Iowa HC Kirk Ferentz Ends Football Diversity Committee After Recommendation He Retire

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 16, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 04: Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz looks on during the Big Ten Championship college football game against the Michigan Wolverines on Dec. 4, 2021 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz dissolved the team's alumni advisory diversity committee on Tuesday, per Vanessa Miller and John Steppe of The Gazette, a week after committee chair and former Hawkeye offensive lineman David Porter called on Ferentz to resign. 

"I have come to a decision that this is an appropriate time to dissolve our committee as it stands currently,” he wrote in an email to the 10-member alumni committee. "As we start a new calendar year and prepare to move forward with our preparation for the 2022 season, I am giving thought to how we restructure the committee/board in a way that best serves our program moving forward."

On Jan. 2, Porter wrote in a text chain to the advisory group that it was time to "bring in a new head football coach, football staff, and athletic director."

He added that Ferentz will "fall on the sword for his son and his staff because he thinks it's the right thing to do. I disagree. The only way I see to save his legacy, protect the program, help those kids, and continue to move forward at the same time is for Kirk to retire."

That appeared to reference an October meeting between the advisory committee and the coaching staff on a bye week, which Ferentz had tried to cancel to give his staff time off. 

Porter had emailed Ferentz on Sept. 20 with one question he wanted the coaches to answer: "What is your role in creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) environment and what have you done to help foster that environment?"

Porter said that while some coaches prepared an answer for the October meeting, many did not. The conversation also reportedly turned heated when Porter and the committee said they wanted the program to focus more on education, since "football is going to be over somehow and some day, and these kids are student athletes, they're students first."

One coach reportedly responded that "college football is all about money."

Ferentz said his decision to disband the diversity committee was not related to Porter's texts earlier in January.

"Dave Porter did not share his sentiments with me directly,“ he said in a statement. "I was surprised and disappointed by his comment and wish him the best moving forward. His comment had no influence on the decision regarding the advisory committee."

The advisory committee was formed in 2020 after a group of former players said publicly that the Iowa program had issues of racism and disproportionately unfair treatment toward Black players within its culture.

In July 2020, the law firm Husch Blackwell conducted an investigation after interviewing 111 people and found the Iowa program "perpetuated racial or cultural biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity."

In Nov. 2020, 12 former Iowa players—including star running back Akrum Wadley—sued the university. While many of the charges in the lawsuit were dismissed by a federal judge, two were allowed to proceed: one that the school fostered a "racially hostile environment" and the other that Brian Ferentz, Kirk's son and the team's offensive coordinator, and former strength coach Chris Doyle used racial slurs and "intentionally discriminated" against Black players.

"There was always a racist joke, or any little insult that my circle of guys, we all experienced," Wadley told Jesse Washington of The Undefeated in December. "Over time, these little things turn into major issues and they take a toll on you."

The elder Ferentz is scheduled for a deposition in the case this month and signed a new contract through the 2029 season on Friday.