Ferentz: Listening, learning crucial right now

Iowa's head football coach has addressed George Floyd's death with his team in recent days.


Megan Nagorzanski

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz watches his players swarm the field before a football game between Iowa and Middle Tennessee State University on Saturday, September 28, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Blue Raiders 48-3.

Robert Read, Sports Editor

Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz said during a video conference Wednesday that coaching is a lot like being a teacher. Over the past several days, Ferentz has done a lot of learning as well.

“The key to everything is listening,” Ferentz said. “Moving forward starts with listening and we’ve done a lot of that the last several days.”

After the death of George Floyd and the anger expressed across the country, Ferentz — the longest tenured Power Five head football coach in the country — knew he had to say something. Ferentz sent a voicemail to players and staff over the weekend before addressing the team in a video conference Monday.

Ferentz, who is not on social media, said he debated putting a public statement out over the weekend, but decided to wait until he spoke with the team. Following one-on-one discussions with athletes, Ferentz said he could have approached the situation differently.

“One thing I’ve learned from my players is the value of maybe putting something out there on social media to show support,” Ferentz said “In retrospect, a lesson I’ve learned is how important that is to our players. Sometimes it’s too easy to just put something on paper and throw it out there. To me it’s more important to deliver the message face-to-face, if you will. But we’re learning. That’s one thing I heard loud and clear.”

With the protests that are going on across the world bringing attention to racial inequality and police brutality, Ferentz said an assistant coach used an exercise of his own to address the issue during a recent meeting.

The coach asked players to describe what their parents had taught them to do if they were ever stopped by a police officer.

“There were two very different perspectives on that as you may well imagine,” Ferentz said. “It was a really good exercise for all of our players to realize that there are a couple different sets of rules… There’s just something inherently wrong about that.”

Ferentz was asked Wednesday what he had learned since 2016, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players took a knee during the national anthem. At the time, Ferentz stressed standing during the anthem.

Acting as a team, Ferentz said Wednesday, is what’s important moving forward.

“We want them to be uniform, whether it is their uniform, or the way they do things, the way they conduct themselves,” Ferentz said. “To me, there’s a certain game-day protocol, if you will. In conjunction with that, I’ve always kind of felt like the sports arena is not a time to shine a light on an individual cause or an individual thing. No matter what the topic might be, that’s kind of been my approach.

“As we move forward right now, I think it’s important that we’re all together. But, whether it’s appropriate or not in a sports venue, that’s a discussion to be had. And certainly when we come back, we’ll talk about that as a team as well. I guess if I were to frame it out, I guess my goal, or my hopes, as a coach, is whatever we decide to do, and if it’s pertaining to that particular thing, I would just like to see our team to be together. Everybody’s taking a knee, or everybody’s at attention. Either way. The big thing is to be together, to me, on game day and present a uniform appearance as a football team.”

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