Iowa football coach and Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta met with the media on Tuesday in an hastily assembed press conference (read the transcript here)
Hastily in the sense that most press conferences are known days in advance and this one was called around 6pm on Monday night to be held at 10am on Tuesday morning.
Here are some of the comments that I found most interesting:
Ferentz on Jewel Hampton and Adam Robinson: “One thing I would point to in both players’ instances, one player went through a suspension. Jewel had a suspension first game of the year, dating back to an incident public in June. Adam, as you know, did not start the Ohio State game. And as I said after that game, it was academically related.”
Ferentz chose to remind us that both players have had some level of suspension in their recent past. He later elaborated on both Hampton & Robinson, saying this, first, about Hampton as to whether or not his decision to leave was mutual: “It was a mutual decision. We had a conversation Sunday night. Like I mentioned, a big way we do shape behavior, as we move up the program, the expectations get higher. Everybody has choices to make. We’re pretty firm in what we want to do, how we conduct our business. Sometimes it’s not comfortable for a player to stay with the program.”
Then this regarding Robinson: “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.”
In trying to read the tea leaves here, something that is not exactly cut and dried, Robinson’s suspension for the bowl game sounds like it’s related to academics. I think Ferentz took care to say that Robinson and Hampton were being lumped together with the arrest of DJK last week. Given the number of posts and rumors going around about Robinson being disciplined for something else, I am glad Ferentz chose to address this in greater detail, even though he didn’t come right out and say anything definitively.
Next, Ferentz and Barta spent quite a bit of time on the nature of Iowa’s drug testing policies, pointing out that there are NCAA & Big Ten tests, then Iowa has its own self funded tests (at a cost of roughly $70,000/year). Here is one of the first comments on this topic from Ferentz: “My rationale has been to get out ahead and my goal is to always find out about a player that has issues ahead of the game. That’s pretty much our rationale for that. We’ve been very, very proactive this year alone. I think we’ve had 92 football athletes tested this fall; 27 by outside bodies and 65 by in-house procedure. I’d venture to say that’s probably as high a number as you’d find in the country. The rationale is to try to stay out ahead of things.”
Then this from Barta: “ Del Miller oversees the program for us. We hire an administrator who does the actual testing. That administrator hires medical students, pharmacy students on our campus to collect the samples. They samples are then sent to an outside testing agency. The tests come back, and Dr. Miller and the administrator Dr. Miller sees the tests with no name attached. The only time the name is attached is if it’s a positive drug test. That’s how our departmental policy works. We average, I think Del told me, somewhere between 800 and 900 a year, and we have roughly 700 studentathletes. So you can see the numbers that we go about and test.”
One thing that jumps out here is that medical and pharmacy students are involved. The football players are fellow students. Some of them are pretty large individuals, where intimidation (or reverence) could come into play. This might not be the most perfect way to handle this. Also to note, Ferentz said that Iowa happened to be testing roughly 10 players when he learned about DJK’s arrest, when police officials showed up to tell him that DJK was being arrested. One more thing to add here, is that Ferentz said that if a player refuses to take a drug test, that is deemed as a positive drug test result.
Then Barta addressed an issue with the integrity of their procedures: “One of the things we did last week is go back and just make sure that our testing, the protocols, procedures were all in line. We did learn there were some flaws and inconsistencies. We didn’t catch anybody cheating on the test. I’m not at all concerned in following up that there’s a staff member that is involved in some sort of inappropriate behavior or coverup. But we did find pretty strong evidence there are a couple ways our studentathletes have and probably have at some point gotten around the test in some way. That’s something that every drug testing situation, it’s almost become a cottage industry around the country, how do you beat a test. It’s something we have to be constantly on top of.”
I agree with Barta that ‘beating drug tests’ is an art form as well as an industry. Go google ‘beat a drug test’ and see what you come up with. No procedure is fool proof, and it’s good to see that Iowa is taking another look at how they do things. Barta said they did not catch anyone cheating on any tests nor does he suspect any internal impropriety here, but that they uncovered some loop hole or way around their test.
