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Iowa rejects demands of ex-players who allege racial discrimination

FILE PHOTO: School mascot Herky the Hawk stands in front of the Old Capitol Museum at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City

The University of Iowa is rejecting calls from eight former Hawkeyes football players who want $20 million in compensation for what they have said was racial discrimination.

The Black players were signees to the letter delivered to the university earlier this month. They also demand that athletic director Gary Barta, head coach Kirk Ferentz and assistant coach Brian Ferentz be fired over the discrimination allegations, according to the Des Moines Register.

The letter gave a deadline of Monday to have the former players’ demands met or face a lawsuit “to ensure they are rightfully compensated for their emotional, mental and bodily damages and that Iowa is appropriately held accountable for its unlawful, discriminatory conduct,” according to the Register.

In rejecting the demands made in the letter, the school’s president, Bruce Harreld, said, “Many of their concerns have been reviewed and addressed. And to be clear, any student-athlete that has left the university and did not obtain their degree is welcome to return, and we are here to support them.”

“There are several demands outlined in the letter, and we are proud of the efforts made to date,” Harreld said. “We have a path forward that includes ideas and recommendations from many current and former students aimed at making the University of Iowa a more inclusive and better place to learn, grow and compete as an athlete.”

Kirk Ferentz, who has been Iowa’s coach since 1999, said the threat of a lawsuit left him unable to speak about the allegations made by the former players, but that he is “deeply committed to helping everyone who joins the Hawkeye Football program reach their full potential on and off the field. My focus is now on our current players who are preparing for our first game this Saturday.”

The findings of an external review of the football program that were released in July found evidence of racial and cultural bias but did not recommend the removal of Ferentz or Barta.

The Husch Blackwell law firm released a 28-page report detailing the findings of its seven-week investigation into the Hawkeyes’ football culture. The firm interviewed 111 people, including 74 current and former players.

The report says many Black players had trouble adjusting to the “Iowa Way” and that they “were required to confirm to a ‘mold’ that appeared to be built around the stereotype of a clean-cut, White athlete from a midwestern background.”

The report said “some coaches have used those values to create and perpetuate an environment that bullies and demeans athletes, especially Black athletes.”

“In sum, the program’s rules perpetuated racial or cultural biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity,” the report reads. “The program over-monitored players to the point that they experienced heightened anxiety and maintained a culture that allowed a small group of coaches to demean players.”

The investigation began last month after several Black players spoke out about a dysfunctional culture within the Big Ten program.

That ultimately led to the dismissal of former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, who was removed from his position on June 14 with a reported $1.1 million settlement.

Doyle, who denied allegations of abusive treatment, is the only member of the coaching staff or administration to lose his job. That may not change following Thursday’s report.

–Field Level Media