Iowa's volatile weekend continued Saturday evening, with Kirk Ferentz announcing that legendary strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle had been placed on administrative leave after numerous allegations of racial abuse and insensitivity.
This is a defining moment for the Iowa Hawkeye Football program: pic.twitter.com/ckEH39QVki— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) June 6, 2020
The S&C program now falls under the control of assistant S&C coach Raimond Braithwaithe, a 15-year member of the Iowa team, while Doyle is on leave and under investigation. It's worth noting that Braithwaithe is Black.
Ferentz also noted two developments inside the program. First, the program is forming an advisory council comprised of former and current players, plus department staff members. On paper, it looks like a smart way to ensure there isn't a running negative subculture that can exist outside the visibility of everyone in the program. How the council is operated will be worth watching in the coming years.
Second, Ferentz said that in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the discussions surrounding it, he was lifting the longtime moratorium on social media activity (Tyrone Tracy and Dallas Craddieth are among the players now hitting the tweet machines).
The full statement is here:
On its face, this all seems like a fine first step—not a solution in and of itself, but an openness by Ferentz to adapt to what his players need out of a coach.
Indeed, that would all be true... if this situation were only about Chris Doyle making racist comments.
The deafening silence, by comparison, comes regarding Brian Ferentz, Kirk's oldest son and current offensive coordinator. Brian has been named in multiple complaints by players as well, and he might be the only assistant coach even more protected in Kirk's regime than Doyle.
As of right now, Kirk hasn't said anything about Brian. Gary Barta, whom Brian officially reports to (on account of nepotism laws, which look kind of important all of a sudden), would have to be the one to announce discipline, but this is still Gary Barta we're talking about—he might wait until someone sues him before a suspension takes place. Maybe form a committee on whether to censure the alleged statements.
But someone has to say something. The offensive coordinator of the second-best program in the Big Ten West has been credibly accused of racially demeaning statements by several former players. The fact that the S&C coach was accused of many more demeaning statements doesn't exactly absolve Brian Ferentz. Someone has to say something.
Moreover, some of the statements made by former players on Saturday aren't just a matter of an assistant coach getting too familiar. Take this story in disproportionate discipline from former linebacker Dezman Moses, who transferred to Tulane and eventually played in the NFL:
The Iowa Way was often referenced... which was the way we had to dress, had to behave, in order to be given an opportunity. Coincidently, I was one of those guys... and after being suspended for a public intox, I was suspended for 4 games... where the coaches SON had 2....— Dezman Moses (@DezmanM) June 6, 2020
..Yes 2 public intoxications after mine, and he was suspended for a Total of 1 game. I was told that I would never play at another Div-1 school... where he went on to be a starter at Iowa..— Dezman Moses (@DezmanM) June 6, 2020
Former DE Terrence Harris said black athletes were disproportionately targeted by drug testing, confirmed by recent transfer D.J. Johnson:
Another thing!! Iowa drug tests very frequently and said it was random. Theres only about 30 or so black players at least half of us were on the test every time! A white player who was my locker neighbor said he wasnt tested in Almost 3 years. Do the math on that.... https://t.co/2NUZPXABlf— DJ JOHNSON (@DjJohnson1127) June 6, 2020
Those random test were always bs. This is fact— James Daniels (@jamsdans) June 6, 2020
Diauntae Morrow, a former safety who transferred, mentioned that Kirk Ferentz disciplined him for his reaction to a racist comment AND that athletic department staff was involved in minority-only team meetings, which directly contradicts suggestions that Ferentz might not be aware of racial imbalances in the administration of his team:
Played there 2007-2008 season..... Doyle made a comment about sending back to the GHETTO. I called him out on it in front of the entire team. I was suspended, KF told me I was out of line and needed to apologize for standing up for myself.— Insurance Coach (@Coach2Insurance) June 6, 2020
Ill say this KF has backed Doyle for years, so safe to say he very aware of what goes on. Doyle relays the messages for KF. KF is not innocent by any means. I have multiple witnesses for my situation. @espn— Insurance Coach (@Coach2Insurance) June 6, 2020
We also had minority ONLY meetings every time a teammate (black or white) got in some type of trouble on top of our team meetings. They meeting were held by the Associate AD (black man). KF is not ignorant by any means, he knows what goes on and does nothing about it.— Insurance Coach (@Coach2Insurance) June 6, 2020
Geno Stone, who recently left the team early only to drop to the 7th round of the NFL draft, noted that Black members of the coaching staff were often unhelpful allies after instances of racial insensitivity:
And that's all just what we know from this door being open for about 24 hours.
