What Kirk Ferentz said Sunday about Chris Doyle, Brian Ferentz and allegations of racism
Kirk Ferentz met with Iowa media for about 45 minutes late Sunday afternoon to address a 48-hour barrage of former players posting incidents and allegations that describe systemic racism and mistreatment inside the Hawkeye football program.
“Certainly, a lot has changed since our last conversation (Wednesday),” Ferentz noted.
Among the topics Ferentz addressed was the decision to place strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle on administrative leave, and whether he was giving his son, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, a pass. Many players, including prominent names like James Daniels, Jaleel Johnson and Akrum Wadley, have identified both Doyle and Brian Ferentz as the biggest problems in a culture that needs change.
“The level of comments regarding the two are very different from my perspective,” Kirk Ferentz said.
Ferentz continued to say that he thinks he can remain objective about his oldest son, noting that some of the issues that have been raised have been addressed in the past.
“Ultimately, I’ve got to make judgement. I can assure you the judgments I make are … based on the people,” Ferentz said. “Overall, if we are not committed to helping the team, helping our players feel good when they’re in the building, when they're out of the building and 10 years removed ... then every one of those is a failure."
Regarding Doyle, who issued his own statement just minutes before Ferentz’s Zoom call began, the head coach said he wants to continue to listen and learn on the way to making a decision about whether Doyle would be allowed to return.
Ferentz said he has never heard Doyle tell a black athlete he would throw them back on the streets or ghetto, something several players have alleged. Doyle’s statement, which didn't seem to be authorized by Ferentz, didn’t include an apology and claimed that he has not made racist comments during his 21 years at Iowa and that he doesn't tolerate those that do.
“I owe it to Chris and I owe it to our players to investigate," Ferentz said.
Ferentz’s most contrite comments came early in the call, as he became choked up at times detailing some things he’s heard and read over the previous 48 hours.
“I’m very, very sorry for any hardships that any of them have endured,” Ferentz said in opening remarks. “If they didn’t feel safe to speak freely, that’s certainly something I feel very regretful about.
“Their anger and frustrations have been noted. And we intend to move something forward to improve things.”
As the call went on he was asked specifically if he’s been contacted about racial discrimination in the program, and he said he couldn’t recall one.
He added that he “would not quantify (racism) as a major issue right now” in the program.
Ferentz did note that the program this last year relaxed certain hard-line policies, which he now realizes are only small steps. Last season, as a response to player feedback, Iowa allowed athletes to wear hats, earrings and hoodies in the football facility.
Ferentz reported that former Hawkeye defensive tackle Mike Daniels, a longtime NFL veteran who has been among those criticizing Iowa’s racial inconsistencies but with a desire to fix it, will chair a diverse advisory committee focused on changing the team’s culture for the better.
Ferentz addressed whether random drug tests were truly random when it came to black athletes. Cornerback D.J. Johnson, who started four games last season for the Hawkeyes before entering the transfer portal this spring, said on Twitter that “at least half” of the team’s black players were tested every time, while he noted “a white player who was my locker neighbor said he wasn’t tested in almost three years.”
James Daniels affirmed that narrative, replying: “Those random tests were always (crap). This is fact.”
Ferentz defended the drug tests and how they're administered.
"But as we move forward with our team, I’m open to anything in our program," he said. "Whether it’s drug testing or anything we do. But I feel like the way we’ve done it has been equitable and fair.”
In closing, Ferentz said he has asked former players if they feel he can continue into his 22nd year as head coach.
“I did ask multiple players if they feel like I’m part of the problem or if they feel like we can’t move forward with me here, then I’d appreciate that feedback," Ferentz said. "That’s not what I’ve heard so far. My commitment is to us having a healthy program and a healthy team and an improving environment.”