IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa athletic director Gary Barta gave a vote of confidence to longtime football coach Kirk Ferentz on Monday after deciding to cut ties with a strength coach accused of mistreating African American players.
Ferentz has dealt seriously in addressing former and current players’ concerns about the program’s culture, Barta said. He also pointed to Ferentz’s on-field success, player development and the team’s record of community service.
“I do remain confident Kirk Ferentz can lead this team moving forward and many of the attributes we’re all familiar with over the last 20 years … are still there and still a part of the foundation and who Kirk is,” Barta said at a news conference.
Iowa announced a separattion agreement with Chris Doyle, at the center of allegations he and other assistant coaches made racist comments and belittled players. Doyle will be paid more than $1.1 million by the university, which also said a Missouri law firm, Husch Blackwell, will conduct an independent review of the allegations against the football program.
“I have worked diligently to make a positive impact on the lives of student-athletes, support them as they speak out, and look forward to continued growth,” Doyle said in a prepared statement. “I am confident that my record and character will be confirmed in the course of the independent review. The university and I have reached an agreement and it is time to move on from Iowa football. My family and I are looking forward to the next chapter.”
Doyle, who earned $800,000 per year and was the highest paid strength and conditioning coach in college football, has denied any “unethical behavior or bias” based on race. Under the agreement, Doyle will be paid 15 months’ salary and for unused vacation. There will be two payments of $556,249.50 — the first on Aug. 1 and the second on Jan. 1. Doyle agreed not to take any legal action against the university, the board of regents or state of Iowa.
Ferentz is Iowa’s all-time wins leader and enters his 22nd season as the longest-tenured coach of a Football Bowl Subdivision program. Ferentz earned $5.5 million last year after bonuses, and his contract runs through the 2025 season.
Barta became emotional during the news conference, choking up on two occasions he mentioned race relations in his athletic department and in the United States.
“One thing I wanted to do, and it’s really important to me, is to say I’m sorry to former student-athletes, coaches, staff, current student-athletes, anybody who has had a negative experience with Iowa football,” Barta said. “When I say negative — if you felt mistreated, misled, discriminated against, whatever the case, I truly am sorry. We want everybody who participates in our program to have a great experience academically, athletically and socially.”
Former Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels, now with the Chicago Bears, was the first to raise the issue of the Iowa staff’s treatment of players.
“There are too many racial disparities in the Iowa football program. Black players have been treated unfairly for far too long,” Daniels tweeted June 5.
Dozens of former players followed with social media posts about their experiences, especially with Doyle. He was placed on paid leave June 6. Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, son of the head coach, and assistant defensive coordinator Seth Wallace also have been alleged to have made inappropriate comments to players.
Kirk Ferentz said Friday the coaching style by some of his assistants “at times was demeaning and created unnecessary frustration and anxiety.”
Barta said Iowa’s efforts to address racial issues started two years ago when a review showed black male athletes were graduating at a rate lower than that of their white peers.
A diversity task force was created to explore reasons for the disparity, and a report indicated many black athletes felt uncomfortable. Barta said anonymous interviews produced comments such as “I felt like I had to put a mask on and check my identity at the door” and “I was told by my coach to change my hairstyle because it didn’t fit the Iowa culture.”
Barta noted steps that were taken in response. Former football player Broderick Binns was named interim director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the athletic department. Ferentz began having a regular dialogue with black athletes about their concerns. A consulting group was brought in to counsel black athletes about where they could turn if they don’t think their concerns were adequately addressed.
“I had convinced myself we were doing enough,” Barta said. “Frankly, the last few weeks have been a wakeup call.”
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