Safety measures must improve before Iowa plays another Cy-Hawk game, UI president says

In his sit-down with the DI, UI President Bruce Harreld questioned whether the UI should play the rivalry-series game in the future pending improvements to safety.

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Safety measures must improve before Iowa plays another Cy-Hawk game, UI president says

UI President Bruce Harreld answers a question in the Adler Journalism Building on Monday, September 23, 2019.

UI President Bruce Harreld answers a question in the Adler Journalism Building on Monday, September 23, 2019.

Katina Zentz for The Daily Iowan

UI President Bruce Harreld answers a question in the Adler Journalism Building on Monday, September 23, 2019.

Katina Zentz for The Daily Iowan

Katina Zentz for The Daily Iowan

UI President Bruce Harreld answers a question in the Adler Journalism Building on Monday, September 23, 2019.

Marissa Payne, Editor-in-Chief

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After Hawkeye Marching Band members went public with allegations of physical harassment faced at the Sept. 14 Cy-Hawk football game in Ames, University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld told The Daily Iowan on Monday that he wants to use this game as an opportunity to improve safety measures, questioning whether the UI should play the rivalry-series game in the future.

“I’m not convinced at all that we should play this game again — here or there or anywhere — unless we can protect our fans, our band, and of course our athletes,” Harreld said.

Band members last week alleged suffering from broken ribs and being bruised by a beer can at the Cy-Hawk game at Jack Trice Stadium.

RELATED: Hawkeye Marching Band director addresses band after Cy-Hawk game mistreatment allegations

Since the alleged incidents, Harreld said he reached out to Iowa State University President Wintersteen as well as University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook about having conversations with athletic directors, with band directors, and campus security and safety officials to prevent such alleged harassment from happening again.

“And I think we need to put it on paper — how large should our security forces be, where should the band bus park, what tunnel should we have a secure group of people make officers and security people protecting them…” he said.

The leaders are open to such discussions, Harreld said, but the timing of when the leaders and other university officials will convene to have that conversation is unclear. He said he anticipates this would take several meetings to examine.

“We’ll learn more through the investigation that’s continuing, we’ll get more facts, and we’ll also get more attention because everybody’s pretty busy during the football season,” Harreld said. “So my guess is some time in January we’ll sit down. But I will say I also fight myself on that. As I see this go more and more intense, maybe we should do it sooner rather than later. I don’t know, we haven’t really nailed that down yet. I just don’t want to have it too soon and we don’t have all the facts, and also too soon when we’re all busy so we tend to gloss over it.”

RELATED: Marching Band allegations from Cy-Hawk game emerge

Once improved safety measures are settled, Harreld said, “I think I’ll consider playing this game again. But I’m not going to put our band or our students or our athletes in harms’ way. Something happened, and it isn’t right and we can all do better.”

Asked if hosting no more Cy-Hawk games was a done deal, Harreld said he is “clearly expecting we can work through this.

“If for some reason one party or the other doesn’t come to the table, then no, why would we?” he said.

Band members on social media took issue with the UI’s decision to close the investigation just days after Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta announced on Sept. 16 that officials were looking into the allegations. One band member, Corey Knopp, wrote on Facebook that the UI and Iowa Athletics showed him “you don’t have my back and you don’t care.”

Harreld apologized in response to such critiques of the UI’s communication regarding the investigation.

“I know when I look at some of those social media, I see appropriately students and families really concerned about why we would ever close something so quickly,” he said. “There’s still a greater story to be told. That wasn’t our intent, and I apologize if any of that really created a sense that we’re washing our hands. We’re not washing our hands of this — this is a really bad situation. Something really bad happened in Ames.”

Harreld’s remarks about the Hawkeye Marching Band incident are below.

I’ve been moving really quickly here so my personal involvement on campus has been … last week in other parts of the world trying to deal with the [public/private partnership] and meeting all the companies that are bidding. This past week I was on campus — I wasn’t even in town for maybe the last hour of the Iowa State-University of Iowa game was I even in town. I say all that because it’s been a blur. I’m not so sure why we closed and we why relaunched. From my perspective, we didn’t really close. I think we finished the phase where we had interviewed all the people that were directly impacted negatively by their experience in Ames, and I think at that point we say, “Well, we had probably talked to everybody and I guess we put out an announcement so we’ve closed that.” From my perspective, we never closed anything. It still continues. In fact — I could — part of the issue is, and I know when I look at some of those social media, I see appropriately students and families really concerned about why we would ever close something so quickly. There’s still a greater story to be told. That wasn’t our intent, and I apologize if any of that really created a sense that we’re washing our hands. We’re not washing our hands of this — this is a really bad situation. Something really bad happened in Ames. It’s clear — we had a number of members of our band and I think even others that were impacted negatively by that.

