Looking at Iowa Football Player Representation, Retention Since ’09
IOWA CITY, Iowa – More than 50 players alleging racial inequality and mistreatment within the Iowa football program earlier this month opened the door for examining it. The university hired a Kansas City law firm to perform an external review of the charges.
The athletic department began addressing the issue two years ago. A diversity task force was formed to study disparity in graduation rates between White and Black student-athletes. Its report submitted in early 2019 pointed out problems beyond that.
“The key theme in that report indicated that many of our African American student-athletes did not feel comfortable being their authentic self,” athletic director Gary Barta revealed during a June 15 press conference.
Questions for the report were answered anonymously. There were no specific staff members named in the allegations.
“However, there were concerning statements like, “I felt like I had to put a mask on and check my identity at the door. I was told by my coach to change my hairstyle because it didn’t fit the Iowa culture.” One student-athlete said a staff member cursed and yelled, degrading an African American student-athlete in front of his peers,” Barta said.
The task force study covered the entire athletic department.
“While no teams or individuals were singled out in the report, it was reported verbally that many of these comments were coming from football,” Barta said.
Iowa has separated with longtime football strength coach Chris Doyle, who former players named most often in the allegations earlier this month. Barta believed Doyle needed to go for the program to move forward.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz, who’s set to begin his 22nd season running the program, agreed with Barta on Doyle’s departure and has vowed to make the necessary changes. His current players have supported him being able to do so.
Time will tell if the dean of college football coaches can save his legacy. The report the university hired the law firm to produce could lend more insight into the nature and depth of the cultural problems within the program.
A study done by USC’s Race and Equity Center shows that among 65 Power 5 football programs, Iowa ranked 60th in graduating Black student-athletes. In the Big Ten, its 37 percent differential between graduating Black and White student-athletes ranked as the highest in the conference. The study looked at the years 2014-18.
Those numbers penalize schools for transfers. Iowa is not retaining Black players at a high rate.
That’s the foundation of our research into some areas of the football program that show racial inequality in player representation. There’s nuance in all of the data. Each player has his own story.
The research stretches back to ’09. Obtaining data before that for all the categories is difficult based on not being able get into the Iowa Sports Information office and thumb through old media guides because the it’s closed due to COVID-19. And studying the last 11 years offers a sample size of more than 50 percent of Ferentz’s tenure and the most recent trends in his program.
Let’s first start with overall team representation. For it, we look at how many Black scholarship student-athletes are on the roster. It’s the easiest way to best estimate representation.
The rosters are roughly comprised of 110 or players. It includes walk-ons, most of whom are White and from in-state. Tuition for student-athletes walking on from outside the borders can be steep.
As such, most of the student-athletes on the roster in a given season beyond the Black scholarship players end up being White. There are a handful of guys from other races. So, if there are 30 Black student-athletes, you’re looking about 80 that are White.
Here’s a graph showing how many Black student-athletes who were on football scholarships for each of the years starting in ’09.
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As you can see, only once in the last 11 years has Iowa’s official roster contained fewer than 30 Black student-athletes on scholarship. There were 28 in ’18. The average for the 11 years was 33.5.
The graph gives us an idea of locker room makeup annually. That can be considered when looking at student-athlete representation voted on by the student athletes.
It’s also important to consider transfer rates when it comes to student-athlete representation. Team captains and student-athletes brought to Chicago for Big Ten Media Days are upperclassmen and often seniors.
Here’s a look at the transfer rates during the last 11 years for Black and White/Other Race student-athletes in the Iowa program.
During that time, 127 Black student-athletes signed scholarships with Iowa and made it to campus. Forty of them finished their college careers here, including guys who left early for the NFL. Twenty eight of them remained in the program for this upcoming season.
One hundred fourteen White/Other Race student-athletes signed scholarships with Iowa and made it to campus during the years ’09-19. Forty seven of them finished their careers here and 28 remained in the program for ’20.
