Report Finds Hawkeye Football Program Diminishes Cultural Diversity, Calls for Changes

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Iowa City, Iowa — An outside review of alleged racial inequality in the University of Iowa football program released on Tuesday calls on the UI Athletic Department to make changes to its “football culture” but doesn’t call for any changes of leadership. However it does include numerous allegations of inequities, including the targeting of Black athletes by coaches.

The review, conducted by law firm Husch Blackwell, was ordered by Athletics Director Gary Barta after a number of former Hawkeye football players spoke out on social media about racial disparity at the school. The report’s authors say they spoke to 111 current and former players and employees of the football program.

The report issued Tuesday found “virtually all the players spoke positive about their position coaches” and the impact those coaches made on their lives. However, the report shows many players had a much different view of the program as a whole.

“Numerous players described feeling unhappy and unwelcome, citing to a program culture that they perceive requires strict conformity and rigid adherence to the “mold” of an ideal player, a mold that many Black players felt they could never truly fit because it was built around the stereotype of a clean-cut, White athlete from a Midwestern background,” the report says.

A number of players and coaches reported they felt Black athletes in the football program were targeted by coaches. “Numerous current and former players and coaches of all
races described an environment in which a small number of coaches felt empowered to bully
and demean athletes, especially Black athletes,” the report finds.

Those athletes say that targeting for discipline by coaching staff, as well as a culture of ‘over-monitoring’ lead to heightened anxiety that affected performance in class and on the football field.

The report’s authors say their interviews identified specific allegations that the school is being asked to review. “We have separately provided four personnel reports to the University summarizing
allegations of mistreatment made against current and former employees so that they may be
addressed, as appropriate, pursuant to the institution’s personnel policies and procedures,” the report says.

The report concludes with this summation of the current state of the Hawkeye football program:

“In sum, the program’s rules perpetuated racial or cultural biases and diminished the value of
cultural diversity …. We recommend that the University work with Athletic Director Barta and Head Coach Ferentz to create action steps aimed at improving the culture of the program, eliminating biases, encouraging student-athletes to report concerns of mistreatment, and amplifying the University’s policy statement against retaliation within the football program.”

Report of Football Program Culture at the University of Iowa

Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz released a statement late Tuesday morning after the release of the report:

“This is an important time for me as a leader and for our program. This Review brings us face-to-face with allegations of uneven treatment, where our culture that mandated uniformity caused many Black players to fee there were unable to show up as their authentic selves.

I want to apologize for the pain and frustration they felt at a time when I was trusted to help each of them become a better player, and a better person.

There are several key take-aways that influence how we will advance the program, so every student-athlete has a healthy and positive team experience.

This have been a moment of truth for me. The release of this independent review is not the end of the conversation, it is the beginning of the next chapter in our program’s history.

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa Hawkeye’s Head Football Coach

Ferentz and Athletic Director Gary Barta plan to address the media on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the report.

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