Iowa announces separation agreement with strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Chris Doyle's tenure with the Iowa football team ended after 21 years Monday, when he agreed to step aside after widespread accusations that the longtime strength coach used his position to bully and disparage former players, particularly those who are African-American.

The university reached a separation agreement with Doyle, the school announced in a press release. Per the agreement, Doyle's buyout will include two payments of $556,249.50 — one on Aug. 1, the other on Jan. 1, 2021 — for a total of $1,112,499.

Additionally, the university announced that it has hired Kansas City law firm Husch Blackwell to conduct an independent review of issues and allegations relating to racial disparities within the football program. 

Doyle, 51, had been placed on administrative leave by the university June 6, when former Hawkeyes took to social media to point to him as the largest impediment to fostering a racially inclusive atmosphere within the football program. Athletic director Gary Barta was set to lead a review of Doyle's behavior.

Doyle issued a defiant statement on social media June 7, admitting he had made mistakes but denying ever using racist language.

Doyle had been a pillar of Kirk Ferentz's staff since he became head coach in 1999. The Massachusetts native was credited with helping develop scores of lightly recruited athletes into high-performing Big Ten Conference football players. Ferentz valued him so much that he consistently referred to Doyle as his third coordinator (along with the offensive and defensive coaching leaders) and paid him accordingly. Doyle's most recent contract called for him to make $800,000, the highest of any collegiate strength and conditioning coordinator.

Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle stand on the sideline during a NCAA non conference football game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Middle Tennessee State, Saturday, Sept., 28, 2019, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

Doyle previously came under fire in 2011, when 13 Hawkeye players were diagnosed with a condition called rhabdomyolysis after strenuous offseason workouts. The school paid out one $15,000 settlement as a result, conducted an investigation and determined that that specific workout should never be used again.

Ferentz responded by handing Doyle an assistant coach of the year award that had never previously existed.

In early June, as demonstrators across the country took to the streets to protest the death of African-American George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police, former Hawkeye players started to question whether there needed to be a reckoning in their football program when it comes to race relations.

Doyle was often singled out as the biggest problem. Many Black players accused him of telling them he was going to "send them back to the ghetto" if they didn't meet his standards. Others said Doyle would criticize their attire or the way they wore their hair.

A few players also said offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, Kirk's son, was guilty of similar behavior. Brian Ferentz has not been placed on leave. Kirk Ferentz told reporters June 7 that was because the number of complaints against his son were not as prevalent as those lodged against Doyle.

Kirk Ferentz, 64, has formed an advisory panel of former players, led by Mike Daniels, to offer suggestions for improving the culture of the team. He also said he is determined to listen to all of the stories of his current and former players in an attempt to understand the scope of the problem and lead his program in a better direction.

Ferentz, entering his 22nd season, is the longest-tenured head coach in FBS.

Raimond Braithwaite, in his 16th season with Iowa's strength and conditioning program, has taken over from Doyle on an interim basis. He is leading the players in conditioning drills this month.

Follow Mark Emmert on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.