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Iowa strength coach placed on leave after former players speak out about negative experiences in program

Iowa will begin looking into the troubling allegations about the program brought forth by a bevy of former players.

In a statement, longtime Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz said that criticisms — which have predominantly come from black players — have been “difficult and heartbreaking” to read. 

“There are too many racial disparities in the Iowa football program,” wrote former Iowa and current Chicago Bears offensive lineman James Daniels. “Black players have been treated unfairly for far too long.”

Ferentz said what happens next is “a defining moment for the Iowa Hawkeye football program.”

“Over the past 24 hours I have seen some difficult and heartbreaking posts on social media,” Ferentz said. “I appreciate the former players’ candor and have been reaching out to many of them individually to hear more about their experiences in our program. I am planning on talking to all of them in the coming days. This is a process that will take some time, but change begins by listening first.”

Many of the comments from former players centered on negative — and sometimes racially charged — experiences in Iowa’s strength program, led by coach Chris Doyle. 

Doyle, who has been at Iowa as long as Ferentz has been head coach (since 1999), has been placed on administrative leave effective immediately. Ferentz said the school will conduct an “independent review” into his alleged conduct. Doyle, who makes $800,000 per year, is the highest-paid strength coach in the country. While Doyle is on leave, assistant strength coach Raimond Braithwaite will lead the strength program.

“I have spoken with [Doyle] about the allegations posted on social media. They are troubling and have created a lasting impact on those players,” Ferentz said. “He and I agree that all parties will have their voices heard and then a decision about how to move forward will be made.”

Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle walks on the field before an NCAA college football game between Iowa and Northern Illinois, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Additionally, Ferentz said he will create an advisory committee made up of current and former players, as well as department staff, to help steer the program forward from a culture perspective. 

“This will be a diverse group that will be able to share without judgement so we can all examine where we are today and how we can have a better environment tomorrow,” Ferentz said. 

In their social media posts, many of the players said they felt like they could not be themselves inside the walls of the Iowa football facility. Ferentz says he wants to change that. 

“In our program there are high standards and accountability — we have a good team of players, coaches and staff members. But it is clear we can do more to create a welcoming and respectful environment where every player can grow, develop and become the best version of himself,” Ferentz said. 

Ferentz later added that the changes in the program “begin with me.”

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said the revelations brought out by the former players have left him “concerned.”

“It is important that we reach out and listen to both current and former players. We must be willing to improve and change,” Barta said. 

Iowa established a diversity task force back in 2018 to address graduation rates among African American male student-athletes at the school. Barta said the athletic department has made positive strides, but it’s clear that “there is more to do.”

“As part of the process, the task force interviewed current and former student-athletes to better understand our department’s climate towards diversity and the experiences of student-athletes. It was evident at that time we needed to improve as a department. While we have taken several steps to address these issues, there is more to do,” Barta said. 

“Ultimately, our success will be defined by our actions. Our greatest victory won’t be found on a box score but a willingness to speak out against racism, and to make sure every student-athlete, coach, and staff member feel safe, supported and that they have a voice that is empowered.”

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