Chris Doyle is now the highest paid strength and conditioning coach in the nation and it isn’t even close. USA Today (or Chad Leistikow) reported that Doyle will make $595,000 in base compensation this year, an $80,000 raise from last year’s salary. For comparison, Ohio State’s Mickey Marotti reportedly made $380,000 last year and Michigan’s Kevin Tolbert cashed out at $250,000. The next closest S&C coach in salary is Alabama’s Scott Cochran, who makes $525,000. Doyle will now make as much as Greg Davis and Phil Parker, Iowa’s offensive and defensive coordinator, are scheduled to be paid.
Doyle has been with Ferentz during the entirety of his tenure at Iowa and is arguably the primary reason why the Hawkeyes have developed so many lightly recruited prospects into NFL players. Names like Dallas Clark, Eric Steinbach, Robert Gallery, Chad Greenway and Bob Sanders are etched in stone and the standard bearers of Iowa’s S&C program. More recently, he’s turned two or three-star players like Marshal Yanda, Pat Angerer, Mike Daniels, Micah Hyde, Riley Reiff and Brandon Scherff into first rounders or consistent NFL players.
Like everything else in NCAA football, strength and conditioning is becoming an arms race. The Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance center, completed within the last couple of years at the cost of $55 million, has a 23,000 square foot weight room. Iowa’s emphasis on the development of players is why Kirk Ferentz takes no issue with signing two or three-star offensive linemen, handing them over to Doyle and watching them mature into All-Americans over a two or three year period.
It hasn’t been all roses with Doyle, though. Lest we forget that back in January of 2011, 13 players were hospitalized during an off-season workout and diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a muscle disorder that arises when muscle tissue is so overworked that it breaks down and can ultimately cause kidney damage or failure. Part of the workout focused on players completing 100 back squats at 50% of their personal best weight, which seems foolhardy in retrospect considering that students had just returned from a three-week holiday break.
The situation was exacerbated when Kirk Ferentz failed to return from a recruiting visit immediately after the hospitalization, and the University of Iowa ultimately commissioned a panel to examine the outbreak and the athletic department’s response. Among other findings, the committee reported:
The Committee did not identify any person or group of persons who were negligent or reckless when they planned, conducted, or supervised the strenuous workouts that resulted in 13 players acquiring rhabdo. The Committee concludes that everyone involved in these workouts proceeded in the good faith belief that they could be conducted without harm to the players, just as they had on at least two prior occasions. The Committee is certain that no one intended the serious muscle injuries suffered by the hospitalized players. Unforeseen developments do occur without the fault of anyone involved, and the Committee concludes that is the most accurate characterization of what happened in this instance. Furthermore, as noted above, the Committee did not identify illegal or irresponsible behavior on the part of the 13 players that explains why they were affected and other players were not. The injured players were simply not responsible for the rhabdo symptoms they experienced.
There was considerable media fallout, particularly from Dennis Dodd, who wrote a wholly absurd article about Iowa suffering from potential “mass transfers.” Of greater concern was the welfare of the players and Willie Lowe, who sued the program for negligence and ultimately settled for $15,000 in 2016.
Throughout it all, Doyle received the majority of the criticism and there were calls for him to be disciplined or even fired. The football program’s response was to batten down the hatches and have Ferentz make it clear that that Doyle was his strength and conditioning coach. This was never more clear than when Ferentz literally created an assistant coach of the year award (which, coincidentally he brainstormed in late January of 2011) and handed it to Doyle at a Polk County I-Club event.
Regardless, Doyle’s role with the program is an irreplaceable one and Iowa football simply wouldn’t be the same without him. It certainly wouldn’t have the developmental success it’s had under Ferentz’s tenure, as Chris Doyle can take credit for over 50 players being selected in the NFL Draft. Numbers never lie.