Jun 6, 2020
Tom VanHaarenESPN Staff Writer
- ESPN staff writer
- Joined ESPN in 2011
- Graduated from Central Michigan
Longtime Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle has been placed on administrative leave, pending an independent review, coach Kirk Ferentz announced in a video posted Saturday, while calling this “a defining moment for the Iowa Hawkeye Football program.”
The decision comes after several former Iowa football players spoke out about negative experiences they, and other black players, had while at Iowa and under Doyle’s supervision.
“Over the past 24 hours I have seen some difficult and heartbreaking posts on social media,” Ferentz said in the video. “I appreciate the former players’ candor and have been reaching out to many of them individually to hear more about their experiences in our program. I am planning on talking to all of them in the coming days. This is a process that will take some time, but change begins by listening first.”
Some of the social media posts from former players included offensive lineman James Daniels, now with the Chicago Bears, who tweeted Friday night, “There are too many racial disparities in the Iowa football program. Black players have been treated unfairly for far too long.”
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?”
“I don’t think those are things he would ever say to white football players at Iowa, but do I view Chris Doyle as some sort of a raving racist? No,” former Hawkeyes defensive lineman Anthony Herron said on ESPN Radio’s Sunday Morning. “But do I think so many things that he said to former players, to black players, can make them uncomfortable, should make them uncomfortable, are beyond reproach? Yes, yes I do.”
In his statement, Ferentz announced the creation of an advisory committee within the Iowa football program. A former player will chair the committee, which will comprise current and former players as well as department staff.
“This will be a diverse group that will be able to share without judgement,” Ferentz said. “So we can all examine where we are today and how we can have a better environment tomorrow.”
Ferentz said that several days ago current players asked him to lift the longstanding ban on social media, a request that was granted, so that players may participate in the broader national discussion of injustice, racism and inequality.
Doyle is the nation’s highest-paid strength coach and has been with the Hawkeyes’ program throughout Ferentz’s 21-year tenure.
Ferentz spoke about the high standards and accountability within the program that apply to players, coaches and staff, adding that it’s “clear we can do more to create a welcoming and respectful environment where every player can grow, develop and become the best version of himself.”
He acknowledged telling his team earlier in the week, “I am a white football coach. Teaching is what I do best. But it is also important to know when to be the student.”
Ferentz concluded the video, “As a leader you can learn a lot by listening, but then you must take action. Finally, I told the team that change begins with us, but truly change begins with me.”
Information from ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg was used in this report.