Ex-Iowa RB Akrum Wadley cites 'bullying, racism' under Kirk Ferentz: 'Wish I never played' for Hawkeyes
Weeks after the dismissal of strength coach Chris Doyle, accusations of dysfunction and racism within the Iowa football program are still surfacing.
On Monday, former running back Akrum Wadley delivered a scathing rebuke of the program, alleging abusive and racist behavior while naming Doyle, head coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz.
Wadley made the accusations on a Facebook post shared by Robert T. Green, an athlete advocate representing multiple Iowa players in their complaints about the program.
“I wish I never played for the Iowa Hawkeyes,” Akrum wrote. “I would not encourage any future athletes or parents to send your kid to go play for the Iowa Hawkeyes under that current coaching staff. ...
“My hope is my story and those of my teammates save others from the experiences, truths and mistake of playing under and for a coaching staff at Iowa that did and said nothing to stop the bullying and racism from happening to us under Chris Doyle, Brian Ferentz and Kirk Ferentz.”
Wadley played for Iowa from 2013-17 and starred as a junior and senior, eclipsing 1,300 yards from scrimmage while tallying 13 touchdowns each season. On Monday he described his time with the Hawkeyes as “a living nightmare.”
Wadley: Brian Ferentz made racist jokes
Wadley’s allegations arrive exactly two weeks after the June 15 dismissal of Doyle, who had been on leave following calls for a culture shift at Iowa. Several former Black players focused their complaints on the strength coach, accusing him of making racist remarks and doing things like stepping [on] players fingers” during workouts.
Wadley’s allegations did not spare Kirk Ferentz or his son Brian. Kirk Ferentz has been the head coach at Iowa since 1999, while his son Brian has been the offensive line coach or offensive coordinator since 2012.
Wadley accused Brian Ferentz of make repeated jokes about him committing robberies when he wore a black wool cap that the team handed out.
“One time when I was jogging to the facility, Coach Brian Ferentz says, ‘Hey Akrum, are you going to rob a gas station?’” Wadley wrote. “I was so upset, but ignored him and kept going.
“This happened a couple more times in the same situation. The only difference is he said, ‘Akrum are you going to rob a liquor store?’ ”
Wadley: Kirk Ferentz revoked meal card as punishment
Wadley accused Kirk Ferentz of establishing a culture of fear, with players threatened with punishment for speaking their minds and instructed not to use social media without team approval. He said that he and other Black teammates were “targeted to the extreme regarding not making Iowa's required weight” and that Kirk Ferentz reached out to his mother to convince him to stay when he considered transferring.
Wadley said he became sick daily “after drinking pounds of Powerade and/or shakes right before working out” in an effort to make weight. He accused Kirk Ferentz of revoking his meal as a form of punishment.
“I was threatened by Kirk Ferentz that my meal card would be taken away and I will not eat nor be able to sit with my teammates during eating sessions,” Wadley wrote. “He did follow through on his threat. I went to use my meal card and it was declined.
“I had to call my mother from New Jersey at 10 or 11 p.m. at night because I was hungry to order Dominos Pizza for me. Or I would have to go to a fan’s house earlier at night to eat because there was no way I was going to be able to make it through the next day vomiting, being weak and be able to make it through school and practice that day.”
Ferentz has addressed player complaints
Upon Doyle’s dismissal, Kirk Ferentz admitted to a “blind spot” in the program and said that he had held productive meetings with former and current players.
“The former players were very forthcoming,” Ferentz said on June 12. “They were very direct, and just pointed out some things that perhaps gave me a new awareness. And I think Monday's meeting, Tuesday's meeting followed up with that light. So the key here is to try to create an environment where everybody feels free to talk and say their mind, and know it's going to be weighed and valued and measured.”
In a previous statement after accusations against Doyle began to surface, Kirk Ferentz vowed to “listen and take to heart the messages we hear.” He also encouraged the team to decide collectively whether to stand or kneel during the national anthem in the wake of George Floyd’s homicide.
Wadley: Experience drove him to drink
Wadley wrote on Monday that his experience at Iowa drove him to drink alcohol.
“I felt like playing for Iowa Football was a living nightmare,” Akrum wrote. “I never drank alcohol prior to going to college, but based on my experience there it became the only thing I could rely on it seems and was what I did to cope.”
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