Chris Doyle's tenure with the Iowa football program, a length of time spanning 21 years and dating to the very beginning of Kirk Ferentz's time at Iowa, is officially over. That was made clear in a release from the Iowa athletic department earlier today:
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The University of Iowa has reached a separation agreement with Executive Director of Football and Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Doyle, effective June 15, 2020.
As the language suggests, a "separation agreement" is not a termination for cause. It is, as item #1 of the agreement makes clear, a "voluntary resignation" by the "Employee" (Chris Doyle). In consideration for that resignation, the University agrees to pay Doyle 15 months of base salary in two lump sums of $556,249.50 each, or $1,112,499 total. The full text of the separation agreement is available here:
Here's the separation agreement between Chris Doyle and the UI: pic.twitter.com/DACDHbg4VS— Mike Hlas (@Hlas) June 15, 2020
In sum: Chris Doyle, accused by dozens of former players of fostering an atmosphere of racial division in the Iowa football program and of saying racially insensitive, demeaning, and/or verbally abusive comments to black players, is getting a million dollar golden parachute to part ways with the Iowa program. On that level, this certainly feels more than a little gross.
So why would the university do this? Well, for a few reasons probably.
One, you may remember the last time Gary Barta & Co. fired a coach for cause due to allegations of abusive behavior. That situation ended up costing the athletic department $6.5 million dollars. $1.1 million is a bargain by comparison!
Two, there are other financial reasons to make this move as well. Firing Doyle for cause would invite a lawsuit and, well, lawsuits are expensive. Litigation costs alone could have cost Iowa several hundred thousand dollars, with no guarantee that the suit would have the desired outcome for the university.
Three, firing Doyle likely would make him a disgruntled ex-employee with a few axes to grind against the Iowa program and other members of the Iowa staff. The university has made it clear that they don't want to tear down the entire Iowa program and start over and so they would very much like to keep those axes sheathed.
Four, what gets said, done, and revealed during the course of a lawsuit can be hard to control. The university certainly wanted to avoid dealing with unwelcome disclosures or revelations during the discovery process or having the allegations that have been made against Doyle and the Iowa program addressed under oath on a witness stand.
It's been pretty clear from the time James Daniels tweeted around 10 days ago and the stories about racial bias and mistreatment against black players in the Iowa program began pouring in that Chris Doyle's future with the Iowa program was untenable. His name came up again and again in damning story after damning story. His conduct could not be excused or walked back or "fixed" through sensitivity training. He needed to be gone from the Iowa program -- and now he's gone.
Is it satisfying to see him get a million dollars on his way out the door after what he's alleged to have done? On an emotional level, no. But on a more pragmatic level I can grasp why his removal happened this way and I can understand why Iowa likely felt like this was the best option available. Removing Doyle was a necessary first step for whatever new and better reality Kirk Ferentz & Co. want to create for the Iowa program. It just can't be the only step taken.