Athletic Director Gary Barta Feels Iowa Football Has Strong Foundation
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Fighting back tears on a couple of occasions, Iowa athletic director Gary Barta vowed on Monday that change would be coming to the university’s football program. He backed 21-year head coach Kirk Ferentz as the man capable of shifting a culture in which former players alleged they had experienced racial inequities and mistreatment.
Barta’s press conference, the first time he’s spoken publicly about the charges, that began coming out on social media on June 3. It also took place a few hours after he announced a severance package of $1.1M with football strength coach Chris Doyle, the staff member most often mentioned in mistreatment of former student-athletes.
Allegations also have been made against Kirk Ferentz, his son, Brian Ferentz, the football team’s offensive coordinator and assistant defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Seth Wallace. Barta said that all charges will be investigated by a Kansas City law firm, which will be conducting an independent review that’s expected to take several weeks.
In the meantime, the football program moves ahead with Raimond Braithwaite running the strength and conditioning program after 16 years assisting Doyle. Kirk Ferentz continues leading the team, which Barta sees as a positive.
“Many of the attributes that we’re all familiar with over the last 20 years – the on-field success, the community service, the personal development of players, providing NFL opportunities and access, dedication, perseverance, The Wave, the Kid Captain program – all of those things are still there and they’re still all a part of the foundation of who Kirk is,” Barta said.
“Again, that that doesn’t excuse what we’re focused on or what we’re talking about. But the foundation is still strong. And so we need to rebuild trust. We need to get better. And then we can return to all those positives upon which the foundation was built.”
Ferentz, who’s won a school-record 162 games in 21 seasons at the helm, met with the media on Friday. He was joined by players Keith Duncan, Ivory Kelly-Martin and Kaevon Merriweather, who were encouraged by early changes in the program based on the allegations.
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Barta said that the school had begun initiatives for equality two years ago but they were not effective enough and too slow in fostering change. He committed to pushing that directive much harder and faster.
Here are some other key point Barta spoke about on Monday:
-Barta was asked about his managing of Brian Ferentz. Iowa nepotism law dictated Barta would be Brian’s direct supervisor. They dealt with a press box blowup by Brian on an official in ’17.
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“Brian and I do have regular conversations throughout the year. Unrelated to this current topic, where we’ve had a situation that I’ve needed to deal with, it has been me. I’m sure Kirk has talked to him. But Brian and I have had very specific conversations about an area that I’ve wanted him to address. And then we’ve had very specific situations about his career and and improving and preparing himself to continue to get better as an employee. So, we have those conversations regularly,” Barta said.
-Reporters asked Barta multiple times why the school paid Doyle $1.1M for the separation instead of waiting for the investigation to be completed.
“At some point, I came to the conclusion that what are the steps we’re gonna have to make to start moving forward? I knew that the independent review is going to occur, but I also knew that we needed to think of things that made sense that were thoughtful and sensible to move forward. Kirk and I were in full agreement on that being a step and I started having conversations with Chris. I decided this was an important step to start moving forward,” Barta said.
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-Barta was asked about allegations by players against former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum that led to her dismissal in ’14. She ended up winning a lucrative lawsuit settlement three years later with her partner, Jane Meyer, who also claimed discrimination against Iowa.
“Well, let me just say that each situation that I deal with or that we deal with is unique. It’s a fair question. I’m also very understanding that every situation is unique. So I’m going to judge this situation on what comes forward in its unique sense. I’m going to wait and see what comes back. I’m going to take that into account compared to other information that I have and will make decisions based on that. Every situation is slightly different or maybe significantly different. It just depends,” he said.
-Iowa dealt with a crisis in ’11 when a Doyle workout resulted in players suffering from rhabdomyolysis and 13 of them being hospitalized. Barta was asked if he thought that situation should have been a red flag.
“I haven’t looked back and paused and said I should have done something differently at that time because at that time we had a group on campus that consisted of medical professionals. It was a different situation. I’m trying to focus on this situation, with what we’re dealing with, what we’re hearing, not just with Chris Doyle,” he said.