Former Hawkeyes continue to share stories of racial disparities within Iowa football program

Strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle is specifically mentioned as being a problem by several former players.


Iowa running back Akrum Wadley crosses the goal line during an Iowa/Minnesota football game in Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 28, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Golden Gophers, 17-10. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Sports Editor

A Tweet by former Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels Friday night, which called out racial disparities in the Iowa football program and the unfair treatment of Black players, led several other former Hawkeyes to share experiences they had in the program and weigh in with their thoughts on the situation.

Roughly 80 minutes after Daniels’ initial Tweet, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz released a statement on Iowa’s social media platforms.

“I am saddened to hear these comments from some of our former players,” Ferentz said in a statement. “While I wish they had reached out to us directly, I am thankful that these players decided to share their experiences now. As I said earlier this week, the best way to affect change is by listening. I have started reaching out to them on an individual basis to hear their stories first hand. Making change that matters involves an open dialogue and possibly some tough conversations. I am glad to have the opportunity to do just that. As a staff and as leaders, we will listen to take to heart the messages we hear.”

Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle is specifically mentioned by many former players as being at the center of the program’s racial problems.

Former Iowa players have continued to come forward with allegations following Ferentz’s statement.

Former running back Akrum Wadley

“I had good times and bad times while attending the University,” Wadley said. “The people were always great to me even the academic staff. Bruno, Mel, Liv and the others. I enjoyed playing football for the University and although I have so many stories I can share, I’m not. One time I was leaving the practice field being asked if I was on my way to rob a liquor store or bank, because I was wearing that Nike face mask that was given out to every player to keep warm. You know how cold it can get in the winter.”

Former defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson

“Coach Doyle is the problem in that building. And so is Brian Ferentz,” Johnson said. “Things won’t progress until those two fix themselves. They know they’re a problem. KF isn’t. I respect coach Ferentz wholeheartedly. It’s the other in the building.”

“Coach Doyle would go around stepping players fingers as they would warm up before a lift.”

“I remember an incident where we were in a winter conditioning workout circuit, which was a pretty brutal workout lol, I had to catch my breath., My good friend Miles Taylor yelled out to me “KEEP GOING LEEL WE NEED YOU.”

“All I heard was Doyle saying “NO WE DON’T, WE DON’T NEED HIM” I was a senior. So that kinda took my confidence away.”

“I loved being at Iowa. My experience there was one of a kind. The people I met, the friends & relationships I’ve gained, the swarm, rose bowl, waking up and walking in -5 degree weather at 5am to go to workouts, Etc. If I could I’d do over a million times.”

“But there’s an underlying issue within that program which has been a problem for many players, black and white. Majority being black.”

Former linebacker Terrance Pryor

“I walked on to the University of Iowa football team beginning in 2009 until I graduated in 2012,” Pryor said. “While rehabbing after suffering a season-ending injury, I had the following conversation with Coach Doyle:

“Doyle: Hey Pryor, you ever think that football isn’t for you?

“Pryer: (confused) Not at all, why do you say that?

“Doyle: Maybe you should take up rowing or something you know? Oh wait, black people don’t like boats in water do they?

“This is one of many racist incidents that black athletes had to deal with during my time there.”

Former linebacker Aaron Mends

“As a proud Iowa Hawkeye I would love to help initiate the change in the program,” Mends said. “There are copious examples of team rules disguised as ‘culture’ that may or may not be intentionally oppressive in nature. That it is part of what makes it hard to be a black player at Iowa.

“As we know, freedom of expression is very important to the growth and development of young men. Growth and development are ideals Iowa prides itself upon. Every good organization has rules that help them to be successful which is to be expected. However there comes a point where at a public university there needs to be a line drawn to allow people from all walks of life to grow in their own manner.

“I could list numerous examples however, this is not intended to defame the University of Iowa; but instead to promote change to better serve current/future players. I don’t think this can be done in a few tweets. It is unfortunate but I believe many players of all colors don’t have the opportunity to speak nor feel welcomed back to speak about it due to the fact that they are still playing or left early and will be pegged as disgruntled.”