A couple other things worth noting from Saturday's social media action—echoing Sean Draper's comments on the Iowa City Police Department from Friday evening, WWE rassler Big E (aka Ettore Ewen, former Iowa defensive tackle) recounted this story of a police encounter even more brazen in its intimidation:
George Lewis picked me up from Seville Apartments during the summer of 2005 & as soon we get on the street, we got pulled over. Police pointed their guns at us said they got a call we had a gun in the car. We did not. Also mentioned knowing we were Hawkeyes.— Florida Man (@WWEBigE) June 5, 2020
And former RB Albert Young, perhaps the most important offensive player during the Jake Christensen era, shoveled more dirt on the concept of program loyalty with some help from former DL Fabian Dodd:
Former Iowa RB Albert Young and OL Fabian Dodd on Facebook. pic.twitter.com/Nnwi0fTGzC— Rob Howe (@RobHoweHN) June 6, 2020
All of this is tremendously disappointing, from an Iowa fan perspective. Not only for the mounting existence of the racial abuse, but for how completely unnecessary it all is.
There's so much talk about the "Iowa Way," the maintenance of a culture of success in the Iowa football facility. And you DO need a winning culture! Every successful college football coach, including Nick Saban and Hayden Fry and everyone in-between on the charisma spectrum, would tell you the same thing.
But a strength coach—any coach—should be able to institute a culture of excellence and discipline without needing to tell Black athletes to cut their hair, without needing to threaten to send them "back to the ghetto," without levying harsher punishment on them than their white teammates. None of that is necessary! And that is not exactly a tight window to fit in either.
I stand with my fellow Hawkeye Brothers advocating for a cultural shift in the Iowa Football Program. We were disproportionately represented as a result of black players leaving prematurely due to either double standards or the inability of the coaching staff to relate with our— Jordan Lomax (@jordanlomax27) June 6, 2020
Chris Doyle has a lot of questions to answer. He has a lot of players past and present to answer to. Brian Ferentz has a lot of questions to answer, from a lot of players, as well. Hell, Kirk Ferentz has some serious questions to answer too. We won't be presumptuous enough to assume how those conversations will go and what needs to happen as a result of them.
We will say that a culture of accountability—REAL accountability—is long overdue in college football as a whole. Iowa just happens to be one of the first schools to be in the discussion on the topic. It's strange and it's scary, and it may cost the jobs of some familiar faces in he football facility. But if the winning culture is as strong as it purports to be, it will survive the loss of the main engines of racist energy that currently walk the halls.
Please understand that this happens everywhere no place is exempt! This is not an Iowa problem this is a National College Football Problem. https://t.co/qkn9qV4NhX— Felicia Goodson (@favored3470) June 6, 2020
I hope that Iowas black athletes speaking out can give other athletes around the world a platform to speak out about racial injustices in their own programs. We will never just be athletes!— James Daniels (@jamsdans) June 7, 2020
There's two ways this can go from here, nationally. Either A) this is so widespread that it'll quickly fade from attention that Iowa football was one of the first programs to address racial imbalances, or B) it's not widespread, and it'll be positive for the program that Iowa addressed the situation when former athletes were empowered to speak up. We're better off in both scenarios.
Go Iowa Awesome.