Hensley: Another debacle, courtesy of the Iowa Athletics Department

Iowa’s handling of the second Gary Dolphin instance is yet again another example of a long history of crisis-management failures.


Nick Rohlman

Iowa play-by play radio announcer Gary Dolphin interviews UI president Bruce Harreld and athletic director Gary Barta during the Hawkeye Huddle event in Tampa, Florida on Monday, Dec. 31, 2018.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

Episode 2 of the Iowa Athletics Department vs. Gary Dolphin has taken a new turn.

Well, sort of. Another game-day distraction, more hypocrisy, and another failure of crisis management.

So, not really a new turn.

Dolphin referred to Maryland’s Bruno Fernando as “King Kong” during his postgame segment after Iowa’s 66-65 loss on Feb. 19.

Do I have an issue with Dolphin’s comments? Yes. You cannot compare an African man to an ape.

I’m white. If I were to be called King Kong, I probably wouldn’t even bat an eye. But, for people of color, it’s a different story.

There’s a clear history of black men being compared to apes; it’s not right, and just because many people don’t understand it doesn’t make it acceptable.

But for those people saying, “Dolphin grew up in a different era,” that’s a lame excuse. Times change. Change with them. Especially if you’re the voice of the Hawkeyes.

I honestly don’t think Dolphin meant any harm in his comments, but the point remains: Just because you don’t see anything wrong with it doesn’t mean others are in the same boat.

However, the punishment — as well as how the situation was handled — doesn’t fit the crime. What should have resulted in a public apology (which Dolphin issued) and a small one- or two-game suspension (actions need consequences but not so severe — consider his intentions). This all should have happened the day after Dolphin’s comments. Not three days later, sitting on it until hours before the next game.

I’d expect the Iowa Athletics Department to release a statement of its own as well. At the bare minimum, a quote from Athletics Director Gary Barta. Instead, Barta did not comment on the subject. Even a statement along the lines of not condoning his actions, yet still supporting him and helping him to learn from his mistake.

Instead of publicly dealing with the issue and answering the many questions, the Athletics Department sat in silence.

Barta attended Iowa’s 76-70 overtime win over Indiana, sitting right by press row. He did not address the media that night. After the game, the media were told that no questions would be answered unless directly related to the Feb. 22 game against Indiana.

A distraction, something that could — and should — have been handled days before, got out of hand hours before tip. No longer was Iowa’s matchup with Indiana the main story. A distraction at its finest.

On Oct. 17, 2018, two of my coworkers and I interviewed Barta in his office. At one point, I specifically asked him about head men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery’s extension last season, which went unannounced and brought up a question about how transparent the Athletics Department should be. Barta said the Athletics Department is completely transparent.

RELATED: Iowa play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin suspended for remaining basketball schedule

“I just made the decision that I didn’t want to disrupt the season at that point,” he told the DI.

Disruption is an interesting word choice here, because for someone who does not want to cause any outside noise to clutter the basketball program, it’s happened twice now this season with the same person and on the day of games.

The initial news of Dolphin’s suspension came from Hawkeye Sports Properties, not even the Athletics Department. Then, later after the initial release came out, the university sent out one of its own, essentially saying, “Ditto.” There was no comment by a University of Iowa official.

Point being, Dolphin should have used a different comparison when describing Fernando after the game. However, the way the Athletics Department handled the situation (essentially, by not handling it), made this an even bigger mess.

The Athletics Department has a track record of sitting back and letting issues snowball. Whether it’s not having Barta, Kirk Ferentz, or Chris Doyle at a press conference after a workout hospitalized 14 football players in 2011 or the entire Jane Meyer trial in 2017, there is a pattern.

The latest twist of the repetitive narrative is with the play-by-play announcer, of all people, a man who many Iowa fans consider an embodiment of what it means to be a Hawkeye. The internal rift is clear, and it’s a poor look on the outside.

It’s Crisis Management 101 – a class the Athletics Department might want to take.