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Ferentz: 'I’m The One That’s Accountable'

Iowa football coach said he has listened to concerns of former players about racial disparities within the program.

Kirk Ferentz doesn’t remember who it was who told him first on Friday night that allegations about racial disparities within Iowa’s football program were being posted by former players on social media.

But the Hawkeyes’ head coach knew he had to listen.

Forty-eight hours later, Ferentz has heard plenty.

He started the week by talking about change around the nation with his current players during a team meeting last Monday in the wake of protests after the death of George Floyd.

Ferentz ended the week by talking about change within his program with former players who had expressed their emotions and concerns.

He immediately began reaching out to players who had posted on Twitter after receiving a screenshot of a thread started by former Hawkeye James Daniels, who now plays for the NFL's Chicago Bears.

The discussions have lasted through the weekend.

“I have had a lot of conversations with former players, both black and white,” Ferentz said during a video conference with media members on Sunday afternoon. “ I certainly learned of the frustration of many of them. Frustration, anger, just about their experience here overall.

“I just want to ensure every player that their voices were heard. Their anger, their frustration, has been noted, and we intend to do something moving forward to improve things.”

Strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, who was at the center of many allegations that said he had made racial comments to black players, has been placed on administrative leave and an independent review of the allegations will be conducted. Doyle denied the allegations in a statement released Sunday afternoon.

An advocacy group of former players that Ferentz said will be chaired by NFL veteran and former Hawkeye Mike Daniels will be established.

And Ferentz also plans on meeting with returning players as a team on Monday, with one-on-one meetings scheduled over the next few weeks.

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“One thing that has become clear to me is we have a lot more steps to take, and more things to accomplish,” Ferentz said. “That’s all going to be starting with dialogue, and that process will continue, and begin in earnest tomorrow, as our players return to campus.

“I realize fully we have a lot of work to do. And we’re all committed to that work.”

Ferentz, Iowa’s winningest coach who has been with the program for 21 seasons, said his program was “demanding.”

“It’s been demanding from the start,” he said. “Players I’ve talked to and heard from, I think, are largely appreciative of that.

“In life, really, but in coaching, there’s a difference between being demanding and also potentially being demeaning. And for any player to feel demeaned, it’s unacceptable.”

Ferentz said he had relaxed some team policies last season — for example, he said, players could wear hats, earrings, and hooded sweatshirts while in the building.

What he heard from talking to former players, though, was a deeper concern about the culture within the program.

Asked if he was surprised by the allegations, Ferentz said, “It’s not unusual for players to be unhappy about any segment of the program, including me. I think that’s just part of coaching, part of the world we’re in. What we ask our players to do is demanding and challenging — earning a degree, and trying to be the best players they can be. So you always have those. But nothing to really alarm you, really alert you. I think, really, the magnitude of this thing over the last 48 hours, I had a lot more candid conversation that I can remember in any period.

“I am very, very sorry for any hardships they have endured. If they didn’t feel safe to speak freely, that’s something I feel really regretful about.”

Ferentz said the change in the program starts with him.

“If there’s something healthy about this, it’s going to cause more movement forward for us as a program,” he said. “I’m very confident of that. I think our players are wanting to open up, I think they’re wanting to talk more, probably more so than anyone in my 21 years. And we look forward to starting that process, and that will begin tomorrow with our players.

“However you break it down, I’m the one who’s responsible. I’m the one who’s got accountability. We’ve all got ownership, but I’m the one that’s accountable.”