The University of Iowa launched an investigation into the Iowa football program, after allegations of racism and mistreatment of players. A number of high profile members of the Hawkeye program, including those who are now in the NFL, have spoken out about mistreatment by members of the staff.
Longtime strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle was at the center of many of the allegations. He was accused of insulting and belittling players, particularly those of color, and instituting policies in the weight room that disproportionately targeted Black players. Iowa and Doyle “reached a separation agreement” in mid-June.
Doyle wasn’t the only focus, though. Both head coach Kirk Ferentz and his son Brian Ferentz have also been the focus of allegations. As one of the most entrenched head coaches in the country, issues this widespread were always going to fall at Ferentz’s feet, especially given his reported close professional relationship with Doyle.
Based on the release by law firm Husch Blackwell, Ferentz’s job probably isn’t in jeopardy. The conclusions reached do lay out many of the issues presented by current and former players, as well as some of the steps that Ferentz and his staff have already taken in response to those players. Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel posted the conclusion of the 28-page report to Twitter, which sums things up pretty well.
Here’s the conclusion from the independent report of Iowa football. pic.twitter.com/HDxHbtzuOi
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) July 30, 2020
Included in the full 28-page report were detailed allegations of mistreatment by Hawkeye players. The team’s weight program, both for players who were deemed as over and underweight, seemed particularly onerous.
“…the concerns expressed primarily related to general mistreatment, with one current player explaining that both items were used by coaches to ‘beat you down and hound you.’ Several players told investigators that the message from coaches about the rules appeared to be ‘if you don’t like how we do things you can leave.’
Numerous players discussed the pressure they felt to maintain the requisite weight. Two players (one current, one former) reported that coaches subjected them to unfair and unreasonable weight expectations after being sick, leaving the current player concerned he would be kicked out of the program. The current player said that a White player who was sick and lost weight was treated more favorably.
One former player said that he was so anxious about making weight that he involuntarily threw up every morning before weigh-in. This same former player also said that the coaches would require him to eat in front of them. A different former player said he was required to drink excessive Powerade and shakes to gain weight, which made him sick daily. Other former student-athletes said players were weighed weekly and needed to meet their goal weight within a designated window. According to one of the coaches, there is a two-pound window for making weight, except after long breaks when the window is larger. He told investigators that no allowances were made for injuries or sickness. The former player who had trouble gaining weight after being sick said a coach told him “you don’t care, you are lazy.”
A current player identified that it is difficult for him to maintain his body weight over breaks, because he does not have the same access to food when he is at home for extended periods. The player stated that he works out hard when he is at home but cannot consume adequate calories, thus he returns to campus underweight.
According to the player, the coaching staff questioned his commitment to the Iowa program. One of the coaches confirmed that the strength and conditioning staff was ‘strict on body weight’ and that players had anxiety about body weight.
In the report, Kirk Ferentz denies other allegations that his staff told NFL personnel about Iowa football players being “undraftable,” saying that it would be “counter-intuitive” for him to do so. The Athletic’s Scott Dochterman shared quotes from a scout who detailed how the Iowa staff knocked George Kittle’s “football character.” Kittle has, of course, gone on to become one of the best players in all of football.
Yep, here’s what we reported about how the primary Iowa NFL contact ripped Kittle before the draft. pic.twitter.com/enHDjOBM7X
— Scott Dochterman (@ScottDochterman) July 28, 2020
Later in the report, it is acknowledged that Kirk Ferentz has started to implement some changes to the program, which players feel have things heading in a positive direction. There are concerns that things may revert once the attention is off of Iowa football, though.
Several players expressed their opinion that Head Coach Ferentz is open to listening and has been talking to the leadership group about these issues. Coaches also commented on the improved communication and their desire to listen and better understand the players. Head Coach Ferentz provided investigators with a copy of his action plan designed to improve program culture and which addresses a variety of topics including team building, personal expression, communication, body weight expectations, sleep bands, and team and game-day rules.
Players and coaches both reported that several rules have been relaxed around the use of social media, attire, hats, hair, and earrings. Players report being able to listen to more diverse music and show their tattoos.
Numerous players expressed their hope that the changes will be permanent and remain in place “after the headlines go away.” One current player said, “this is a big deal and they need to keep moving forward.”
You can read the full Iowa football report by Husch Blackwell at Hawk Central.