Longtime Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, in a statement Sunday, denied ever having “crossed the line of unethical behavior or bias based upon race,” claiming, “There have been statements made about my behavior that are not true.”
Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz announced Saturday that Doyle had been put on administrative leave, pending an independent review, after a growing group of former football players spoke out about negative experiences they and other black players had while at Iowa and under Doyle’s supervision.
Doyle has led Iowa’s strength and conditioning program since 1999, spanning Ferentz’s entire tenure as head coach. He is the nation’s highest-paid strength coach, earning $800,000 annually.
“I have been asked to remain silent, but that is impossible for me to do. There have been statements made about my behavior that are not true,” Doyle’s statement read in part. “I do not claim to be perfect. I have made mistakes, learned lessons and like every American citizen, can do better. At no time have I ever crossed the line of unethical behavior or bias based upon race. I do not make racists comments and I don’t tolerate people who do.
“I am confident that a complete review of the body of work over 21 years will speak for itself and I am trusting the process to respect the rights and experiences of all parties involved. There are countless men of character who are better fathers, husbands, activists, leaders and contributors to society due to their experience at Iowa Football. The record will show this.”
— Chris Doyle (@coach_Doyle) June 7, 2020
Ferentz, speaking on a video call with reporters shortly after Doyle released his statement, said he didn’t ask Doyle to be silent and understands Doyle’s desire to defend himself. Doyle and Ferentz have communicated several times in recent days.
“When you feel like you’re being wrongly accused of some things, you want your day to voice your side of things, too,” Ferentz said Sunday. “I can appreciate that. Just like our players, I’m not here to muzzle anybody or tell them what to say or what not to say. My biggest takeaway is we’ve got to listen harder, we’ve got to ask harder on certain questions and topics.”
Ferentz was asked about an accusation from former Iowa defensive back Diauntae Morrow, who tweeted Sunday, “Doyle made a comment about sending back to the GHETTO. I called him out on it in front of the entire team. I was suspended, [Ferentz] told me I was out of line and needed to apologize for standing up for myself.”
Played there 2007-2008 season….. Doyle made a comment about sending back to the GHETTO. I called him out on it in front of the entire team. I was suspended, KF told me I was out of line and needed to apologize for standing up for myself.
— Insurance Coach (@Coach2Insurance) June 6, 2020
Said Ferentz: “I’m not saying it’s true or not true, I don’t remember Chris using that word. I’ve never heard Chris use that phraseology.”
Former players also identified offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, son of Kirk Ferentz and a former Iowa player, as being a problem within the team’s culture. Kirk Ferentz said he was previously aware of the claims against Brian Ferentz and that they were not at the same level as those against Doyle, the only member of Iowa’s staff put on administrative leave.
The accusations from former players began Friday night after James Daniels, now with the Chicago Bears, tweeted, “There are too many racial disparities in the Iowa football program. Black players have been treated unfairly for far too long.”
Kirk Ferentz said he was alerted to the tweet and soon began contacting former players, which he continued to do throughout the weekend.
“If I had one major takeaway from this weekend, it would be the value of reaching out to other players who have played in the program, who care about the program, but are removed from the program,” Ferentz said. “They feel a little bit more free to speak candidly.
“I don’t want to say I was blindsided, but some comments that I’ve heard from some of our guys, the bottom line is we don’t want anybody to leave here not feeling like this was a good experience.”
Former Iowa defensive back Emmanuel Rugamba, who transferred to Miami (Ohio), alleged two instances involving Doyle in which he mocked black athletes and, as a result, “made you walk around the football facility on eggshells … and caused anxiety that could be unbearable at times with your dreams and career on the line.”
Former Hawkeyes linebacker Terrance Pryor said black athletes had to deal with “many racist incidents” during his time there, including an incident with Doyle in which he alleges the strength coach told him, “Maybe you should take up rowing or something you know? Oh wait, Black people don’t like boats in water, do they?”
In his statement, Doyle wrote that he was proud of these players for voicing their experiences, noting, “I can only imagine how much courage it took for them to speak out on these serious matters.”
“My job has been to give feedback to our players for 21 years and now I am receiving feedback myself,” Doyle said. “I can take it and I won’t hide from it. It saddens me to hear the stories of their difficult experiences while in our program, in addition to the outpouring of stories we are hearing across this country.
“It is time to listen, learn and grow.”
Ferentz said athletic director Gary Barta will coordinate an external, independent review of Doyle and the strength program, which has no specific timetable for completion.
“I’m painting my own picture, and that’s the process I’m going through,” Ferentz said. “I don’t want to leave it to chance or innuendo. I’m talking directly to people. That’s important to me. The committee will do what they do; it is independent, and there’s a reason for that. I trust they’ll do a wonderful job. The bottom line is if any of us can’t do our jobs effectively, then it’s really no use trying to do your job.”
Ferentz said Iowa demands a lot of its players, but there’s a difference between being demanding and demeaning. The longest-tenured FBS coach accepted responsibility for not recognizing the issues many black players say they encountered while in the program.
“I did ask multiple players if they feel like I’m part of the problem or if they feel like we can’t move forward with me here,” Ferentz said. “I appreciate that feedback. That’s not what I’ve heard thus far. My commitment is to us having a good program and a healthy team and improve that environment. That’s what everybody wants to see, all the former players I’ve visited with, white or black, just want to see us improve in all areas.”
Ferentz asked former defensive lineman Mike Daniels to lead an advocacy group to address the concerns of black players and improve their treatment within the program. The group will include other former players and athletic department members who don’t work in the football program. Daniels was among the first players Ferentz contacted when the accusations went public Friday.
“I found the remarks to be extremely candid, and that hit me in the face with the first conversation, that we’ve got work to do here,” Ferentz said.
Iowa’s players are set to report Monday for voluntary team activities, and a team meeting will occur then. Ferentz and his staff are also reaching out to Iowa’s incoming freshmen and their families. Iowa has lifted its longtime policy against players using social media so they can participate in the national discussion on racism, police brutality and other topics.
“I really feel like our program’s really pretty healthy,” Ferentz said. “But our whole country has a lot of work to do right now. It’s been very apparent here the last couple of weeks. And none of us are tone-deaf to that. That does impact every one of us on this team.”
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