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It seems wrong to post a jokey NCAA basketball blog when there’s real news breaking for Iowa Hawkeye football

Iowa v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Normally at this time, I’d be posting an Iowa Hawkeyes basketball blog. It just doesn’t seem like the “right” thing to do given the news which spread across the Hawkeye landscape.

The snowball of Iowa’s racial inequities continues to move down the hill, most recently with a report from Hawkeye Nation (dot) com.

In the link provided, Rob Howe more or less goes point by point through the report, which Howe obtained separately from the 5-page summary of findings report provided by the athletic department in response to a FOIA request. For the benefit of everyone here - mainly myself and proper attribution - I’ll reference that report. It can be found here.

I’ll pull from an over-simplification as I go through this vis a vis “what? so what? now what?”

“What?”

The summary does not necessarily tell us anything new but it does provide a timestamp on many of the allegations uncovered over the last couple of months.

11 people made up the committee, most notably, the newly promoted Broderick Binns. The other key name people will know is Iowa basketball’s Andrew Francis (who has since taken a job with Cal). The findings were broken into three categories - student-athletes; coaches; staff - and were primarily focused on football. As Barta said in a June 15th presser: “while no teams or individuals were singled out, it was reported verbally that many of these comments were coming from football.”

The key point here is that no individuals were singled out, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Anyways, 24 student-athletes were interviewed and about 50 individuals were, in total. On Friday, Kirk Ferentz estimated about 100 interviews have been conducted over the course of the independent review of the topic.

So the scope of this is a little more wide-ranging and more surface-level than we might expect from Husch Blackwell. It did identify the key issues which exist(ed) in UI Athletics Iowa football, summarized by Howe:

  • Expected to conform to White culture
  • Subjected to verbal harassment
  • Targeted for extra drug testing
  • Misled about resources available to them during the recruiting process
  • Subjected to inequitable discipline policies and double standards
  • Misunderstood by both coaches and White player
  • Unsupported in their academic pursuits

If we are being serious about these accusations, the only one which is news here is the final bullet. Everything else has been addressed in some form or fashion on Twitter or in podcast form.

“So What?”

As mentioned above, the report confirms what we learned in June 2020 was meandering around the Athletics Department/Football Complex ahead of the 2019 football season. Kirk Ferentz eased the restrictions on earrings, hoodies, hats, rap music, etc. ahead of last season. He admittedly “dropped the ball” in ensuring the diversity group he had put in place met throughout the season but really, there’s reason to believe a lot of this does not happen without the public accountability Twitter provided.

The report detailed how the conundrum whistleblowers often face when uncovering improper behavior would have the negative effect. From the report:

“African American student-athletes may be more distrustful of coaches and administrators, and avoid talking openly about negative experiences because of the authority coaches and administrators have over playing time and scholarships.”

All that is missing from the above quote is “Chris Doyle” in place of “coaches and administrators.”

It is highlighted by the only block-quote in the report, which discusses the “short period of time to make a good impression” and the smaller perceived margin of error for Black athletes.

In a way, Howe’s summary softens the blow of some of the quotes. One player describes “being a slave to the system” due to changing his hair and overall need to conform to the standard of “the White student-athlete.”

White student-athletes concurred, saying there “is a certain mold that students must fit into here at Iowa, and for student-athletes from Iowa it is easier for the to fit the mold.” (Geographic euphemisms are a theme throughout the report) When interviewing coaches, the report concluded “assimilation into Iowa culture is a barrier for African American male student-athlete persistence” as if it is the players’ fault for failing to conform and not the coaches’ for creating such a mold they feel the need to which they assimilate.

Particularly concerning is the sense that it means players “do not do anything to draw unwarranted attention to yourself athletically or socially.”

Editorializing: what does it even mean to draw unwarranted social attention to one’s self? Maybe...mistaking a cop car for an Uber?

Point is: that type of standard is rife for people of power to misconstrue, which is why what was initially most disheartening for me is actually the most damning (as former BHGPer Jordan Hansen rightfully corrected):

Basically, it was not the Iowa Way’s fault for Black players not to like Iowa. A direct line: the staff was too lazy to accept any responsibility for making Iowa more palatable.

“Now What?”

As I concluded on Twitter, Kirk Ferentz is in a potentially-not-horrible position since Doyle was never actually named in the report. As Scott Dochterman surmised, Kirk is not above “scrutiny nationally or locally.” None of this makes his ignorance right, but there remains plausible deniability here for him to claim the only issues holding his program back from a “strong culture” he’s continually referenced were rules he changed as a result of these findings.

By all accounts, Iowa football is in a better place socially than they were three months ago. Kirk got Iowa here and though the journey was a little...wayward...it was paved with, I think, the best intentions. There is no critical mass calling for Kirk’s job.

So it is really going to come down to what the independent reporting uncovers. What this shows is that Kirk knew there were issues in fall of 2018, when the interviews were conducted, and that he minimally adjusted as a result of them.

His biggest “crime” remains: the biggest concerns players took issue with, they did not feel comfortable voicing. If the law firm concludes that Kirk knew the root cause of these issues was Chris Doyle and that he acted (at minimum) a year and a half late, then he may have coached his last game in the black and gold.

Time will tell.

(Again, you can read the report’s findings here.)

Other links

  • Former Hawk Brion Hurley six sigma’d the situation. He concluded there’s statistically lower chance Black players concluded their careers at Iowa than White players.
  • What former QB’s personality does Spencer Petras most resemble? I think we have to go outside Kirk Ferentz’s tenure...