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Iowa officially parts ways with embattled strength coach Chris Doyle

Iowa has officially parted ways with strength coach Chris Doyle. 

Doyle, the strength coach at Iowa under Kirk Ferentz since 1999, was put on leave earlier this month after a bevy of former Iowa players spoke out about negative experiences they had involving Doyle. The accusations from former players included racist comments allegedly made by Doyle. 

On Monday, the university announced it has “reached a separation agreement” with Doyle, effective immediately. The news comes as an independent review “relating to racial disparities within the football program” is set to begin. 

As part of the separation, Doyle will receive 15 months of base salary, which equates to “two separate lump sum payments of $556,249.50 on Aug. 1, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2021.”

“We wish Chris the best moving forward in his career,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said in a press release. 

Longtime strength coach Chris Doyle and the University of Iowa have parted ways. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

In a statement released through Iowa, Doyle said he is confident that his “record and character will be confirmed” during the review of the program. 

“Iowa City has been home to our family for 21 years. I am grateful Iowa football provided an opportunity to work with incredible players, coaches, and support staff,” Doyle said. “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. 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’s son, linebacker Dillon Doyle, announced last week that he was leaving the Iowa program.

Black Iowa players speak out about program’s culture

The outcry from former Iowa players began after Ferentz spoke with reporters and was asked about the social unrest that followed the death of George Floyd. Specifically, when asked about his players potentially kneeling during the national anthem ahead of games, Ferentz said he’d like to see a team-wide stance on whether to kneel. Former Hawkeyes lineman James Daniels, now playing for the Chicago Bears, said the team collectively kneeling would “bring about a cultural change for both Iowa football and the state of Iowa” that was “long overdue.”

A few days later, Daniels spoke more broadly about the Hawkeyes program. 

“There are too many racial disparities in the Iowa football program,” Daniels wrote on Twitter. “Black players have been treated unfairly for far too long.”

Dozens of former Iowa players echoed his sentiments, with many specifically pointing to negative and sometimes racially charged experiences in Iowa’s strength and conditioning program led by Doyle, who was the nation’s highest-paid strength coach. 

In a June 7 statement, Doyle said he was “proud” of the players who decided to speak out and that it was “time to listen, learn and grow,” before issuing a rebuttal of the many allegations centered on him. 

“I have been asked to remain silent, but that is impossible for me to do,” Doyle’s statement said. “There have been statements made about my behavior that are not true. I do not claim to be perfect. I have made mistakes, learned lessons and like every American citizen, can do better. At no time have I ever crossed the line of unethical behavior or bias based upon race. I do not make racists comments and I don’t tolerate people who do. 

“I am confident that a complete review of the body of work over 21 years will speak for itself and I am trusting the process to respect the rights and experiences of all parties involved. There are countless men of character who are better fathers, husbands, activists, leaders and contributors to society due to their experience at Iowa Football. The record will show this.”

With Doyle out of the picture, Raimond Braithwaite will serve as Iowa’s interim director of the football strength and conditioning program.

Ferentz admits to ‘blind spot’

In a press conference on Friday, Ferentz admitted he had not identified issues black players faced in his program, a lapse he referred to as a “blind spot.” He said that “blind spot” was crystalized after emotional meetings with former and current players in previous days.

“The former players were very forthcoming. They were very direct, and just pointed out some things that perhaps gave me a new awareness,” Ferentz said. “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."

Amani Hooker, now with the Tennessee Titans, said on social media that it was “difficult for black players to walk around the facility and be themselves.”

“I remember whenever walking into the facility it would be difficult for black players to walk around the facility and be themselves,” Hooker wrote on Twitter. “As if the way you grew up was the wrong way or wasn’t acceptable and that you would be judged by that and it would impact playing time. For a lot of guys it was just constant anxiety and pressure to be someone they really aren’t to play a game they love, which affected school and their play.”

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