The B1G 10: For better or worse, Kirk Ferentz can't seem to let go and move on
Every Tuesday, Matt Hayes tackles the 10 hottest topics in the Big Ten …
1. The B1G Story
The craziest part of all, the absolute unthinkable reality in this never-ending mess, is that Iowa is a state university.
It’s not a private university, and can’t hide within that bubble like many private universities do when scandal arrives. Iowa is a public university run with state funding and state taxes — and one man runs it.
And here’s the craziest thing of all: he’s the football coach.
How else can you explain the iron-fisted response from Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz after the university settled out of court a lawsuit from former players that accused his football program of fostering racial discrimination.
Instead of simply saying “it’s time to move forward, and that’s the only comment I’ll have” on an embarrassing and negative episode that has lasted more than 2 years, Ferentz pulled out a bucket of gas and threw it on still smoldering embers of pain and distrust.
“I am greatly disappointed in how this legal matter was resolved,” Ferentz said in a statement. “These (settlement) discussions took place entirely without the knowledge or consent of the coaches who were named in the lawsuit. In fact, the parties originally named disagree with the decision to settle, fully believing that the case would have been dismissed with prejudice before trial.”
This, everyone, is Ferentz telling Iowa president Barbara Wilson she blew it.
This is Ferentz, despite evidence to the contrary (more on that later), proclaiming innocence for those named in the lawsuit and questioning the decision of the (allegedly) most powerful person at the university, who just so happens to be his boss.
The university, of which Wilson is the tip of the spear, says in a statement that it won’t tolerate a culture that demeans individuals, while paying off the $4.175 million settlement.
Ferentz says he’s greatly disappointed in that decision.
What in Sam Hill is going on here?
2. The culture
A brief look of the pertinent moments of a program that Ferentz says has been “negatively impacted by these allegations” for more than 2 years.
The lawsuit from former players stems from allegations in June 2020 of racial discrimination within the Iowa football program, which Ferentz has developed and led for more than 2 decades.
Chris Doyle, Iowa’s longtime strength coach and Ferentz’s right hand man, was initially placed on leave after allegations first surfaced. He “resigned” 10 days later — with $1.1 million in walkaway money.
Other than the head coach, there is no more important coach on staff than the strength coach, who spends more time and does more to build chemistry and culture than any other person on staff. He is critical to the growth and development of the program, and in nearly all cases, follows a detailed plan laid out by the head coach.
That doesn’t mean Ferentz knew or approved of Doyle’s transgressions, but it’s also just as damning if he didn’t.
Iowa hired an independent law firm to investigate the allegations. The firm interviewed nearly 75 current and former players and found the program was “demeaning” to black players, assistant coaches and staff.
The firm’s report declared the program “perpetuated racial or culture biases, and diminished the value of cultural diversity.” The report also said there was a double standard for white and black players that fueled “distrust, anxiety and fear.”
So Iowa paid more than $5 million — including Doyle’s buyout — to sweep away problems that, according to Ferentz, would’ve been dismissed with “prejudice” before the trial.
As part of the settlement, Ferentz, his son and offensive coordinator, Brian Ferentz, athletic director Gary Barta and Doyle were dismissed as defendants with prejudice (the case can’t be refiled). Translation: for a little more than $4 million, Iowa bought guaranteed dismissal of charges for its coaches — and avoided a very public trial.
Shortly after the allegations surfaced, Ferentz seemed humbled by it all, and said: “However you want to break it down, I’m the one who’s responsible. I’m the one who’s got accountability. We all have ownership, but I’m the one who’s accountable.”
So much for accountability and responsibility.
3. Who’s in charge?
Only a coach who knows his value, who understands his power, would come out and publicly question a decision made by the president of his university.
It’s not only a declaration of power, it’s a challenge of sorts.
There’s no fear in Ferentz’s statement. It’s not couched in any way, shape or form.
Wilson is a sports-friendly president, and has said in the past that “athletics is not separate from the university.” In other words, the buck stops with her.
She made the decision to stop the bleeding and pay the settlement.
That wound, however, may never heal.
4. Sims on the move
The transition of quarterback Jeff Sims to Nebraska already has taken an intriguing turn.
Casey Thomson, Nebraska’s 2022 starter, will be limited this spring while recovering from shoulder surgery. That means Sims, a key addition from the transfer portal who started the last 3 seasons at Georgia Tech, will get a majority of the first team repetitions in spring practice.
“We’re hoping (Thompson) will be able to throw,” new Huskers head coach Matt Rhule said. “But he’ll be limited.”
Nebraska also has Chubba Purdy, Heinrich Haarberg and Richard Torres competing, but Sims is the key to offensive change this fall. He missed 5 games last season with a sprained foot, but his unique skillset will allow Nebraska to get more from the QB run game.
One ACC coach told Saturday Tradition that Sims was “the most undervalued quarterback in the transfer portal.” Sims (6-4, 220) threw for 4,464 yards and 30 TDs (23 INTs) at Georgia Tech, and ran for 1,166 yards and 11 TDs.
