The State Of Iowa Football

Your program. Your hires. Your responsibility, Kirk.

Jim Rome
June 09, 2020 - 9:18 am
Kirk Ferentz

USA Today

Categories: 

In the wake of the George Floyd killing, there has been new attention paid to police brutality, as well as institutional and systemic racism. And that scrutiny is being applied to a number of college football programs. Big time programs around the country have had to address comments made by coaches over the years.

And no program has received more scrutiny than Iowa.

The school has placed strength coach Chris Doyle on administrative leave after numerous players have come forward and described negative experiences in the program.

On Friday, former offensive lineman James Daniels tweeted: "There are too many racial disparities in the Iowa football program. Black players have been treated unfairly for far too long."

Former linebacker Terrance Pryor tweeted about dealing with “many racist incidents” during his time in the program including a moment when Doyle said to him "maybe you should take up rowing or something you know? Oh wait, Black people don't like boats in water, do they?"

A former defensive back talked about Doyle mocking black players and as a result, "made you walk around the football facility on eggshells ... And caused anxiety that could be unbearable at times with your dreams and career on the line."

There was an allegation from one player that Doyle ‘(told me) to go back to the streets.’ I’m not from the streets!”  Another player told the story of wearing a Nike face mask to keep warm and a coach “asked if I was on my way to rob a liquor store or bank.”

According to reports, the coach who said that wasn’t Doyle, it was Brian Ferentz, son of head coach Kirk Ferentz. 

On Sunday, Doyle released a statement that seemed to be heading in the right direction. For the first three paragraphs, he talked about his commitment to Iowa football, and commended the players for speaking out.

He wrote that it saddened him to hear the stories of the players difficult experiences in the program and that “it is a time to listen, learn, and grow. Most importantly, it is a time for action.”

That all sounded pretty good. That sounded like something to work with. And then came the final paragraph.

"I have been asked to remain silent, but that is impossible for me to do. There have been statements made about my behavior that are not true. I do not claim to be perfect. I have made mistakes, learned lessons and like every American citizen, can do better. At no time have I ever crossed the line of unethical behavior or bias based upon race. I do not make racists comments and I don't tolerate people who do.”

He then went on to say that he is confident a review of his work will confirm this and that there are “countess men of character who are better fathers, husbands, activists, leaders, and contributors to society due to their experience at Iowa Football.”

I don’t know what did or did not happen in the Iowa football program and what Doyle did or did not do. But I do know this is not one or two disgruntled players.

According to Dennis Dodd, it’s an estimated 40 players as of earlier this week. That is a massive number. That’s not one guy who was pissed because of lack of playing time. That’s a huge number. That isn’t a one-off. That’s a pattern. 

And there better be serious questions asked, both of Doyle, the highest paid strength coach in the country, and of head coach Kirk Ferentz. Because he is the man in charge. And he should be the one who knows what the culture of the program is like.

How many times have I had a coach or general manager on this show and we’ve talked about culture? It comes up nearly every single time. 

Culture is the thing that coaches love talking about. It’s the thing that coaches love talking about the most. Because it’s the thing they believe they can control the most.

They can’t necessarily control the wins and losses, or the way the ball bounces on the field, but the culture is in their control.

So listen to the players describe the culture.

Former running back Marcel Joly “I used to get called in the coaches office because I had too much tattoos and it wasn’t the ‘Iowa culture’ or the ‘Iowa Way.’”

Former safety Amani Hooker: “It would be difficult for black players to walk around the facility and be themselves.”

Former linebacker Dezman Moses: “They wanted us to (buy) into the culture … a culture that wasn’t ours. I watched young black men be given harsher punishments and shorter leashes.”

This isn’t a rogue employee making an inappropriate comment one time. This is the strength coach, the highest paid strength coach in the country, a guy who has been with Kirk Ferentz since 1999, allegedly creating a very uncomfortable culture. And not just Ferentz’s right hand man, but his son is allegedly doing it as well.

But honestly, from the sounds of it, this is worse than the head coach’s right hand man and his son. If you listen to the players, that’s the description of the culture. That is the culture. For at least one player, this is the Iowa Culture or the Iowa Way.

Kirk Ferentz was quick to release a video on Saturday calling this a “defining moment for the Iowa Hawkeye program” and creating an advisory committee of former and current players. He then conducted a Zoom call with the media on Sunday. So credit for responding quickly to this crisis. I guess.

But where has he been over the years? How is he surprised by this? How is this a crisis now?

The first question from a reporter on Sunday was: how does this happen? And Ferentz’s answer began with this: “That’s a fair question and let me just preface it by saying this, which is something I shared with our staff on Saturday morning. We woke up on Friday and we were a team coming off a successful season and a win in San Diego. When we left campus on March 13th, I felt like we were really well positioned with this team and with the program moving forward. Obviously a lot has happened since them.”

Huh? Of course, it is a fair question. But what are you doing referencing a December bowl win over USC in your answer? And this isn’t something that has changed since March 13th. These allegations are from former players who didn’t just leave the program. These are issues that go back years.

You’re the head coach. The buck stops with you. It’s not enough to say that you didn’t know about the culture of your own program. We are still in the early days of this investigation, but this sounds like a classic case of either you didn’t know or didn’t want to know, and neither one is acceptable. Your program. Your hires. Your responsibility. How could you not know? And if you didn’t, you should have.