Iowa’s coach should step down. While the school is facing a racial discrimination complaint, the football coach received a large raise.
You may have heard about the Iowa football team’s recent textbook examples of racism: N-words used by a white coach, sanctions meted out to Black players that were not meted out to white colleagues, coaches who equated Black players to criminals and said things like “go back to the ghetto” and “dumbass Black player,” among other things. It all came to light in 2020, when a slew of former Hawkeyes testified.
After the dust has settled and the institution has received an $8.2 million Citrus Bowl payout, we are expected to believe that head coach Kirk Ferentz is not responsible for any of the abuses that occurred during his tenure.
It appears that it wasn’t his fault, and even if it was, Ferentz has eased the dress rule, allowed players to use Twitter, and allowed them to kneel during the national anthem. Thank you for attending, and happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, kumbaya.
Last week, the university extended Ferentz’s contract until 2029 with a $2 million a year raise, and Ferentz subsequently dissolved an alumni advisory group whose chairman, David Porter, had urged the coach should retire.
The coach and athletic director Gary Barta’s absolute entitlement, stupidity, and arrogance are enough to convince me to agree with Porter: they should resign.
“Kirk Ferentz needs to go to truly leave this mess behind,” Porter told me in an interview last week. “If we don’t move forward, we’ll lose a lot of ground.”
“I’m simply fed up with it.” “I really am,” said Porter, who played offensive line for Ferentz from 1998 to 2002 and was an All-Big Ten selection. “I’m weary of the same old stuff occurring over and over,” he said, referring to Iowa fans who reject the players’ concerns. ‘You don’t know what you don’t know, you didn’t hear what you heard, you didn’t see what you saw,’ I’m weary of people telling me. I’m fed up with it. “There are a lot of us.”
Ferentz declined to be interviewed for this story through a representative. His new contract may be considered awful on its own. Iowa just gorged on the trough of a New Year’s Day bowl game (a 20-17 loss to Kentucky), and other coaching deals are in the nine-figure range.
The scenario became outrageous when Ferentz clapped his hands and ordered the alumni advisers to vanish. But it’s not surprising, considering his history of refusing to take full responsibility for his program’s racism.
Meanwhile, the university is defending itself against a lawsuit brought by former players who were subjected to abuse. Ferentz will get $7 million per year till 2029, but Black players who have been slandered aren’t entitled to a penny?
Ferentz, Barta, and Iowa’s all-white board of regents are betting on two things: the media will move on, and the fan base in a state that is 90% white and 4% black will rally behind the team. Many individuals want the entire topic of the Hawkeyes’ racism to vanish along with the advisory committee members, based on my angry Twitter mentions and racist emails I’ve gotten since writing about the case.
The problem was exposed in the summer of 2020 when the police killing of George Floyd prompted more than 60 former players to come up. The university commissioned an outside investigation, which backed up the athletes’ claims.
The only person held accountably was strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, who was given $1.1 million in severance pay when he resigned. Despite being the subject of multiple complaints and leading a feeble offense ranked 121st out of 130 FBS teams, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, the head coach’s son, has kept his job. He has an annual salary of $860,000.
Ferentz has implemented some of the committee’s recommendations, according to Porter, and the team’s racial climate has significantly improved. Ferentz has talked of loosening the regulations on hair and tattoos, as well as hosting listening sessions. Ferentz, according to black players and coaches, has attempted to comprehend their perspectives.
The alumni advisory committee, which featured current NFL players Christian Kirksey and Desmond King, as well as former NFL head coach Jim Caldwell, was one of the primary measures billed as alleviating the problem.
According to The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a meeting between the group and Ferentz in October 2021 became tense. Porter has urged assistant coaches to elaborate on their duties in fostering a diverse, egalitarian, and inclusive culture.
When Porter persisted in holding the meeting, Ferentz tried to postpone it, and when Porter pushed on holding it, some coaches didn’t have real answers. Porter chastised them for it. Ferentz accepted some of their proposals but overlooked others, according to Porter, such as an annual review and matching Black student-athletes with alumni mentors.
Ferentz, 66, who has overseen the Iowa team since 1999 and is the longest-tenured coach in college football, should retire, Porter told his group in a text message discussion on Jan. 2. Jordan Lomax, another committee member, tweeted that he and a few others disagreed with Porter. My request for an interview with Lomax was ignored.
Ferentz emailed the committee members on Jan. 11 to inform them that their services were no longer required: “I have determined that now is an opportune moment to terminate the committee as it currently exists… I’m considering how we may restructure the committee/board to better serve our program.”
Ferentz sent a letter to players’ parents on Jan. 17 after The Gazette reported that he had dissolved the group. The letter stated that some members of the committee had requested to be dismissed from their volunteer positions. Ferentz stated that he will reassemble the group by picking a younger group of alumni.
He made no mention of the fact that he would be bypassing Porter’s backup committee members. Ferentz chose to make the change throughout the season, but “held off announcing until the conclusion of the season to avoid distraction,” according to Steve Roe, Iowa’s deputy athletic director for communications.
Here’s what I believe happened:
Ferentz is regarded as one of Iowa’s most powerful citizens. According to all accounts, his program required participants to follow a strict code and penalized those who did not. He isn’t used to having his authority questioned, never alone by someone he used to control like Porter.
He’s avoided using the word “racist” to characterize what his players have gone through all along, instead opting for language like “allegations of unequal treatment.” Nobody in Ferentz’s cocoon of enabling whiteness suggested that taking a smaller increase or making a substantial donation to a location like his university’s Afro-American Cultural Center would be wiser or more compassionate.
Porter, however, started out thinking Ferentz should stay. “I’m all for letting KF know we want him to stay to be part of the change, but what chance do we want?” Porter said the advisory committee on June 9, 2020, according to minutes from the meeting. And what are we going to do to make sure that happens?”
Ferentz got rid of Porter when he demanded real change.
Ferentz is now free to form his next advisory council and call the plays. He’s not going anywhere as long as he keeps winning games. None of the other white guys in charge of the multibillion-dollar collegiate athletics industry, which is fuelled by Black athletes, are.
This is how racism functions in a system. Those in charge make the necessary adjustments to keep us productive. They appease the labor movement with Martin Luther King Jr.’s quotes and weak committees while enriching themselves and stalling true justice.
Jesse Washington contributes to The Undefeated as a senior writer. On a basketball court near you, you’ll find him giving fellas the bizness.