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Iowa Athletic Director Comments On Head Coach Kirk Ferentz

Gary Barta and Kirk Ferentz talk on the Iowa football field.

IOWA CITY, IA - OCTOBER 26: Head coach Kirk Ferentz of the Iowa Hawkeyes visits with athletic director Gary Barta prior to the match-up against the Northwestern Wildcats on October 26, 2013 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

The nationwide reckoning with racism in this country has spilled over into sports in a major way. College football players have been emboldened to speak out about their own experiences in a way they haven't before, and no program has been as impacted as much as the Iowa football, led by Kirk Ferentz.

In the weeks after the death of George Floyd, a number of current and former Iowa football players spoke out about mistreatment by members of the coaching staff. Much of the focus was on longtime strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle. He and the program went their separate ways in June.

Today, law firm Husch Blackwell put out a 28-page report after an independent investigation into the program. A focus of the report is the "Iowa Way," a prevailing team philosophy that the report says "mandates uniformity and discourages individualism." Many of the things stemming from the culture established by Ferentz are those that made it difficult for Black players to feel comfortable at Iowa, and contributed to some of the mistreatment attributed to Doyle and others.

"First of all, Kirk (Ferentz) and I have had several conversations you can imagine over the last several weeks," Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said in a news conference about the release moments ago. "Kirk, first and foremost, is responsible for the Iowa culture, the football culture. He creates it, he sets the tone for it, and he has to hold people accountable for it. And he's fully accepting of that responsibility, and he's worked hard in recent weeks to help us begin the process to improve the culture."

Husch Blackwell acknowledge many of the changes within the program that have been made to make players more comfortable. They include a loosening on the types of clothing players are permitted to wear, the music they can listen to in team facilities, uses of social media, and other expressions of individuality that were tightly controlled in years past. Barta also nodded to Doyle's "unchecked authority" in his opening remarks.

"At one point in the report, (Ferentz) acknowledges that he gave responsibility, maybe too much unchecked authority to one individual, but beyond that, he acknowledges that it's broader than one person. It's a cultural issue throughout the program."

Towards the end of the report, players interviewed do acknowledge that Kirk Ferentz does seem to be opening up more and hearing their concerns and frustrations in ways that he didn't before this situation. Barta says that it is an encouraging step.

He went on to say that beyond Chris Doyle, no other personnel changes are "planned," after the release of the report. Ferentz says that he sees that he has to be more involved, and like Barta, says that he put too many responsibilities on one person (Doyle), which led to many of the issues reported within his owa football program.

Hopefully the things identified and brought to light by players in recent weeks, and confirmed in this report, help change Iowa football for the better. If anything is certain, it is that the old version of the "Iowa Way" was unsustainable for running a college football program.