“He’s a big guy with arm talent and a high ceiling,” the ACC coach said. “He was throwing with confidence (in 2022) before he was hurt, and they were opening it up with the interim (coach). Would’ve loved to have seen him throw, and further develop, over the last month of the season.”
5. The Weekly 5
Ohio State’s national championship odds and 5 things the Buckeyes need to reach the Playoff.
1. Don’t lose the fire. Buckeyes were good enough to win it all in 2022. Can they stay motivated and focused with a less talented team?
2. QB Devin Brown plays better than expected in spring practice, and forces coach Ryan Day to carry the competition over the summer — forcing projected starter Kyle McCord to zero in all summer.
3. A healthy RB TreVeyon Henderson. When he’s right, he’s the most dangerous player on the field.
4. DE JT Tuimoloau showed flashes in 2022 (hello, Penn State). Buckeyes need a consistent, disruptive season — no matter how offenses adjust.
5. Don’t change who you are defensively. DC Jim Knowles wants to attack — stay with it, but teach better man coverage skills with inexperienced projected starters.
6. Your tape is your resume
An NFL scout analyzes a draft eligible Big Ten player. This week: Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr.
“I’m not a guy who’s going to say a 4.47 40 is a concern. When we start hitting that point of criticism, something is really wrong. This guy is a top 10 talent on the field and on the whiteboard. Extremely high football IQ. He’s long, he’s physical and he has the (game) tape to back it up. So he ran 4.5 in 1 of the 2 runs, so what? If you’re spooked by that, you’re in the wrong business.”
7. Powered Up
This week’s Power Poll, and 1 big thing: The permanent opponent that would be best for TV, but likely won’t happen.
1. Michigan: Wisconsin. Let’s say the Wolverines get Ohio State and UCLA. The 3rd has to be Michigan State.
2. Ohio State: Michigan State. Someone has to take 1 for the (B1G) team. That could mean Michigan, USC and Penn State.
3. Penn State: Michigan. It’s still possible that Penn State plays UCLA annually, a move that leaves Michigan with Ohio State, Michigan State and 1 opening.
4. Wisconsin: Ohio State. Who didn’t love those cold Madison November night games, with Crawl Ball vs. the spread in full glory?
5. Minnesota: Michigan. Goodbye, Little Brown Jug. See you every couple of years.
6. Illinois: Ohio State. The Illini and Buckeyes have played more than 100 times.
7. Maryland: Penn State. The Terps want the game for recruiting. Penn State vs. bigger TV properties may be more important to the conference.
8. Iowa: Nebraska. If the Big Ten wants USC and UCLA to have at least 1 geographically close annual rival, Iowa is a lock for 1 of the 2.
9. Purdue: Ohio State. The 3 Big Ten teams who have beaten Ohio State 5 times since 2000: Michigan, Penn State, Purdue.
10. Michigan State: Ohio State. From 2011-15 — the height of the Mark Dantonio era — Spartans won 3 of 5 from Ohio State.
11. Nebraska: Minnesota. A completive rivalry (Gophers lead, 7-5) in Nebraska’s 12 seasons in the Big Ten. A battle of similar cultures.
12. Indiana: Illinois. A wildly underrated rivalry, the teams splitting the 16 games in the 2000s, and the last 20 games in the series.
13. Rutgers: Penn State. This game has to be a permanent opponent, right? Not if Penn State plays UCLA annually — and Michigan State, and either Michigan or Ohio State.
14. Northwestern: Nebraska. Wildcats are 6-6 vs. Huskers since Nebraska joined the Big Ten.
8. Ask and you shall receive
Matt: I’ve seen you write numerous times that the Big Ten is going after Oregon, Washington, Stanford and California. While I understand Oregon and Washington, why the others instead of Utah or Arizona State or Colorado, for instance? Lyle Morgan, Denver.
First and foremost, Stanford and Cal bring a large television market (No.6 San Francisco/Oakland), and that would give the Big Ten the No. 1 (New York), No. 2 (Los Angeles), No. 3 (Chicago), No. 4 (Philadelphia) and No. 6 markets within their geographic footprint.
Stanford is annually among the top 3 overall sports programs in the nation in the Learfield Cup, and Cal is a top 30 program. The universities fit the Big Ten academic profile (they’re both members of the Association of American Universities), and they’re geographically a better fit as traveling partners for USC and UCLA. They have decades of historical competition with USC and UCLA.
In those areas, Stanford and Cal are a better fit across the board than Utah, Colorado or Arizona State.
4.26. Michigan CB DJ Turner II was the only player at the Combine to run a sub-4.3 40 yard dash. Turner ran 4.26, and Big Ten players had 4 of the 5 fastest times of the week: 2. Maryland CB Jakorian Bennett (4.30), 4. Nebraska WR Trey Palmer (4.33), 5. Maryland CB Deonte Banks (4.35).
10. Quote to note
Nebraska coach Matt Rhule: “If you’ve got to give a speech in the locker room, you’re probably getting your tail kicked. Leadership is who is the first guy in the building, the last to leave, who does everything right?”