A much-anticipated external review of racial tension within the University of Iowa football program was released Thursday, prompting Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz to rethink his philosophy known as "The Iowa Way."
As reported by NBC affiliate KWWL in Waterloo, Ferentz has been speaking on the program's climate for the last two months, including hosting a June 12 press conference where he said he was "listening" to his former players and was committed to change. On Thursday, after the university released a full report based on interviews of current and former players, as well as staff, conducted by the Husch Blackwell law firm in Kansas City, Ferentz again took to the podium.
"I want to apologize to those players for any pain, any frustration that they felt at a time when I was trusted to help develop them as a better player, better person," Ferentz told reporters gathered at Carver Hawkeye Arena
The report says the crux of the issue is muddied messaging around "The Iowa Way." Ferentz says this is a philosophy meant to guide his players to accomplish three things: earn a degree, maximize their abilities as football players, and have a fulfilling college experience. Several Black players in the report felt the philosophy was meant to demean and discourage them from being themselves.
Attorneys who wrote the 28-page report make it clear they're not asserting whether or not certain events happened, just relaying the experiences of 45 current players, 29 former players and 36 current and former employees.
"Two current white players conveyed to investigators that people have confused a 'discipline culture' with a 'racist culture.' In contrast, other players of various races expressed serious concerns about the racial climate," the report reads, in part.
The report says virtually all players felt firing Ferentz would accomplish nothing, and that he is the one who must foster change. On Thursday, Ferentz committed to keeping a closer eye on his assistant coaches and their messaging with players. He and athletic director Gary Barta also talked about creating more player support groups and actively seeking out and addressing future complaints.
"It's all about the delivery, it's all about the message. I think that's probably been the biggest learning experience," Ferentz said. "If we're asking our players to do something in 'The Iowa Way', then it's got to be fair, equitable and reasonable."