Yesterday afternoon, Gary Barta and Kirk Ferentz spoke to media following the release of the report by Husch Blackwell and the content was…not groundbreaking. Perhaps most importantly we start with this announcement from Gary Barta:
AD Gary Barta says NO other personnel changes are planned - any follow up with individual employees will be done privately. The report found 3 coaches on the staff "abused their power and verbally abused and bullied players."— Michele Steele (@ESPNMichele) July 30, 2020
So, if you were heading into this thing thinking there was going to be some significant announcement regarding a coach stepping aside, bad news for you! Not only is there not going to be any public announcement about who these three coaches were (Doyle was one, obviously), the discipline of the coaches will be handled internally.
Barta took the time to recognize James Daniels by name, as he was arguably the most vocal or perhaps most “important” former Hawkeye to speak out about the bias within the program. Barta, expectedly re-emphasized his support for Ferentz, also saying:
At one point in the report he acknowledges that he gave too much responsibility, maybe too much unchecked authority to one individual, but beyond that, he acknowledges that it’s broader than one person. It’s an issue, a cultural issue throughout the program.
Translation: Chris Doyle had too much influence but it’s bigger than just him.
On that note, Barta specifically addressed the strength and conditioning program:
A few things moving forward specifically: Strength and conditioning, Kirk can talk about it more if you have questions, but an acknowledgment that maybe some of those job responsibilities need to be spread out a little bit among the staff. From a reporting standpoint, the head strength coach for football does report to the head football coach. It also has a reporting line to assistant athletic director for sport performance Terry Noonan. One of the things we have to do — and we have that throughout the athletic department. We have several dual reporting lines, either in athletics or then to areas on campus. In this case we just have to reinforce that reporting line and that relationship.
All of the strength coaches, the athletic trainers, the sports medicine team, the sports psychology and nutrition are all reporting through that sport performance group, and moving forward just making sure that those reporting lines are reinforced and carried through.
For those not familiar with the role that Broderick Binns plays, he’s the executive director of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion accountability group, which won’t actually report through the football program. It won’t report through football because the group isn’t responsible for just the football program, it’s responsible for diversity, equity and inclusion for all Iowa sports. That group will meet at least annually with the president, head coaches and athletic department.
Finally, Barta said:
We’ve made mistakes. We’re working hard to correct them. They’re not going to be corrected overnight. I want to again apologize to any former student-athletes, current student-athletes who have had a bad experience within Iowa football, and we’re going to work hard to earn everybody’s trust moving forward.
Kirk took the podium and started out with a statement that personally, irked me:
As the review explains, many of our black players felt that they were not treated the same way as their white teammates. I was saddened and disappointed to learn those feelings.
To say that the black players “felt” a certain away implies that it was their interpretation of their treatment that was problematic, not the treatment itself. I think we can universally agree that there was problematic treatment and it really wasn’t up for interpretation. Moving on:
In other aspects of our program, we’ve instituted player suggestions, starting with just game day protocols, so when we do get the green light to play, we’ll be able to institute those. They’ve also included lifting restrictions on social media, dress code, our approach to body weights, increasing the amount of time that we meet, talk and listen to one another as a team.
Moving to the Q and A, a question was asked about Doyle being the only one who was really being punished for this. Ferentz replied, in part:
I think at this point right now, as Gary alluded to, the moves that have been made have been made, we're prepared to move forward, but that being said, I think we all have a lot of learning to do, and that's number one on the list right now, good communication and also growth and learning. That's paramount for our whole program right now.
Read: Nothing else is going to happen on an external level.
Someone followed up by explicitly asking about Brian Ferentz and Seth Wallace, as there were accusations made against them. Kirk’s response was essentially “We’re going to move forward.”
There was a specific question about allegations made by Akrum Wadley and Kirk responded pretty definitively:
I won't comment on any individuals. I commented on a couple who I spoke with and did not identify who I spoke with on June 6. But it was surprise and also to some degree -- surprise because some of the things were just flat-out not true. Not true. I mean, we have never held back a black card from any player. I'm not a great record keeper. Ben Hensen is meticulous. Never happened.
Barta took the stage once more and then a reporter asked this whopper of a question:
“With regards to Brian, he's a guy that's kind of worked his way up the ladder, probably aspirations to potentially be a head coach sometime. With what you know about him and what you've learned, would he be a guy that you'd be comfortable hiring as a head coach if he keeps progressing the way that he has? Is there anything you've learned that would make that kind of like off the board, off the table?”
Barta responded with:
I certainly have opinions about all of our staff -- it's fine for you to ask, but I'm not comfortable sharing. I've watched Brian grow from being an offensive line coach, I've watched him grow into being an offensive coordinator, and I have appreciated a lot of that growth, but that's probably as far as I'll go right there. But he and I have talked a lot about his future over the years.
Translation: Brian Ferentz is your next head coach! Coach for life!
In all, there wasn’t a lot of actual “news” from this press conference. It was instead an acknowledgement of the problems that the program faced (and is facing), a statement that no one else is going to be publicly disciplined and that Kirk Ferentz is your head coach, Brian Ferentz is your offensive coordinator and Seth Wallace is your linebacker coach. The football program, the athletic program, Kirk Ferentz, Gary Barta and countless other well-paid individuals in Iowa City need to be more cognizant of the well-being of their student athletes and create a better environment for them to thrive. Many of them have said they’re committed to creating a better culture within the program (and department) but the proof is in the pudding. Time will only tell if the actions of those in charge will heal the wounds of the bad actors in the past.