Kirk Ferentz Claims He Never Heard About Racist Comments From His Assistant Coaches Until Recently

Head coach Kirk Ferentz of the Iowa Hawkeyes looks on in the second half against the Wisconsin Badgers
Quinn Harris / Getty Images

Kirk Ferentz has been the Iowa Hawkeyes head football coach for 22 years. On Sunday night, Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports reported that Ferentz claimed that this week was the first time he heard any allegations of racist comments and mistreatment of players by his assistant coaches. Dodd found that comment shocking enough. The writer said it was harder to believe or understand considering Ferentz is the longest-tenured coach in the country at one school.

“I don’t want to say I was blind-sided,” Ferentz said during a conference call with media members on Sunday, “… but the bottom line is we don’t want anybody to leave this place not feeling like this was a good experience.”

Several of Ferentz’s former players came forward last week and made it clear they didn’t always have a good experience. Offensive lineman James Daniels was one, if not the first, player to make the allegations. He took to Twitter on Friday night with claims that there were “too many racial disparities” in the Hawkeyes program. Other players soon followed suit. It’s estimated 40 different players came forward over the weekend.

Many of those players alleged that they felt the culture in Iowa City made it hard to be a black man in a predominantly white area of the country. Strength coach Chris Doyle reportedly made it explicitly difficult by directing racial epithets at several of the players coming forward. By Sunday morning, Doyle was placed on administrative leave.

Dodd reported that things got so heated, players were coming forward with an allegation against Ferentz’s own son, offensive line coach Brian, while the head coach was on the call with the media.

While it wasn’t made immediately clear what Brian Ferentz did, players claimed Doyle made them walk on eggshells. One former Hawkeye claimed the coach told the player he would put him “back on the streets.” Another player said Doyle’s abuse was so constant and severe it caused anxiety issues.

Minutes before the call with Ferentz, Doyle took to Twitter and posted a denial. He added in the tweet that he was posting his denial despite being told to “remain silent.”

Ferentz was asked about Doyle’s claim. The Hawkeyes’ head man said he didn’t remember using the word silent. He then appeared to lend support to Doyle sharing his side of things, telling the media he understood his assistant wanting the “chance to speak.”

Dodd thinks the entire situation was summed up in one exchange during the call.

A reporter asked Ferentz, “how does this happen?”

Ferentz answered, “that’s a good question.”