Iowa AD Gary Barta calls separation agreement with Chris Doyle the ‘thoughtful and sensible thing to do’

Barta also said he remains confident in Kirk Ferentz's ability to lead the football program.


Jenna Galligan

Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta speaks at a press conference on Monday, June 15 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Barta addressed recent action within the Iowa Athletic Department, including the separation agreement with Chris Doyle, as well as plans for the future.

Robert Read, Sports Editor

Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta spoke publicly Monday for the first time since former Hawkeye football players started speaking out on racial disparities within the football program.

Only hours before Barta took the podium, the University of Iowa announced it had reached a separation agreement with football strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, who had been on leave since June 6 and is facing allegations of racism and mistreatment by several former players.

Barta said the settlement, which will pay Doyle over $1 million and provide health and dental care over the next 15 months, was finalized Sunday.

“I was thinking through and trying to come up with next steps,” Barta said. “I did come to the conclusion that one of those steps was that a separation with coach Doyle was the thoughtful and sensible thing to do. [Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz] and I talked and we were both in full agreement.”

Iowa also announced Monday that the Kansas City law firm Husch Blackwell will conduct an independent review of allegations relating to racial disparities within the football program.

The firm will report directly to UI President Bruce Harreld. Barta said he’s been told the review will “take weeks, not months” and that there is no set date for the review to be completed. The findings of the review will determine any additional actions that need to be taken, Barta said.

Doyle was the highest-paid strength and conditioning coach in college football last season and was entering his 22nd season on Ferentz’s staff.

Barta said that he remains confident in Ferentz’s ability to lead the Iowa football program moving forward.

“Many attributes that we’re all familiar with over the last 20 years — the on-field success, community service, the personal development of players, providing NFL opportunities and access… all of those things are still there and they’re still a part of the foundation and who Kirk is,” Barta said. “Again, that doesn’t excuse what we’re focused on or what we’re talking about.”

“Over the years when we found something that wasn’t positive, the seriousness and the way he goes about trying to fix things that are not good,” Barta said. “I’ve observed him for the last week and a half. And I know how this is impacting him. I know what he’s trying to do to move forward. And I know the difficult conversations he’s having and his willingness to change. Those are the things that I’m basing it upon. As it pertains to not knowing or he should have known, he knows that as the leader of the program that he’s responsible for everything that occurs in the program.”

Barta said the former players speaking out over the past week and a half came as a “wake-up call” to him. However, he said the athletic department was previously aware of certain shortcomings.

According to Barta, the athletic department was reviewing graduation rates in the spring of 2018 and noticed that Black male athletes across the department were graduating at a lower rate than their white peers.

Barta said a diversity task force looked into the situation and in 2019 shared a report that summarized issues that were raised during interviews with athletes and staff.

This study was done throughout the entire athletic department, but it was reported that many complaints were coming from the football program.

“The key theme in that report indicated that many of our African American student-athletes did not feel comfortable being their authentic self,” Barta said.

Several statements came out of the anonymous interviews from the study that Barta called “concerning.” Two examples Barta shared Monday was that one athlete at the time said that “I felt like I had to put a mask on and check my identity at the door.” Another said during the interview process that “I was told by my coach to change my hairstyle because it didn’t fit the Iowa culture.”

Barta said as a response to this study, the department hired former Iowa football player Broderick Binns as interim director of diversity, equity, and inclusion in July of 2019.

At the time, Ferentz met with Black players about any concerns they had and how the program could move forward. Anonymous surveys and additional educational training were also given throughout the department, Barta said.

“Prior to last week I knew we were doing these things, and I had convinced myself that we were doing enough,” Barta said. “And frankly, the past few weeks have been a wake-up call for me and others in the department… I thought we were on a path of doing things better and doing the right things. The things I’ve heard in the past week and a half especially, clearly they weren’t enough, and they weren’t happening fast enough.”

Parting ways with Doyle was the first step in addressing the allegations from former players, Barta said. He said there are still a lot of difficult conversations that need to happen for the football program and the athletic department to move forward.

Binns, who currently serves as Iowa’s director of player development, will lead a diversity task force that will report to associate athletics director Liz Tovar, Barta announced Monday. The concept of the task force is to create a safe space for athletes to voice their opinions.

Barta also apologized publicly to former players on Monday. Ferentz said June 12 that he had not apologized to any former players and that they know how he feels.

“One of the things that I wanted to do, and it’s really important to me, is to say I’m sorry,” Barta said. “To former student-athletes, coaches, staff, current student-athletes, anybody who has had a negative experience with Iowa football. If you felt mistreated, misled, discriminated against — whatever the case. I truly am sorry. We want everybody who participates in our program to have a great experience academically, athletically, and socially.”

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