Iowa Football: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Adam Robinson and the Future

Stix SymmondsCorrespondent IDecember 15, 2010

Kirk Ferentz, AP Photo
Kirk Ferentz, AP Photo

Hawkeye Head Coach Kirk Ferentz and Athletic Director Gary Barta met with the press Tuesday to clear the air surrounding the recent arrest of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and the rumors that have exploded since. 

The issue has been reported pretty widely here on Bleacher Report, as well as around the web.  There's not much I can add to those reports, but I think it's important to look at the issue with all of the available facts and see where that leaves Iowa for both the immediate, and long-term future of the program.

DJK's and Adam Robinson's situations are two different issues.

Some of the rumors floating around immediately after the news broke about DJK's arrest held that Adam Robinson was suspended for the Insight Bowl in connection with the drug issue that brought down Iowa's all-time leading receiver.

It's important to make it very clear that those two situations are completely and totally independent of each other.  In fact, Jewel Hampton has also requested a transfer out of Iowa, and Ferentz made it a point to make it clear that all three situations are independent of each other. 

Coach Ferentz addressed Robinson's situation briefly:

"Yeah, I would emphasize again we have a lot of good guys on the team. Adam Robinson is a good guy. He just has not been taking care of business the way I expect him to. It's a simple equation. He got to the point. He was approaching that point a couple weeks ago, as evidenced in the Ohio State game, him not participating at the front end. In my estimation, he wasn't learning fast enough from that point on.

To the best of my knowledge, he'll be eligible for the game unless he fails to take his finals. I don't anticipate that. It's not a matter of eligibility. It's a matter of him following up the way I feel he should."

I don't want to read too much into it, but it sounds to me as if Robinson's issue is academic more so than anything involving his personality or behavioral issues.  If I were to speculate based on what Ferentz said, I would guess that Robinson's grades aren't good enough for Ferentz's liking and he has taken matters into his own hands on that front.  That's just a guess though, and I wouldn't quote it as if it were hard fact.

Ferentz didn't think Robinson was putting enough effort in at some area of his collegiate career and the coach exercised his right to sit the young man out.  It doesn't appear to be anything more nefarious than that.

DJK's situation we know very well.

Jewel Hampton appears to have wanted to move on.  Ferentz indicated that it was a mutual decision, meaning maybe Hampton wasn't doing what the coaching staff believed he should in order to improve his situation and become the player they expected him to be. 

No doubt, Hampton also saw the writing on the wall at Iowa in terms of his status as a featured back.  While Jewel was sitting out last year, nursing a torn ACL, Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher both made strong statements toward their being the future of the Iowa run game.  Having to sit out again this year, Robinson gained the kind of experience that would have put Hampton at a disadvantage in terms of earning back the starting position that would have been his had he not been injured in the first place.

Again, that's speculation based on comments made by Ferentz, but I think it's reasonable to postulate that Hampton wasn't comfortable being the second—or even third—back on the team and that Ferentz wasn't willing to pull the plug on Robinson.  Together, I believe they may have decided that Hampton's best opportunity to be a featured running back is at another institution. 

Whatever exactly are the issues with Robinson and Hampton, Coach Ferentz made it very clear that they are not related to the drug-related arrest of Johnson-Koulianos.

Johnson-Koulianos' situation doesn't have to be a negative for the program

Obviously, having your all-time leading receiver arrested on drug related problems isn't a positive thing for the University.  I don't think anyone was sitting around the front offices at Iowa thinking "gee, I sure wish one of our stars would get arrested, and it would be really swell if drugs were somehow involved." 

However, as Ferentz also indicated, it's naive to think that drugs aren't a part of the college atmosphere.  It's inevitable that eventually, someone will get involved with things that don't help them, or the program.

How the University of Iowa deals with those incidences make a big difference in how it's perceived.

So far, I can't think of a better way to handle it than the way they've done. 

For starters, there was no apparent debate regarding the future of DJK where the program is concerned.  He was immediately released from the team and will have no future involvement of any sort. 

Secondly—and more importantly—Iowa has taken the opportunity to lay out what its drug program really entails.  That's important because Iowa goes well above and beyond what is mandated by the NCAA or the Big Ten. 

Gary Barta, with assistance from Dr. Del Miller, indicated that the University conducts its own drug testing (which it doesn't have to do) and has done so since 1988.  That testing includes checking for "street drugs" as well as performance enhancing drugs.

Are there problems with that testing program?  Potentially, yes there is.  But again, no one denied that there were and, in fact, it was Barta who brought up the fact that they reviewed their process and discovered that there were potential loopholes that the university needs to close.

It might be considered reactive that they didn't review the process before now, but—in fairness—it had appeared to have worked very well up to this point.  They were proactive in coming forward to say there are problems with the program and they're working to fix it, before anyone else had a chance to look into it and point out the program's deficiencies. 

These things go a long way in letting people know that the University of Iowa is very serious about the behavior of its student-athletes and goes the extra step to try and prevent the kinds of problems that have recently befallen it.

I've read comments in recent days that are to the effect of "Iowa is going to be the next thug-U."  Obviously, the people making these comments have not taken the time to read the transcript I've linked to above, because it is abundantly clear that Iowa has gone further than many schools in making certain that they are not allowing that kind of behavior to run rampant through their program.

While, you can't possibly paint the DJK situation as a good thing, this does provide the opportunity for Iowa to showcase its proactive approach to drugs and how they deal with player personalities, etc.

