance and student services into two units has been discussed for the past year or two, Barta said. The demands and responsibilities on both units have grown significantly, he said, and many departments at peer schools have moved to a separation of the units.
But once Barta learned in October about the university’s internal investigation of sexual harassment complaints against Gray, this reorganization was expedited, he said. Gray was put on administrative leave during that investigation and did not return to work before he resigned, Barta said.
“Obviously we didn’t intend to move this quickly, but with what happened in October, that clearly provided the opportunity for me to make the decision and move forward,” he said.
Barta finalized his decision about the changes Thursday night, and said he spoke with two people within the Athletics Department about serving in the interim roles to head compliance and student services. Those appointments should be announced soon, he said. Barta said he decided “for various reasons” that Mims would not head one of the units under the reorganization.
“I’ve adjusted his responsibilities, but one thing that’s a mainstay of his current and past roles is the day-to-day of working with student-athletes. That will be the primary focus of his reassignment,” Barta said. “He’ll be an integral part, as I work through this transition and create these two new departments, in terms of providing me direction and advice because of his institutional knowledge.”
The compliance office is responsible for ensuring the department is operating its 24 sports programs within the rules set by the UI, Big Ten Conference and NCAA. The student services unit is responsible for providing academic and personal support to the more than 650 student-athletes.
The reorganization of the units will maintain the dual reporting responsibilities outlined several weeks ago by UI President Sally Mason in the wake of the Gray investigation, Barta said. The person responsible for managing the compliance staff will report to both Barta and the Office of the General Counsel for the next two years, and the person responsible for managing student services staff will report to both Barta and the Office of the Provost for the same period of time, as Mason directed.
Mason also called for internal audits of the processes in student services and compliance, and a review of university hiring practices.
The changes Barta announced Friday are expected to be the “final steps” taken by the department in the wake of the Gray investigation, unless those UI audits in the next several months reveal other action is needed, he said.
“Our number one priority is to make sure student-athlete needs are being served,” Barta said. “It’s just taking a difficult situation and using that situation and reacting to that situation to make ourselves a better department.”