Hawkeyes begin voluntary workouts with two days of ‘powerful’ meetings

Instead of returning to workouts earlier this week, Iowa spoke about the allegations the football program is facing.


Iowa Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz speaks at a press conference at the Kenyon Football Practice Field on Friday, June 12th, 2020. Ferentz and along with players Ivory Kelly-Martin, Kaevon Merriweather, and Keith Duncan spoke to the press about political standings and solidarity in the current state of civil unrest. (Tate Hildyard/ The Daily Iowan)

Austin Hanson, Assistant Sports Editor

The beginning of preseason workouts typically signifies a return to normalcy for Hawkeye football players. In 2020, this has been far from the case.

Iowa’s football players were allowed to resume voluntary workouts at the Hansen Football Performance Center June 8. However, the Hawkeyes decided to use their first official opportunity to convene as a team to address the allegations the program is facing.

On June 5, former Hawkeye offensive lineman James Daniels took to Twitter to point out racial disparities within Iowa’s football program. Soon after, a bevy of former Hawkeyes voiced similar concerns. Several of these allegations specifically mentioned Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, who is on administrative leave and awaiting an independent review.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz met with the Iowa media Friday for the second time since the allegations came out. He did not comment on Doyle’s situation “out of respect for the process.”

Ferentz said he addressed the concerns of both his current and former players during voluntary team meetings on Monday and Tuesday. His players also spoke freely.

“The players did most of the talking,” Ferentz said. “It was raw, powerful, and productive. Everything was on the table. It got somewhat heated and somewhat emotional at times. I think that’s good. Tuesday, we scheduled a workout, but we decided a meeting was probably the best at that point.”

Ferentz has described the situation the program is in as being a pivotal time for Iowa football.

Current Iowa players Keith Duncan, Kaevon Merriweather, and Ivory Kelly-Martin said Friday that the discussions the team is having as a result of this situation is bringing the group closer together.

“I’ve been on the team for four years, and it’s super unique,” Duncan said. “I think this is the most connected we’ve ever been as a team, and we haven’t even been on the field together. We’ve only been in the facility for a week, and there’s been a change of energy and a change of connectivity. That is a great positive coming out of this. Again, just the most connected team I’ve ever been on, and I think that speaks a lot to what we’re doing here.”

The meetings have yielded an immediate culture shift in Iowa’s program, according to the players. Kelly-Martin, who is entering his fourth year in the program, believes the Hawkeyes are already headed in the right direction both on the field and off it.

“I’m sure I can speak for a lot of guys on the team that they felt like there was an atmosphere where you did have to look out and kind of watch your back,” Kelly-Martin said. “You always kind of had to be on your toes. Throughout this week there have been so many conversations talking about change. We’re all hopeful that this is actually going to happen.

“These last couple days in the weight room and outside on the field, we can all tell that there is a clear difference between how it is now and how it was then. We’re all excited about what we have to come. We’re all excited to be able to really bond with each other and build relationships, not only with our other teammates but also with our coaches and our fans. Really hopeful we’ll be able to create something big this year.”

Ferentz again pointed to an advisory committee made up of 11 former Hawkeye players as something that will be crucial for the program moving forward. Mike Daniels will act as the chair of that committee, and a list of the remaining members will be released soon.

Conversations will continue to happen between now and the beginning of the 2020 season. Ferentz said the discussions the team is having will have a broader impact around the country.

“As a team and as a program we have a responsibility and a tremendous opportunity at this moment to lead the change and set a new, higher standard for collegiate football,” Ferentz said.

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