Iowa coach disbands diversity group created after 2020 probe

FILE - Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz watches from the sideline during the second half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game against Michigan, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Indianapolis. Kentucky will be trying for a rare 10-win season when the Wildcats play Iowa in the Citrus Bowl. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz has disbanded an alumni advisory committee that was created after a 2020 investigation found evidence of racial bias against Black players in his program and bullying behavior by some of his assistants.

The Gazette reports that Ferentz’ decision to end the committee came shortly after its leader, former offensive lineman David Porter, suggested it was time for Iowa to part ways with Ferentz. But Ferentz said he had decided to overhaul the committee last fall before Porter made his comment to other committee members in a text message.

“I have come to a decision that this is an appropriate time to dissolve our committee as it stands currently,” Ferentz wrote in an email to the 10-member committee on Tuesday. “As we start a new calendar year and prepare to move forward with our preparation for the 2022 season, I am giving thought to how we restructure the committee/board in a way that best serves our program moving forward.”

In 2020, the university hired the Husch Blackwell law firm to review the program after dozens of former players, most of them Black, spoke out on social media to allege racial disparities and mistreatment. Their activism came as protests against racial injustice swept the nation following the death of George Floyd and after attempts to raise concerns inside the program resulted in only minor changes.

The report said that some of the football program's rules “perpetuated racial or cultural biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity.”

The program cut ties with longtime strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle after agreeing to pay him $1.1 million severance, but Ferentz resisted making other changes to his staff. Doyle has denied allegations that he bullied and discriminated against players.

Clearly, university leaders still have confidence in Ferentz because the Iowa Athletic Department announced Friday that his contract has been extended through the 2029 season. Ferentz, who has led Iowa since 1999, is the nation’s longest-tenured FBS head coach.

Ferentz said in a statement that his program learned from the committee’s work and he believes “we can be a team and celebrate players as individuals.” He said he appreciates “the time and dedication of those volunteer members who shared ideas and best practices.”

But Porter said he is disappointed that Ferentz appears to have ended the committee without a plan to continue its work, which remains unfinished.

“Our overarching theme was making sure that when kids go through the program they feel safe and protected,” Porter said. “Fear and intimidation is an issue we want to make sure we can address.”

Porter said the further away the group got from the 2020 report there seemed to be less urgency to address the issues even though a lawsuit 13 former players filed accusing the university of discrimination remains pending.

“For a while we were making good progress,” he said. “But as you get further away from the initial situation and issue, people tend to lose focus on why we were formed in the first place.”