Iowa Football

The structure of Iowa athletics begins to change

'If you want your situation to change and improve, then you've got to get uncomfortable'

Iowa defensive linemen Mike Daniels (93) and Broderick Binns (91) laugh during Iowa's annual football media day on Frida
Iowa defensive linemen Mike Daniels (93) and Broderick Binns (91) laugh during Iowa’s annual football media day on Friday, Aug. 5, 2011, in Iowa City. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

Since former Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels’ tweet June 5 calling out racial disparities within the program, the structure of Iowa football has changed and will continue to change.

On Friday, the athletics department made a move with a broader eye than just football.

Iowa athletics named Broderick Binns executive director of diversity, equity and inclusion for UI Athletics.

“Broderick has been involved in our program as a student-athlete or staff member the past 12 years,” athletics director Gary Barta said in a statement. “His strong understanding of Hawkeye Athletics and the University of Iowa, combined with his passion for helping student-athletes grow and have a great experience, make him a perfect fit for this position.”

Before the June 5 tweet that has resulted in the ouster of strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, Binns, a former Iowa defensive lineman who’s served the program as director of player development since 2016 and as a graduate assistant in 2014-15, already had a role in diversity initiatives and educational training for coaches and staff in the past year. He was named Interim Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in August, 2019 when the position was created.

This position won’t report to head football coach Kirk Ferentz or Barta. This position reports to Liz Tovar, associate athletics director for student-athlete academic services.

From the Friday afternoon release from the UI: “Binns will be responsible for assisting all Iowa student athletes (with an emphasis on underrepresented students) with making a smooth transition into college life socially, academically, and athletically; the implementation of diversity initiatives for student-athletes, coaches, and staff, and oversight of the UI Athletics Diversity Taskforce and Action Plan; ensuring that the strategic goals within the Action Plan are in alignment with campuswide diversity policies and practices.”

As more stories of racial strife have trickled out this month, Iowa football has issued a statement that says Ferentz won’t be commenting on “individual unverified accusations posted on social media” because of the ongoing independent review process. Iowa’s office of general counsel selected the law firm Husch Blackwell to review the football program. Three attorneys will interview current and former players, as well as all of the coaches and staff members. They will hand in a report to Carroll Reasoner, UI vice president for legal affairs and general counsel.

The timetable remains open with Barta characterizing it as “weeks, not months.”

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The general statement from Ferentz and football has included more than what he won’t comment on. When Maurice Fleming, a defensive back from Chicago, issued a statement on his treatment in the program, the UI statement also included “Coach Ferentz has spent the past several weeks listening and talking with a number of current and former players, who shared their experiences and their desire to help shape the future of the Hawkeyes football program. Additionally, coach Ferentz has been meeting with the newly formed advisory group and is formulating a plan to institute their recommendations.

“Coach Ferentz believes that meaningful change takes time and a thorough independent examination is already underway. He remains committed to creating a more inclusive culture for all of his players now and in the years to come.”

Ferentz has said NFL veteran and former Hawkeye Mike Daniels has agreed to serve as chairman for the advisory group.

Social media does remain a landing spot for debate among former players (sometimes uncomfortable exchanges, but nobody seems to be hanging up the phone on anybody) and fans.

How does this look from the coaching staff’s point of view?

During the On Iowa Podcast this week, assistant defensive line coach Jay Niemann said, “It really comes down to learning, it comes down to listening and it comes down to people willing to change,” he said. “The process is not going to be quick, it’s not going to be easy, but everybody’s got to be willing to do their part and that’s what we’re certainly trying to do.”

Wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland talked about getting out of a “lead by example” mode and being a more vocal leader with his thoughts.

“The opportunity to voice my opinion and to be a voice of change and reason has presented itself numerous times now,” Copeland said in a recent On Iowa Podcast. “My thing, first and foremost, is I want the same feeling I had when I was a player (Copeland played QB at Emporia State from 1999-02). I want my guys to know that I’m here for them and I’m listening to them. Without them, there is no me. There is no football coach without football players.”

Copeland talked about the opportunities for “honest conversation” since June 5.

“Player to player, coach to player, coach to coach,” Copeland said. “I’m a big quote guy, I live by quotes. There can be no change without first disturbing your comfort zone.

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“I tell that to my guys all the time. If you want to get better, if you want to change, if you want your situation to change and improve, then you’ve got to get uncomfortable.

“This has allowed us to get very uncomfortable. There have been many uncomfortable conversations, situations between all of those combinations I just talked about (players and coaches).

“It’s created an opportunity for me to get uncomfortable. I’m more of a reserved person or laid back or whatever you want to call it. I’m not rah-rah, I’m more of a listener. In these circumstances and a lot of times on these occasions, I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone and say, ‘OK, I’m going to take the charge on this. I’m going to tell you how I feel and give you my experience and maybe you can learn something from my experiences.”

Copeland is from Miami, Fla., and has run after football from Emporia, Kan., to Coffeyville, Kan., to DeKalb, Ill., and Northern Illinois University. The conversation will continue for Iowa football, and Copeland likely will have a lot to offer now that we’re all out of our comfort zones.

Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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