Nobody and no program is perfect, but Iowa does more than most to "do things the right way." 

So, What About the Bowl Game?

In the short-term, the problems at Iowa just seem to pile insult onto injury.  After dropping yet again to Northwestern, Iowa gave up their lead to Ohio State and stared a four-loss season in the face.  Then it got even worse when they rolled over and allowed two-win Minnesota to defeat them in the closing game of the season. 

A very promising season ended in a very mediocre 7-5 record. 

When all of this news broke about DJK, Robinson's suspension and Hampton's transfer, fans were left to wonder; "what next?" 

With an Insight Bowl match-up against Missouri staring the Hawkeyes in the face, it's tough to gauge just how much all of this will affect the team.

On the one hand, it could severely hamper Iowa's offense.  How do you lose your all-time leading receiver and your first string running back and not feel the impact negatively? 

DJK brought a flair to Iowa's offense and was a true deep threat for an offense that makes its hay on the short ground game and mid-range pass attack.  While Marvin McNutt and Colin Sandeman (as well as Keenan Davis) are perfectly capable of running deep routes—neither has the speed and experience of DJK. 

Robinson meanwhile, is the most experienced back on Iowa's roster (not named Paki O'Meara) and is arguably the most productive.  Marcus Coker has a better yard-per-carry average than Robinson, but has far fewer carries (just 81 compared to Robinson's 203) and has scored nine fewer touchdowns.

To say these developments are going to hamper Iowa's offensive production against the Big 12's top-rated scoring defense might be the understatement of the week. 

Losing Jewel Hampton isn't a great thing for Iowa, but he has been a non-factor the last two years, and likely would not have been available (or ready) for participation in the bowl game.  The same is true for Brandon Wegher who has apparently requested a transfer as well.  Neither has been a contributor to Iowa's season (Hampton played in only the first two games and part of the third).

On the other hand, this may well give Iowa the rally point they've lacked, especially through the later stages of a disappointing season. 

As first the national championship slipped away, and then the Big Ten title flew out the window, the Hawkeyes appeared to deflate with no real direction of where they were going and no real cause to rally around. 

Now Iowa has to pick up the pieces—not only from a disappointing season, but also from this recent scandal—and Hawkeye fans know well that their team is at its best when their backs are against the wall.

Facing an opponent that looks far better than them on paper, with every reason in the world to lose focus and with the majority of the talk surrounding what has happened off the field; this may be the perfect storm for Iowa to pull together and show that they won't let all of this madness derail them.

Recruiting and the Long-Term Issues for Iowa

Believe it or not, this whole affair may not harm Iowa in the long-run.

As I mentioned above, the university did a good thing in calling the press conference and outlining what their drug program is and how it goes above what is expected of them.  That there might be loopholes should not be a big factor because Gary Barta and Dr. Del Miller have indicated that they are working to fix those problems. 

In the future, situations like the one DJK was involved in should be identified before it becomes a major issue for the program. 

If anything will harm the Hawkeyes' recruiting efforts, it will likely be the ugly 7-5 season they dropped in fans' laps this year.

Young players want to play for winners.  As with any of us, they will justify their reason for choosing Iowa over other schools despite their recent issues, if that's where they really want to go.  Iowa didn't demonstrate this year that they're a consistent player on the national scene and that could drastically affect which players choose to be Hawkeyes.

What's more, if those young players take the time to read/hear what Coach Ferentz and Barta said about the policies in place, they'll see that Iowa is serious about developing both quality football players and quality individuals.  Parents should actually feel pretty good about Iowa as a destination for their young student-athletes. 

Right now, the whole situation is raw.  Fans have a difficult time imagining this whole thing just "going away".

It will stay with Iowa through the bowl game and into the off-season.  However, as next season rolls around, this incident will be all-but-forgotten.  One year from right now, very few will bother to give the whole affair so much as a footnote.  Five years from now, fewer still will even remember that it happened—especially at the national level.

Recruiting will likely return to the same levels it would have been had this whole thing not happened (if it even dips at all).  The program will still be alive and well and the fans will be looking forward to each year with the same enthusiasm with which they have embraced the last many years. 

The future of Iowa football has more to do what the team accomplishes on the field (and in the classroom) than this isolated incident with one singular individual.

And Now...Let it Rest

It's understandable that Johnson-Koulianos' arrest is the talk of the town.  Things like this just don't often happen at Iowa. 

However, it is done.  DJK will have no choice but to except whatever punishment the law deems appropriate for his part in the "drug house" that he lived in.  The University has already embraced their failures in the process and are working to fix the situation.  DJK is off the team and there's no sense in beating the issue to death.

As for Adam Robinson, Coach Ferentz indicated that he can rejoin the team in January if he so chooses.  That issue is dead as well, unless Robinson decides (for some unforeseeable reason) that he no longer wants to be a Hawkeye. 

We may wonder for the next couple of years what Iowa's ground game might have looked like if Jewel Hampton had decided to stay at Iowa.  Ultimately though, the team will move on and they are again three-deep with talented backs that could keep the ground game solid for the foreseeable future.

So, maybe it's time to start putting the whole thing behind us.  Let the process unfold naturally, away from the cameras and notepads.  Iowa will be just fine—well, as fine as they would have been anyway.  Let Barta, Ferentz and Miller do their jobs and lead Iowa into the future.

Oh yeah, by the way, there's a bowl game in a couple of weeks.