Raimond Braithwaite keeps Iowa football strength program on same path as 'close friend' Chris Doyle
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Raimond Braithwaite worked alongside Chris Doyle for 15 years training Iowa’s football players.
And Braithwaite isn’t going to distance himself from his former boss now that Doyle has been removed from the program after allegations surfaced this summer from former players of a racially insensitive climate in the strength and conditioning program.
“I’ve been close friends with Chris Doyle since 2002 and I have never witnessed or heard him ever make a racial comment,” Braithwaite said Thursday in his first public comments since taking over as the interim coach of the football strength program.
“We need to push and challenge the guys that are on this team to help instill a confidence in them that they can achieve things that they may not necessarily think they can. At the same time, we must ensure that they have a good experience while they’re at the University of Iowa.”
Braithwaite and Iowa players interviewed this week all projected a sense that it’s business as usual in the weight room as the team prepares for its first season in two decades without Doyle’s commanding presence behind the scenes.
Doyle, who is white, became the focal point of an investigation into the culture of the program run by Kirk Ferentz since 1999, singled out by several Black former Hawkeyes for words and tactics that they felt were demeaning. The university bought out his contract with a $1.1 million settlement, leaving all other football coaches in their same roles.
That put a spotlight on Braithwaite, 42, a native of New York who has been a familiar face for Hawkeye players but relatively unknown to the public. Braithwaite, who is Black, came to Iowa in 2002 after getting his master’s degree in exercise physiology from Florida State, where he also helped with the football team. He left to become the head strength and conditioning coach at Delaware State from 2005 to 2007 before rejoining Doyle’s staff.
Doyle was often credited with turning lightly recruited athletes into NFL prospects. And Ferentz rewarded him by making him the highest-paid strength coach in college football at $800,000 per year. Doyle was the rare strength coach that could be readily identified by a team’s fans.
Braithwaite seems more content to stay in the background. He had declined all requests for media interviews until Thursday, when every Hawkeye football coach spent time at a podium in the north end zone of Kinnick Stadium answering questions from reporters.
Braithwaite was ready when asked about Doyle. He insisted that nothing was going to change in terms of the way the athletes are prepared for the rigors of Big Ten Conference competition.
“The proof is in the results. I believe in what we’ve done here in the past,” said Braithwaite, who is being paid $310,000 this year.
Braithwaite said he hasn’t noticed a difference in his interactions with players, praising them for how they’ve adapted to training for their sport during a global pandemic that has required unique constraints.
“I’ve never thought of what my style was or had a label on my style,” Braithwaite said when asked to compare himself to Doyle.
Hawkeye players also said they’ve not seen a contrast in the way workouts are conducted. Senior guard Cole Banwart said the exercises the Hawkeyes are doing and the training techniques are the same. He said Braithwaite even provided members of the team with workout regimens they could conduct at home by themselves during the COVID-19 quarantine phase of the offseason.
“He’s making sure everybody is focused and ready to play,” Banwart said.
Junior running back Ivory Kelly-Martin said all of the inspirational quotes that Doyle had displayed on the walls of the weight room remain. So do the pictures of former Hawkeye stars.
“It’s still Iowa football,” Kelly-Martin said. “We’re still attacking things in the weight room.”
One aspect of training that has been addressed is individual weight goals for each athlete. There were complaints raised in this summer’s investigation of the program that those were too rigid under Doyle’s leadership.
“It did bring a lot of anxiety,” Kelly-Martin acknowledged.
Kelly-Martin said the team’s leadership council, which includes him, was able to meet with Braithwaite and other coaches to come up with a new system that satisfies the players and staff. Braithwaite said the goal is identify if an athlete is struggling on the practice field because of a sudden change in weight.
“We still monitor body weight,” Braithwaite said. “That’s from a health-and-safety, player-performance perspective. That’s something that we have to do.”
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.
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