IOWA CITY — Members of the Iowa women’s field hockey team showed their solidarity behind former Coach Tracey Griesbaum by announcing a statement of support Tuesday afternoon.
Two weeks after Griesbaum was dismissed, the team delivered an emotional statement expressing their loyalty and support for their former coach. The statement was sent to media outlets by current field hockey player Elizabeth Leh, and several — if not all — players used various forms of social media to distribute it.
“This is the 2014 University of Iowa Field Hockey Team wanting to clear Tracey Griesbaum’s name,” the statement read. “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.”
The Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity and University Human Resources launched an investigation into the accusations this summer. Griesbaum, 48, was fired Aug. 4 after she was accused of mentally and verbally abusing several former athletes. Griesbaum denies the accusations. Griesbaum immediately sought a meeting with University of Iowa President Sally Mason, but was rebuffed.
Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta issued his own statement Tuesday night saying he respects their decision to support Griesbaum.
“I have been made aware of, and have read, the statement of support for coach Griesbaum released by our current field hockey team,” Barta said. “This has been an emotional process and period of time for everyone involved ... including, and especially for, our student-athletes.
“The women in our program have been very respectful and professional in several meetings with me and my staff. While I don’t agree with everything in their statement, I do respect and appreciate the decision to support their former coach and their desire to publicly express it as a team.
“As a program, we have focused the past several days on moving forward. I’m pleased with the student-athletes’ expressed commitment to Iowa field hockey and their dedication to prepare for a successful 2014 season.”
Longtime assistant Lisa Cellucci is the interim coach this season. Griesbaum was 169-107 in 14 years as Iowa’s head coach. She directed the Hawkeyes to three Big Ten Tournament titles, one regular season championship and a Final Four appearance. Griesbaum coached 20 All-Americans, including last year’s NCAA points leader Natalie Cafone, an incoming junior.
Former players and colleagues of Griesbaum have rallied to her support with a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter. More than 1,300 people have “liked” the Facebook page “Reinstate Tracey Griesbaum as University of Iowa Field Hockey Coach.” Letters have been sent to University of Iowa President Sally Mason, who remains steadfast in her support of Barta’s decision, and to the state Board of Regents.
The school thus far has blocked public release of the report, which Griesbaum told the Associated Press was incomplete and inaccurate. Griesbaum’s firing was considered without cause and her severance package was $200,000, per the terms of her contract.
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