Iowa football program trying to mitigate spread of coronavirus

Members of the football program have tested positive for the virus, but players have had ‘relatively minor’ symptoms.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks at a press conference on Thursday, July 16, 2020 at the Pacha Family Club Room in Kinnick Stadium. Ferentz discussed the upcoming football season and the continuing actions that the team is working on toward strengthening inclusivity in the program. (Hannah Kinson/ The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Sports Editor

The Iowa football program started voluntary workouts June 8, and since then no player or coach has known what the next day will bring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s brought a lot of unique challenges, especially with all the people who pop up with [the virus] and then people around them have to be quarantined,” Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum said Thursday. “We’re just taking it a day at a time. Each workout could be your last one for two weeks. Guys are realizing that you have to be smarter outside with what you do and the places you go.”

The Iowa athletics department provides a release each Monday with information on the latest round of COVID-19 testing. In its most recent update, Iowa had four positive tests and 26 negative tests over a week of testing student-athletes, coaches, and staff members. Overall, Iowa has reported 25 positive tests and 418 negative tests since testing began May 29.

The university does not provide a testing breakdown by sport, or say if an athlete or staff member has tested positive, but Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz confirmed Thursday that the football program has had individuals test positive for the virus.

“We’ve experienced some [COVID-19] within our program,” Ferentz said. “If there are any positives at this point, the symptoms have been relatively minor. No one has been affected greatly. Certainly no hospitalizations, those types of things. That’s been good. We’re getting good medical support.”

Workouts and day-to-day activities look different for Iowa now than in past years. Along with being tested upon returning to campus, players and staff must fill out health questionnaires daily and have their temperatures taken every time they enter the Hansen Football Performance Center. All meals are also to-go, rather than in the traditional team setting.

Players are working out in pods, but not necessarily by position.

“Right now, it’s more geared by their social network,” Ferentz said. “So it might be three guys who live in an apartment together, four guys who live in a house together.”

Skill work on the field has been shut down throughout the summer, but Ferentz said it was reintroduced for a limited time Wednesday. The team’s seven-on-seven activities are still on hold.

The Hawkeyes are set to open fall camp on Aug. 7. That, like anything else on the athletic schedule amid the COVID-19 pandemic, is subject to change.

“Nothing in our lives is very normal now,” Ferentz said. “That’s certainly true with our football program — the challenges we’re facing and the conditions we’re working under. Just like everybody else in the country, there’s no way to compare anything else we’ve done. We’ve shared that with the players, and I think they’ve figured that out.”

The Big Ten announced July 9 that it will be moving to a conference-only schedule for fall sports in 2020 due to the pandemic. That’s assuming sports are played at all.

For now, Ferentz said the team is preparing as if there will be a season in the fall.

“We’ve tried to encourage our players to do the best we can all do, given the circumstances,” Ferentz said. “We have to prepare full-speed.”