Diving deeper into those numbers, 18 Whites/Other Races that didn’t finish at Iowa left as graduate transfers or walked away from the game of football. Nine Blacks who left early were graduate transfers or left football.
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Of the 127 Blacks who arrived at Iowa on scholarship, 68 finished here or appeared on the current roster. That means 46.5 percent of them didn’t finish their careers here. For Whites, 34.2 did not finish their careers with the Hawkeyes.
Looking at the years ’13-15 that included last year’s fifth-year seniors, 31 Blacks signed scholarship offers with Iowa and eight finished their careers here, which is 25.8 percent. Of 31 Whites/Other Races that signed during that time, 19 completed their careers, which is 61.3 percent.
Again, there’s nuance to these numbers and every player has a different story about why he stayed at Iowa or left. They arrive from different parts of the country, communities and backgrounds.
Keeping roster makeup in mind, let’s look at Iowa’s Leadership Group. An Iowa press release describes this collection of student-athletes as being tasked with “assisting in formulating policies and being involved in team decision-making throughout the year. Players are selected by a team vote.”
Here’s a graph looking at the makeup of the Iowa Football Leadership Group from ’09-19.
During those 11 years, 119 players in the groups were White/Other Races and 44 were Black. In ’08, 10 student-athletes in the group were White/Other Race and three were Black. So, from ’08-’19, 26.7 percent of the players in the leadership groups were Black.
During the last four seasons, Blacks accounted for 14 of 64 student-athletes on the leadership group. They held 21.9 percent of the representation on that committee, including just two of 18 spots in ’17.
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After the allegations of racial inequities surfaced in early June, the Iowa players voted on the ’20 leadership group. Twelve of the 21 players selected were Black, the first time since ’09 that they comprised more than 37.5 percent of the group.
PERMANENT TEAM CAPTAINS
At the end of each season, Iowa names permanent team captains. These student-athletes are chosen by their peers, according to the athletic department.
Here’s a graph showing the racial breakdown of the captaincies back to 1999, when Ferentz took over the program from Hayden Fry. Those names were available in the ’19 Iowa media guide.
Of the 103 permanent Iowa captains from ’99-19, 26 were Black. That represented 25.2 percent of the captaincy in 21 years. Only twice (’02-03) were there more Black captains than White. There was more than one Black captain five times and only two of those seasons were among the last 16.
Quarterbacks often served as captains. Brad Banks, the only regular Black starter at the position from ’99-’19, was named captain in ’02. Randy Reiners, Kyle McCann, Ricky Stanzi (twice), James Vandenberg (twice), C.J. Beathard (twice) and Nate Stanley (twice) were White signal callers named captains, representing a total of 10 of the 77 White captaincies.
STUDENT-ATHLETES AT BIG TEN MEDIA DAY
Each summer, Ferentz selects student-athletes with input from his coaching staff to represent the program at the Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. Each conference school brings its head coach and chosen student-athletes.
Here’s a graph looking at the numbers for each program during its time in the league from ’09-19. Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers representation is shown after the joined the conference.
Ferentz chose 10 Black student-athletes in 11 years out of the 33 players he brought to Chicago, the fewest in the conference during that time. On two occasions, Iowa brought only White players. No other league program did that once.
For the period, Ferentz selected Black student-athlete representation in Chicago at a rate of 30.3 percent. Indiana and Michigan State’s 48.5 percent accounted for the next lowest percentage of Black student-athletes after Iowa among Big Ten schools.
The other programs in the Big Ten West Division – Northwestern (57.6), Wisconsin (57.6), Minnesota (66.7), Purdue (63.6), Illinois (66.7) and Nebraska (51.9) – all brought a significantly higher percentage of Black student-athletes to Chicago than did the Hawkeyes.
All but three of Iowa’s 33 student-athletes were non-seniors. Five times a White quarterback represented the the Hawkeyes, including Stanley twice.