Here is an exchange where both Barta and Ferentz were asked if they expect any more discipline stemming from the last week’s incident:
Q. Are there any other players or instances who have come under this (testing/punishment)?
GARY BARTA: ”We don’t have any more, nor do we anticipate any more. Going forward, can we guarantee the future in any of our sports? Probably not longterm. We don’t have anybody to add.”
COACH FERENTZ: ”That’s really one of the reasons we got together today. Learned of some phone calls that were placed to some of our parents, some of the alarming content, just ridiculous questions they were asked. I’m not a huge fan of the social networks, but so much misinformation out there. I have no idea what’s out there other than the feedback I got from maybe some parents. Seemed like it was time to address this. As far as we know, we dealt with two transactions yesterday, one last week, and I anticipate everybody else on the roster to be ready to go, at least on the plane, I don’t know about health status, but I expect them to go and play well against Missouri.”
This was certainly good news to hear, especially given the number of rumors that were flying around and what they contained.
Next, Barta was asked if a player fails a drug test, are they declared ineligible: “Under the school, we go to our Code of Conduct. First order of business is counseling. They don’t automatically become suspended. Depends on each unique situation.”
Later, there was this exchange from Barta as well as Associate Athletic Director Fred Mims: ”It depends on each individual situation. We look at each individual and then take that into the context of the Code of Conduct. But there certainly is a situation, if someone had never had an issue, never had a problem, that they could go through this evaluation. Once that evaluation is complete, depending on what that finds, they could continue to compete.”
Q. Is there kind of I hate to say ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy, but does it specify at a certain point if you have come up positive on so many tests, this is what happens no matter what the situation?
GARY BARTA: “It’s not said that way, but absolutely. There’s a scale. If you’re interested, again, Fred knows the code more off the top of his head than I do. But generally absolutely. There’s an escalating process that we go through the code. I don’t know, Fred, if you want to add anything to that.”
FRED MIMS: “No, we go by offenses. The first offense is assessment, see if the student is healthy enough to get back in, then the second positive test is where suspension comes into play.”
GARY BARTA: “It’s all in our code and drug testing.”
This is going to be a point of contention for several people/media members/fans and already is. These comments will not put an end to speculation and rumor, that is for certain. I am not saying I disagree with the policy, because I agree every situation is unique. This policy is not saying that in every instance where a student athlete fails their first test, they still get to participate in games without penalty. Iowa is saying they assess the student athlete to see if they are healthy enough to compete. That wording will probably rub some people the wrong way, too. If someone does something pretty significant, I highly doubt they are going to suit up this weekend. BUT, it does leave doubt, which will not serve to eliminate all of the speculation and squash the rumor mill.
One thing to point out here, however, is that Iowa’s may take some heat for their policy, but that policy is OVER and ABOVE what the NCAA & Big Ten requires…keep that in mind.
The next topic we’ll shed light on is as follows from the Q&A:
Q. How do you not know that Derrell is living with a drug dealer? How much policing can you do of that?
COACH FERENTZ: “Where does it start and where does it end? That’s a question I’d ask you. It hasn’t been our policy in 12 years now. Maybe we should change it. We don’t do background checks on roommates, girlfriends. It’s a pretty wide circle of friends that our players have. I don’t know how you would track down, chase each and every one of them. And that was certainly news to me, what I read in the newspaper. I don’t know if it’s accurate or not. Not doubting the accuracy of newspaper articles. I’m not sure how you’d know that. Maybe that’s something we need to do, do background checks on roommates that are not on the team. That we’ll consider.”
My bet is they will consider it very, very strongly going forward. I am not one that thinks coaches can keep tabs on all of their players 24/7. At some point, you have to trust people to some degree. A player could tell you he was living alone and still have a roommate. There is only so far the coaching staff can go. However, some degree of due diligence may need to be enacted here. Again, I don’t know what that is, and nothing aside from in house video monitoring of 24/7 surveillance is going to be 100% effective. That is the simple reality here.
I will stop here and come back later with more thoughts from today’s lengthy press conference and very soon, we’ll spend all of our time focusing on the actual football game that takes place in exactly two weeks.