IOWA CITY — Kinnick Stadium was sun-baked on Thursday. The black and yellow popped in the light. The FieldTurf is ready and waiting.
The conversation in the Pacha Family Club Room in Kinnick’s north end zone was more COVID-19 and the racial/program strife that cost strength and conditioning coordinator Chris Doyle his job than anything football.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and three players addressed the topics at hand in a Thursday news conference.
The program was rocked in early June when primarily Black former Hawkeyes took to social media with accusations that they were treated unfairly during their time in Iowa City. Since then, the program has parted ways with Doyle, who agreed to a $1.1 million buyout while not admitting any fault. Husch Blackwell, a Kansas City, Mo., law firm, has spent the last four weeks investigating the treatment of Iowa players past and present.
Ferentz believes the firm has conducted more than 100 interviews, including himself. Ferentz said he believes the review has been thorough and that it’s reaching a conclusion, perhaps by the end of this week.
Ferentz said he was interviewed by the review team this week.
“Quite frankly, we welcomed the opportunity to elaborate and give them more details on things and I’ll just leave it at that,” Ferentz said. “It was a good opportunity to elaborate and, with all due respect, to take things from the media surface and get into real details.
“It’s obviously everyone’s perspective when they’re speaking, so I can only speak to my perspective. But when you talk to 100 some people there’s going to be a picture that becomes clear. For them, some things won’t be clear maybe, but, hopefully, it’ll be clear.”
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The advisory board that Ferentz has put together since the allegations hit the program changed leaders. Mike Daniels, a former Iowa D-lineman who originally agreed to chair the board, is expecting a child and is an NFL free agent. He bowed out and David Porter, an offensive tackle who graduated in 2002, has agreed to chair.
Ferentz said he’s already had a few meetings with the 10-member board, which ranges from recent grads to players from the 1970s. “How do we prepare our players for life after football,” Ferentz said is the end goal.
There are ideas being discussed to bring inclusivity into the program. Ferentz also has been in close discussion with the Hawkeyes’ 21-member leadership group about being unified on whether or not to kneel or stand for the national anthem in the fall. Ferentz has said he wants his team to have a unified front on this.
“There was discussion on both sides of the topic, and the thing I took away from the meeting is I don’t think there is a right answer,” Ferentz said. “I can tell you from the amount of emails that I get and letters that I get, it is a very hot-button topic, no question about it.”
Ferentz wouldn’t go into percentages, but said the team has not come to a consensus.
“I agree with coach Ferentz. We’re not there on a decision yet,” said linebacker Djimon Colbert, who, along with a handful of teammates, participated in the Black Lives Matter march in Iowa City earlier this summer. “It’s good we’re able to have this talk and engage with guys on it. There are some guys who are strongly with it and some who, you know, have their personal feelings. which is fine. That’s your personal preference. Just being able to come out and talk about that as a young man, being respectful and being able to hear each other that was the most important thing about it for me.”
College football and COVID-19
The COVID-19 topic is the specter that hangs over college football 2020 and college sports for the future. Last week, the Big Ten announced it would only play conference opponents in 2020. The Pac-12 followed suit. Ferentz lamented the loss of the Iowa State and Northern Iowa games. He called both matchups important for the state. Also, he said with so much changing and with so much uncertainty, it’s hard to get emotional for any one thing that’s crossed off.
Ferentz said the football program has had bouts of COVID-19, but nothing that’s required hospitalization. Voluntary workouts are ongoing. The NCAA released Thursday its third installment of guidelines for return to sports. Those included testing and results within 72 hours of high contact risk sports and the appropriate use of face coverings during training and competition.
“We’re taking it a day at a time,” center Tyler Linderbaum said. “Each workout could be your last one for two weeks. Guys are starting to realize that you’ve got to be smarter outside with what you do and places you go.”
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— Senior wide receiver Brandon Smith is from Mississippi and happens to be friends with Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill. In June, Hill vowed not to play for Mississippi State until the state’s flag removed the cross of the Confederate battle flag. Hill’s statement was echoed by a multitude of athletes and coaches around Mississippi and, on July 1, a law was signed to change the flag.
“I definitely think that was a great thing, to use your platform, your power, to have a voice and promote change to something that’s been backward for many years,” Smith said.
— Ferentz said safety Jack Koerner is back with the team after a June 12 boating incident left him seriously injured.
“The good news is that Jack is back with us and we’re moving forward. We’re doing it very cautiously, because it was a very traumatic experience for everyone involved,” Ferentz said. “He was just generally sore, so we’re just taking our time with him.”
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