Former defensive back Maurice Fleming

“I remember the day my mother and I met the head coach at the University of Iowa, and we were fed the same script that many black athletes know all too well, ‘your son has a promising future, I’ll do my best to get him to the next level!’ As a 17/18 year old black male from Chicago, hearing those words brought great joy,” Fleming said. “Had I’d known from that moment on that I would have such a traumatic and life changing experience at Iowa, my decision would have been different.

“When I committed to Iowa, my main focus was to play the game that I love, make an impactful impression towards the team and make my family proud. However, being part of the program was detrimental to my mental health; in which I would have never though would affect me to this day.

“No longer was it just about playing the game of football, being at Iowa over my four year tenure I developed self-hate. I knew that being a prideful black young man would cost me certain opportunities that I felt I deserved. Unfortunately, the reality is that many coaches around the globe are aware of the unfair treatment, yet and still, nothing has changed because matters like this always get swept under the rug.

“A few years ago, I wold have been hesitant to speak out however, had I stayed silent it would be a disservice to future black athletes to come. Others may be frightened to speak out, but I strongly encourage you to share your stories because we’re all in this together.”

Former defensive back Cedric Boswell

“My goal of this statement is not to bring down the Iowa football program, but only to ensure that things like this don’t happen in the future,” Boswell said. “I only felt it necessary to share an experience that I have had while being a member on the team.

“My freshman year being on the campus, I was completely unaware of life living on my own and knew I was in a foreign environment and only wanted to learn the ropes. I was walking in the weight room one day, following the rest of the team to do our mandatory weigh-ins that we had every week. There was water available next to the scales that we used and water was suggested for everyone to make sure that we were hydrated.

“I was one of the last guys at the time, still trying to get adjusted to the program, so I was rushed and wanted to catch back up with the team after weigh-ins were over. So I did not completely finish the water bottle that I had drunk and threw it away so I wouldn’t be late. Coach Doyle saw that I thew away an almost empty water bottle and forced me to dig my hand in the trash in front of the team. Shortly after, he made a big scene about it as if I was being made an example out of. This was a college football weight room, where athletes bleed, sweat, and vomit into those trash cans.

“I also had another encounter with Brian Ferentz later in my career. I had just gotten a brand new tattoo. I am from Detroit, Michigan, where it is common expression of oneself to get tattoos. The tattoo is a picture of the city that I am from, where I grew up and had most of my memories leading up to this day. Coach had asked exactly what my tattoo was of and I explained it to him, for him to respond saying, ‘That is the stupidest thing I have ever seen.’

“I truly felt more uncomfortable not speaking on this issue than I did actually stepping up to let people know what was going on.”

Former linebacker Kevin Ward says Kirk Ferentz tried to address these issues in 2017

“There’s very few players I can remember that Kirk Ferentz spoke more highly of than Jordan, one of the best leaders we had in my time at Iowa,” Ward said. “I think it’s important to know that this is an issue Kirk Ferentz has been aware of and trying to solve since before I left,” Ward wrote in a note on Twitter. “In camp 2017, we had a team meeting where Kirk Ferentz said very bluntly how the staff noticed there is a racial disparity in regards to attrition and that the past few years had been worse than ever.

“My senior class had only two black players out of 17, where we began with roughly equal numbers. He brought back Lomax to speak to the black players privately that day and began meeting with individuals on the team to help actively find a solution to this problem.

“I feel compelled to say this because I have such unwavering love and respect for Coach Ferentz that I want people to know that he has been proactive about this since long before the recent events that have began to relight the ire of racial injustice in our country. Kirk Ferentz truly cares about his players and wants ALL of them to be successful in life, school and football.”

