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After placing one of his longest-tenured assistants on administrative leave due to an outcry from his program’s black players, Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz admitted during a news conference on Friday that he had a “blind spot.”
Hawkeyes strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, who has been with the program since Ferentz’s first season as head coach in 1999, was accused by former players of being the central figure of a culture that treated black players to a double standard.
Multiple former players recounted instances of Doyle racially belittling them. He has denied all accusations of racial bias. Ferentz’s son, Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, was also mentioned as problematic.
On Friday, Kirk Ferentz said his players had given him a new awareness of the problems they have faced in his program.
“The biggest question to me is, why the blind spot?” Ferentz said. “And I think every person has a blind spot. I’m sure every leader has a blind spot. The former players were very forthcoming. 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.”
Ferentz’s full conference can be seen here.
Ferentz deferred direct comment on Doyle, citing a review into the coach’s conduct, but conceded that keeping him around wouldn’t have been “a workable environment,” per ESPN. Assistant strength and conditioning coach Raimond Braithwaite is currently leading voluntary workouts with players.
Ferentz has a culture to fix at Iowa
The lone measure Ferentz announced in fixing the program was the creation of an advisory committee among former players chaired by Mike Daniels. The move came after some emotional meetings with his players.
When asked about the possibility of athletes protesting racial injustice during the national anthem this season, Ferentz said he hoped his players would find a way to speak out in a way that’s “not polarizing, but powerful.”
While Doyle’s fate is still pending review, with athletic director Gary Barta to provide an update next week, at least one tea leaf is pointing to a big change. Doyle’s son, Dillon, a linebacker on the Iowa team, has said he will transfer from the program.
In the meantime, Ferentz will apologize for the overall culture that had built up under his watch, per ESPN:
Ferentz didn’t address any specific allegations from former players or their parents but apologized for an environment where “the coaching style by some was, at times, demeaning, and created unnecessary frustration and anxiety.”
“If you have an environment where players don’t feel like they can bring up an issue, that’s a problem,” he said. “I feel like I let those players down by not creating that environment where they did feel comfortable and sharing more about their experiences, bringing that to our attention, while they were here. Our coaches feel the same way, and we’re committed to making sure that never happens again.”
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