And now we get to everybody who we know has been impacted has been interviewed, and we’ve had a thorough conversation on what happened and can they identify what happened and what we could do about it. These crowd situations are really awkward to deal with because it’s a horde of people. Clearly some people misbehaved. And I could really use help — we could all use help — to the extent anybody has video or photos or direct experiences and they haven’t been able to tell those stories, please contact us or the police or anybody else. We love to document what’s happening, and that’s what’s going on now. When that concludes, I’m not so sure that will ever be final because somebody may still have a story or find out that they have a photo or a video clip. With today’s devices, I expect that there’s more out there that we need to know and I’d like to see that come forward. I’m not convinced at all that we should play this game again — here or there or anywhere — unless we can protect our fans, our band, and of course our athletes.

I’ve reached out to President [Wendy] Wintersteen as well as President [Mark] Nook at UNI, because we don’t ever I believe ever play in their venue, but they play at our venues, and I think all three of us need to sit down and have a series of conversations with our athletic directors, with our band directors, with our campus security and safety people, and say how do we protect — how do we ensure — that something like what happened [Sept. 14] doesn’t happen again? And I think we need to put it on paper — how large should our security forces be, where should the band bus park, what tunnel should we have a secure group of people make officers and security people protecting them, and then the same end of the stand. I think there’s a lot to document here and I think we need to have a series of conversations, and when we get there if we get there then I think I’ll consider playing this game again. But I’m not going to put our band or our students or our athletes in harm’s way. Something happened, and it isn’t right and we can all do better. I’m not just talking about in Ames; I’m talking about Iowa City, too. It works both ways. We can all improve. We should take this opportunity to improve.

I’m a little frustrated right now that this happened not in Iowa City, not in Kinnick, it happened at another stadium. All the sudden now, it’s … victim blaming.  All the sudden now, the University of Iowa is part of the issue because we start or stop the investigation. Please. We’re going to get to the bottom of this, we’re going to get through it all, and then we’re going to learn from it and move forward. If it means we’re not going to play again, we’re not going to play again.

DI: Is that a done deal, Cy-Hawk game is no more for the time being?

Harreld: I’m expecting we can work through this. Clearly expecting we can work through this. If for some reason one party or the other doesn’t come to the table, then no, why would we? I think we need to document and we should hold ourselves accountable as a team — a team of Iowa State, Northern Iowa, and the University of Iowa as to what we’re going to do.

I don’t think it’s just in Iowa, by the way. I’m watching what’s happening across the country and there’s a fan issue here in the country. I think this is a dialogue we should all be having, which is what is the appropriate security and safety issues. There’s a big discussion about whether we should allow alcohol in our stadiums. I don’t know about you, but I think we actually should have a conversation. That was a long day. It started with GameDay at whatever hour and people I heard were coming to the parking lot at 3:30, 4:30, 5:30 to line up for GameDay. Then we had two big delays during the game, the athletes had to get refueled and fed after the second break. Did alcohol have anything to do with this? … I kind of start playing mental games. If we had lost and the home team had won, would it have been quite so severe at the end? I don’t know all the answers to those things, but I think it’s time for sure for our institution and any other regential institutions in the state to have a dialogue about safety and how we’re going to guarantee it. I don’t think we have any right — just like when something nasty on our campus to any of our students — we have to protect them. You expect us to. We own that responsibility, so we should sit down and go through it.

I also would say this isn’t just an Iowa issue. This may be broader than that as well. It will be useful dialogue across the country to talk about fan/fan experience, campus safety, band safety. Band members are pretty exposed. I high-five them in the tunnel before the games and all the rest, and it’s just like that’s it. If somebody wants to start pushing and shoving and throwing things at them, wow, that’s a tough environment to be in. They’re wonderful entertainers and they work really hard. I think most of us don’t appreciate how hard they work behind the scenes. … Being in the band takes a lot of time and then this happens to them? That’s not right.

DI: The UI on Sept. 20 shared that you had discussions with President Wintersteen and President Nook. Is there anything concrete planned out at this point or is it just raising those questions?

Harreld: I specifically reached out to the two of them. They agreed to do that. I included not just the three of us, I said we should have our athletic directors, band directors as I said a moment ago, our security officers all present. We talked for a moment about the timing of that and … I said at the time we should wait until the season’s over. We’ll learn more through the investigation that’s continuing, we’ll get more facts, and we’ll also get more attention because everybody’s pretty busy during the football season. So my guess is some time in January we’ll sit down. But I will say I also fight myself on that. As I see this go more and more intense, maybe we should do it sooner rather than later. I don’t know, we haven’t really nailed that down yet. I just don’t want to have it too soon and we don’t have all the facts, and also too soon when we’re all busy so we tend to gloss over it. I think this is going to take several meetings. I don’t think it’s going to be one. I think we’ll set up a framework in the initial meeting and say let’s go look at these areas, then let’s have various people come back and report as to what they learn. What do we do here? What do we do in Ames? What’s the difference?

I think we spend — I believe we spend an incredible amount of time trying to make sure that our visiting team is well-protected, the band is protected, we have security people around. On the other hand, I think we need to reach out and talk to some of the other teams that have been here and see what they say and learn from it. I think we can all use this as a learning, improvement experience. And let’s not do this too quickly.

Go to dailyiowan.com later this week for the full interview.

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