Felicia Goodson, mother of current Iowa running back Tyler Goodson, weighs in

“This whole subject has been hard for me and I have contemplated if a response was even warranted,” Goodson said. “[Tyler’s father, Maurice] and I spoke and decided our first response would be to have a conversation with our son to see what his experience has been thus far.”

“I would never undermine another’s experience. My dad use to always say where there is smoke there is usually fire. However, this has not been my son’s experience but it is definitely eye opening and causes reason for concern.

“With that said I do believe based on the things read this can be fixed. It starts with hearing the black athletes concerns, create a space for them to be heard and initiate change.

“Last thing I will say is the calling for the firing of Coach Kirk Ferentz and Coach Doyle is premature. One thing I strongly believe is this staff will listen and are open to change. Give them a chance to fix it. I know for sure Kirk Ferentz is an amazing human being who really does care.”

Former Hawkeye Julian Vandervelde releases statement

“The last 3 times I cried were all family related. The birth of my first child, finding out my step-dad had cancer, and when I heard Reece Morgan retired from @HawkeyeFootball. Tonight I cried for family yet again, as brothers from the Iowa Football program poured their stories…

“…of racial disparity within the program out on social media. I LOVE Iowa Football more than almost anything. But it is not the facilities or the jersey that I love. I like those things, but they aren’t @HawkeyeFootball. It’s teammates who became friends who became brothers…

“…Hearing my brothers stories I cried because we worked, ate, trained, and lived together for years! And I was either so blind or absorbed in my own quest to be the best ME, that I remained blissfully unaware of what was happening to THEM. That makes me complicit in my eyes…

“…@HawkeyeFootball to me has always been a microcosm for what the world should be. People of various ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds coming together for that common goal: “Preparing to be the Best”. Tonight that view was shattered. I know that no team is perfect…

“…no college or community is safe from biases and stereotypes, but @HawkeyeFootball was the closest I’d ever come to such a place. It hurts, a deep pain, because being half-black raised white and white-presenting I wonder if I could have done something if I’d paid attention…

“…The guys I count as my best friends on those teams and who I still love are guys like @Tpryor51@Mike_Daniels76, and @NotOnDuty__. What pains did they endure that I either ignored or brushed off? I’ve always been proud that even a fat nerd like me could be successful by…

“…just keeping my head down, mouth shut, and working my ass off. But in doing so I missed a chance to look up, speak up, and be a better brother. I’m sorry guys. I’m sorry that I let you down. I’m sorry @HawkeyeFootball let you down. When you truly love something you don’t…

“…just love it as it is, you love it so much you want it to be the best version of itself. That’s how I feel about my kids, my country, and @HawkeyeFootball, and that’s why I’m glad this truth is out there. I hope when all is said and done the changes have been made so that…

“… @HawkeyeFootball can be a place that every little brother who comes through feels the same pride and love for the program that I do. That no one is ever made to feel lesser because of their background or skin tone. And this time I want to be part of the solution. #FightForIowa

Former Iowa defensive back Geno Stone

“After seeing what some former teammates have said about the program I would like to say I truly agree with what has been said,” Stone said. “There are so many stories I can share that I’ve went through and I have seen what some of my closest friends have went through. I feel like that won’t show the justice of this problem.

“None of this is to talk down on the program or my coaches. I would never do that to someone who gave me the opportunity to be the best on the field and off the field. But this is to show why people would never speak up about the problem. The problem starts with when we would go to the coaches of color and talk about the situation it was never the response you wanted to hear. We were always told to just be quiet and do the Iowa way because they have to too.

“It shows the problem in society today where African Americans can’t be themselves in their own skin because they are afraid they won’t be given certain opportunities so they are changing who they are. Walking into the facility everyday I felt like we all had to put a mask on and be someone we were not. Due to this it led to a lot of unnecessary anxiety and stress to my former teammates and I. I’m going to end this by saying [Kirk Ferentz] is the one who starts the change.”

Former defensive back Diauntae Morrow

Former Iowa defensive back Desmond King