Sleep bands, MAGA hats, NFL concerns: Key portions of Husch Blackwell's external review into Iowa football
IOWA CITY, Ia. — The much-anticipated external review of Iowa football following racial disparity allegations was released Thursday morning. The report, executed by Kansas City law firm Husch Blackwell LLP, is 28 pages and nearly 11,000 words.
In addition to what was included in the 28-page report, the law firm also provided the university with four "personnel reports" about unspecified current and former employees of the department that will remain confidential. That development indicates that only former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle will be removed from his position, which occurred June 15 with a $1.1 million settlement that included no admission of wrongdoing.
Husch Blackwell interviewed 111 people, including 45 current and 29 former members of the football team and 36 current and former employees.
Below are some of the key findings from the report.
Politics and football
One former Iowa player described in the interviewing process how coaches previously told the team to not take a knee during the national anthem because they should "keep politics and football separate." Yet, according to the player, white players were allowed to wear "Make America Great Again" hats and present an Iowa jersey to President Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign.
Former Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard and ex-Iowa tight end Peter Pekar were among the Hawkeye athletes who attended an Iowa City Trump event in January 2016, days before the Iowa Caucuses. Beathard later clarified that he is not a Trump supporter.
The report later says coach Kirk Ferentz "previously believed it is better to keep politics and football separate when in a team environment." But the report says Ferentz told investigators "his views have changed recently and, moving forward, he wants the players to support and respect one another, even if they have different political views." Ferentz and AD Gary Barta further confirmed in the report that none of those players attended the Trump gathering on behalf of the Iowa football program.
Concerns of what coaches say to NFL teams
A solid chunk of the Husch Blackwell review centered on how one Iowa coach may or may not have negatively influenced Black players' NFL Draft stock by bashing them to scouts.
"Numerous former players believed the coach wielded complete control over which players could speak with NFL scouts and that he was able to 'make or break' their professional careers," the report stated. "One former player told investigators that race influenced whether a player was discussed with the NFL and eventually drafted.
"Numerous former players alleged that the coach used his influence with NFL scouts to 'blackball' players, mostly Black players, whom he did not like. The allegation that the coach would 'blackball' players was repeated by one coach, who did not address whether race influenced this; he said that the coach tried to 'blackball' players with the NFL or negatively impact their prospects."
The report continued with allegations from several former players that phrases such as "not a team guy and had an attitude issue,” "toxic player", "team-ruiner," “cocky, irresponsible and arrogant” and "undraftable" were said by this Iowa coach to NFL scouts.
All coaches interviewed about this particular topic denied all bashing to NFL scouts, according to the report.
Sleep bands created 'lots of anxiety'
"Many players described having to wear sleep bands to track their sleep, which they said was a very negative experience and caused 'lots of anxiety,'” the report said. "A coach explained that, if someone had bad sleep for multiple nights, the poor sleep was 'called out' in front of the team, and the player would be in trouble.
"Head coach Ferentz agreed that players may have been 'called out' in front of the team. He told investigators that player feedback should have been provided more discreetly. Moving forward, he stated that sleep bands will be used only on an educational basis and all player feedback will be given privately.
"Several players and coaches told investigators that the coaches maintained a 'sleep list,' and the ten players with the least amount of sleep for the week were required to have a meeting with the strength and conditioning staff. Several former players and one coach indicated that it was a demeaning and hurtful thing to be on the sleep band list, and it added to the anxiety of all the players. One former player observed that Black players were always on the list every week."
A former strength coach told investigators "not one time in the history of Iowa football was anyone ever disciplined for sleep," according to the report. Ferentz told investigators that sleep bands will only be used as an educational tool in the future.
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.