Iowa HC Kirk Ferentz Denies Disbanding Football Diversity Committee in Letter

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 18, 2022

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - JANUARY 01: Head coach Kirk Ferentz of the Iowa Hawkeyes looks on during the second half against the Kentucky Wildcats in the Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium on January 01, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Iowa Hawkeyes head football coach Kirk Ferentz pushed back Monday at the notion he disbanded an advisory committee that was created in response to allegations of a culture of racism and bullying within the football program.

Chad Leistikow of the Des Moines Register shared a letter the coach sent to Hawkeyes players sharing his side of the story in which he said it is "not accurate" to say he disbanded the group:

Chad Leistikow @ChadLeistikow

In letter sent to Hawkeye players obtained by the Register, Kirk Ferentz says advisory group has not been dissolved and clears the air on some topics. <a href="https://t.co/wRPeokdOeC">pic.twitter.com/wRPeokdOeC</a>

Ferentz pointed out he was the one who created the group and not the university or athletic department. He also said the group does not have any official decision-making power and was only designed to help him and the program improve.

Most notably, he said that the group will continue with new members after some asked to step away:

"It has been reported that this group has been disbanded or dissolved. That is not accurate. Several members indicated their interest in stepping away from the committee in December, as they felt their work had made a real impact and the time was right to transition to a new group of new voices. Therefore, I made the decision to release the members from their commitment following the bowl game and shared that with them via email. The group is ongoing, and I am in the process of inviting new members to join the group." 

This comes after Vanessa Miller and John Steppe of The Gazette reported Ferentz "abruptly dissolved the volunteer group" following a meeting in October that was described as "contentious."

According to that report, committee chair David Porter sent the group a text message that said the school should "bring in a new head football coach, football staff, and athletic director." He also called Ferentz "loyal to a fault" and suggested the coach will "fall on the sword for his son and his staff because he thinks it's the right thing to do. I disagree."

Porter was reportedly particularly upset about an October meeting between the committee and the coaching staff that was supposed to happen during a bye week. Instead, according to the report, Ferentz attempted to cancel it so the coaching staff could have some time off during the season.

What's more, many of the coaches reportedly did not come with an answer to Porter, who emailed asking, "What is your role in creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) environment and what have you done to help foster that environment?"

As Miller and Steppe noted, the committee was formed when a number of current and former players pointed to culture problems within the program.

The Husch Blackwell law firm interviewed 111 people, many of whom were players, and produced a 28-page report that found the program "perpetuated racial or cultural biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity."

The report also said the staff "over-monitored players to the point that they experienced heightened anxiety and maintained a culture that allowed a small group of coaches to demean players."

More than 20 former players said former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle was a problem, and he was placed on administrative leave before the two sides officially separated with the coach receiving more than $1.1 million in salary.

As for Ferentz, he and Iowa recently agreed to a contract extension that runs through 2029. He has been the head coach of the Hawkeyes since the 1999 season.