With more black former Hawkeye football players tweeting about incidents within the program on Saturday, Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz scheduled a 4 p.m. video conference Sunday to discuss his reactions and actions being taken.
Five minutes before the news conference, Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, the name that came up the most among former Hawkeyes tweeting about incidents, tweeted a written response.
In the statement, Doyle, who was placed on administrative leave Saturday afternoon, said he was told to remain silent.
“There have been statements made about my behavior that are not true,” wrote Doyle, strength coach under Ferentz for 21 years at Iowa. “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. I am confident that a complete review of the body of work over 21 years will speak for itself and I am trusting the process to respect the rights and experiences of all parties involved.
“There are countless men of character who are better fathers, husbands, activists, leaders and contributors to society due to their experience at Iowa Football. The record will show this.”
When asked about Doyle’s statement, Ferentz didn’t say if anyone from Iowa football asked him to be silent. He said he was worried about the well-being of all involved, including Doyle and his family.
“I don’t ever remember using the word silent,” Ferentz said. “I’ve always been a person who’s said you have to be cautious about what you put out. I’m not here to tell Chris what to do and wouldn’t. I would also suggest that when you feel you’re being wrongly accused of some things and what have you, then you want your day to voice your side of things, too. I can appreciate that. Just like our players, I’m not here to muzzle anyone or tell them what to say or what not to say.
“The biggest take away is we have to listen harder, we have to ask harder questions.”
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In the wake of allegations, ranging from ridicule to racist sentiments, from black former Iowa football players, Doyle was placed on administrative leave on Saturday. Ferentz also announced Saturday that an independent review will ensue. Athletics director Gary Barta will lead the review.
So, Doyle’s statement, authorized or not, can be classified as the beginning of a defense.
“I want to emphasize here, we’re going through a review process,” Ferentz said. “Nobody’s presuming guilt or innocence right now. I just want to get factual information so we have the opportunity to really learn what the issues may have been and what the extent are and the validity, certainly.”
This is the part where the UI investigates the players’ claims and Doyle offers his defense. This is where you have to question if Doyle can return. Some 40 players tweeted against the program and its treatment of African American players. Doyle wasn’t named in all of the tweets, but at least 12 former players did mention Doyle’s behavior and described specific incidents, including an alleged scene in the mid-2000s in which Doyle is accused of using the word “ghetto” in reference to a player’s home.
Ferentz said he has never heard Doyle tell a black athlete he would throw them back on the “streets” or “ghetto.”
“That’s why I’m making all of these calls right now, to get an assessment from people I feel like I have a high level of communication with,” Ferentz said. “I’m painting my own picture and that’s the process I’m going through. I don’t want to leave it to chance, I want to talk directly to people. That’s important to me. ... The bottom line is if any of us can’t do our jobs effectively, then it’s really no use trying to do your job. That’s one of the questions I’ve had with our former players, in your mind, can I do my job effectively moving forward?”
Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, Kirk’s son, has also had his name brought up by a handful of players, including former Hawkeyes and NFL players James Daniels and Jaleel Johnson and running back Akrum Wadley. Ferentz was asked why his son didn’t face administrative leave and if he was being too easy on him.
“Really, two things: The level of comments regarding the two are very different from my perspective,” Kirk Ferentz said. “The other thing regarding Brian, the things I read about and heard I was aware of and I’ve had discussions with people regarding that. There are two different levels there and that’s how it stands right now.”
— Ferentz said during the intro to 45-plus minutes of questions that the program relaxed a few regulations in regard to players’ appearance. Iowa allowed players to wear hats, earrings and hoodies in the football facility this year.
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— Part of Saturday’s announcement was the creation of an advisory committee. Ferentz said Mike Daniels, a New Jersey native and NFL D-lineman, will chair a diverse committee focused on changing the program’s culture. Daniels was among the voices criticizing the program’s inconsistencies in regard to race.
— Players tweeted about random drug tests seemingly weighted toward black players. Former defensive lineman Terrence Harris, a New Jersey native, and former cornerback D.J. Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.) tweeted that black players were tested more than white players.
Ferentz defended the program on this, calling testing equitable and fair.
“I’m not sure that’s a fair statement,” Ferentz said, “but I am, as we move forward with our team, open to discussion about everything in our program, whether it’s drug testing or anything.”
How did this happen? How did Ferentz not pick up on the reactions by African American players?
“I’ve got to do a better job of proactively asking questions, seeking things out and asking more hard questions, not only with current players but with former players,” Ferentz said. “My exchanges with our former players have been pretty fair, pretty happy if you want to put it that way.”
The players kept tweeting Saturday and Sunday. A few incidents of abuse emerged.
Former D-lineman Darian Cooper tweeted about a physical altercation he had with Doyle at Iowa.
“Doyle & I actually got into a physical altercation over my goal playing weight. I wanted to gain weight,” Cooper said. “Doyle responds by grabbing me by the stomach and making some rude comments. I end up having the push him against the complex to get off me.”
Jack Kallenberger, a former walk-on defensive lineman who left the program the program in 2018, told a story about struggling with ADHD all of his life, taking medications to correct a chemical imbalance. Iowa coaches ridiculed his intelligence, calling him “Simple Jack,” a reference to the movie “Tropic Thunder.” He also had to wait nearly a year before being properly diagnosed and able to get the medication he needed.
Ferentz said Iowa has a high standard. He said there’s a line between “demanding and demeaning.” He was then asked if Iowa has a “bully” culture. His answer was about walking the line between demanding and demeaning.
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“It’s very subjective,” Ferentz said, “but I want to take time to make sure that we develop a feel for it. If I thought that (the Hawkeyes had a bully culture) as I sit here today, I’d tell you. I just want to make sure.”
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