Iowa football notebook: Updates on investigation, plans for national anthem, Jack Koerner

Ferentz and three football players covered a variety of topics during a press conference Thursday.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa wide receiver Brandon Smith speaks at a press conference on Thursday, July 16, 2020 at the Pacha Family Club Room in Kinnick Stadium. “What you say and how you feel is valid, and will be heard,” said Smith when discussing inclusion between the current players and for future recruits on the team. (Hannah Kinson/ The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Sports Editor

Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz said at a Thursday press conference that he met with lawyers from the Kansas City law firm Husch Blackwell this past week to discuss the allegations of racial disparities that the program, which has been led by Ferentz since 1999, currently faces.

Iowa athletics director Gary Barta announced June 15 that the law firm would be investigating the football program after several Black former players alleged racial disparities within the program. Barta said that the investigation would take “weeks, not months.”

Former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle reached a separation agreement with the University of Iowa June 15 which will pay him $1.1 million. Doyle was mentioned specifically by several former players in their allegations, but he admitted no wrongdoing as part of his separation agreement.

Ferentz estimated Thursday that the firm has completed over 100 interviews, including many of the team’s current players and coaches. He believes that the investigation will be coming to an end soon.

“My sense was they were hoping to get all the information hopefully by the end of this week, but that’s just kind of a rough target,” Ferentz said. “And then how they proceed from there I can’t give you a timetable on that.”

Hawkeyes use team meeting to discuss national anthem

After the program’s ban on Twitter was lifted starting June 8, Iowa safety Kaevon Merriweather brought up the idea of the team kneeling during the national anthem next season.

Ferentz said Thursday that the team dedicated an hour of a meeting last week to discuss the topic again.

“I’ve been on record saying that my goal for our team is to be together,” Ferentz said. “I think that’s the sense I walked away with from this meeting — that our players are very much together on it… There’s discussions on both sides of the topic, and the thing I think I took away from the meeting was that there is no right answer.”

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Ferentz said that no final decision has been made regarding what Iowa will do during the anthem.

Part of Merriweather’s statement said that he would “rather play in front of 1,000 fans who care about us as people outside of football and what we are standing for, than 70,000 fans who only care about us when we are in uniform and on the field entertaining them.”

Shortly after Merriweather tweeted his message, linebacker Djimon Colbert re-posted it. On Thursday, he discussed the topic again.

“It was a very good discussion to hear both sides and how guys feel about it,” Colbert said. “I agree with Coach Ferentz that we’re not there on a decision yet. It’s good to be able to have that talk and see where everybody is on it. There were some guys that are strongly with it and some of them had personal feelings about it, which is fine. It’s your personal preference, but just to be able to come out and talk about it as young men, being respectful and hear each other out. That was the most important thing for me.”

Since the allegations against the program came out, Iowa wide receiver Brandon Smith said players have felt more comfortable. Part of that, he said, is feeling free to speak out, including on topics like kneeling during the national anthem.

“If you come to the University of Iowa, your voice will be heard and will be considered like a valuable person to the team,” Smith said. “What you say and how you feel is valid.”

Jack Koerner back with team following watercraft accident

Iowa safety Jack Koerner was involved in a watercraft accident June 12 that left him seriously injured. Koerner and his friend, Cole Coffin, were on a watercraft that crashed into another boat on the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.

Ferentz said Thursday that he and the team found out the morning of June 13, and he called Koerner’s family for an update.

“The good news is that Jack is back with us and we’re moving forward,” Ferentz said. “We’re doing it very cautiously, because it was a very traumatic experience for everyone involved. He was just generally sore, so we’re just taking our time with him.”

Changes made to advisory group made up of former players

After the allegations against the program, Ferentz formed an advisory group made up of former players to help create change in the program’s culture. Former Iowa defensive end Mike Daniels was initially announced as the committee chair. But Ferentz said Thursday that Daniels found out he was too busy trying to prepare for the birth of a child and landing a job on an NFL roster to participate regularly.

Ferentz said that Dave Porter, an offensive lineman who finished his Iowa career in 2002, will now lead the group.

The committee is made up of 10 former Iowa players, ranging from players in the 1970s to recent years. Ferentz said he’s met with the group four or five times to this point, and that it might be looking to add another player or two.

The ultimate goal of the committee, Ferentz said, is to prepare players for life after football.

Possibility of playing the college football season in the spring

Concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic have put the 2020 college football season into question. If games cannot be played this fall, a possible solution that has been thrown around is playing the season in the spring.

The Big Ten already announced July 9 that if sports are played this fall, its teams will only be playing conference games. Ferentz said he fully supports the decision, but thinks it is unfortunate that this means Iowa will lose its 2020 games against Iowa State and Northern Iowa.

“Both of those games are important to our program and to their programs,” Ferentz said. “I think they are important for our state… It’s unfortunate, but it’s really hard to get emotional or have a strong feeling about anything right now quite frankly. Because there is just nothing that’s like we are used to. There’s nothing we can compare this to.”

Playing college football in the spring could be a further step in trying to save the season. Ferentz said Thursday that he thinks the move could work.

“I’m sure it’s a last resort for anybody that’s making those decisions,” Ferentz said. “The best scenario for us is to play this fall, but if it becomes a reality that that’s not going to take place then certainly you have to shift your attention. As a football coach I think it’s realistic. I don’t know in the big picture if it is… You would have to look at how many games you’re talking about playing. We have other challenges and I think that’s at the bottom of the list quite frankly. If you play spring and fall that would certainly alter what you do in between.”