Friday, July 25, 2008

Ferentz Fights Back

Kirk Ferentz did himself a lot of good at Big Ten Media Day. He was emotional, passionate, and at times, angry. He definitely was smart to not hide behind a lawyer or say he wishes he could comment, but can't.

The most interesting revelation, to me, was Ferentz saying he did not want to be in a meeting with the alleged victim, but went at the request of her family (the last part we already knew).

Ferentz saved his most heated comments for any suggestion he was involved in a cover-up. Clearly the man feels his character was attacked, and fought back. I would too.

I have always liked Ferentz. Some of his critics over the year have even labeled me a "Ferentz apologist". I don't know him well enough to vouch for his character, but I've always thought he had a lot.

However, it's fair for the media, or anyone, to question Ferentz's role in the U of I's internal sexual assault investigation. It's not fair to jump to conclusions having only heard one side, but Iowa invited this by mismanaging this crisis so badly, it brought back memories of ISU's bungling of the Larry Eustachy scandal.

Public opinion, predictably, is now swinging back toward Ferentz by many who doubted him. That's as simple as him speaking up---something the University, and Ferentz, should have done a long time ago, in the ways that they legally could without compromising the alleged victim's identity, or the case itself.

Ferentz did a lot of effective damage control, and won back the confidence of more than a few Hawkeye fans. There are still some questions of his judgment that are fair to ask. Among them:

Why did he immediately order two players to move into a crime scene? I don't think Ferentz purposely contaminated the room. I think it was more likely that he found out a room was empty, being used for things you don't want in the media guide, and tried to shift things back to the way they were supposed to be. But, we don't know. We do know it later hurt the DCI's collection of evidence. And why was that room empty in the first place? Chances are he had no idea.

We still really don't if Ferentz tried to persuade the alleged victim to go to police. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't, maybe he felt it wasn't his place and said nothing at all. We do know the mother said Iowa officials stressed keeping it "in house". Bad idea.

We do know the depositions paint an unflattering picture of Hawkeye football players beyond Satterfield and Everson, yet those players continued playing. Jevon Pugh even scored a game-winning touchdown a couple weeks after admitting to grabbing the alleged victim. Perhaps these players lied about their involvement to Ferentz, but later told police they behaved badly.

This whole case is a powder keg. It has brought out fiery emotions in people, sometimes without thinking it through. That's understandable, though regrettable. We all reacted to the mother's first letter. If you didn't, check your pulse.

It's important to point out that the questions I've had---and many others---had to do with the way the University of Iowa handled all of this. Abe Satterfield and Cedric Everson deserve, and will have, their day in court. None of what was discussed this week should have anything to do with whether they are ultimately found guilty or not guilty. It simply has to do with whether Iowa put the interests of the University in general, and the football program in particular, ahead of those of a student-athlete officials had reason to believe may have suffered through an unspeakable crime.

Ferentz lives in a fishbowl, so he's been called out repeatedly, while the alleged victim's coach has gone mostly unnoticed. Why? Well, for one, we can't name him/her, and even if we did, next to no one has heard of him/her. This coach, much more than Ferentz, had the responsibility of seeing that his/her student-athlete had all of her needs looked after. The alleged victim's mother says her daughter was abandoned by not only her coach, but her teammates, all while being taunted and teased by football players. Most inexplicable of all, she apparently continued to live a few doors down from one of her alleged attackers. Ferentz says he has no power when it comes to room assignments, but shouldn't someone, anyone, step up and shout until this sorry arrangement was righted? If they were unaware, it means they weren't checking on her.

President Sally Mason looks bad right now. Either she can't stay out of her own way, or she's getting bad advice. I know all of these people are smarter than me, which is why it's puzzling that they would do stupid things like withhold letters and documents from the Board of Regents.

The most important question of all hasn't changed: How in the world could Iowa have a policy in place that allows a department to investigate its own sexual assaults, despite the obvious conflict of interest, and just years after the Pierre Pierce debacle. It boggles the mind.

Of all the main players, Ferentz has the smallest part. However, there's no way he's taking this kind of heat if police hadn't cited 18 of his players in 16 months. Ferentz wants to draw a line in the sand beginning this past March, but that's not realistic. We all bring our baggage with us, even when its painful, and even when we really don't want to.

Many Iowa fans who defend Ferentz and the program publicly are privately embarrassed over all this nonsense. They should be. It makes us all look bad as Iowans, and anyone who enjoys it is sick.

It's always disappointing to see some fans of the rival school, in this case Iowa State, taking a position they would never take if it was there team under the microscope. It's nearly as sad to see some Hawk fans bury their heads in the sand and kill the messengers. It always goes like this, and both sides are guilty.

I don't think Ferentz started recruiting "bad kids". But I do think there's a culture problem in the Hawkeye football program. If athletes without troubled backgrounds are showing up and getting in serious trouble, especially Freshman, it's in large part because of a culture of entitlement. It doesn't make them any less responsible, but it needs addressing, and Ferentz was slow to respond, in part because many of the arrests prior to 2007 happened during ten win seasons. Does anyone honestly think this many people are calling for Ferentz's job---especially Hawkeye fans---if Iowa is coming off a Rose Bowl season? Don't kid yourself. Winning influences almost everything, which is a big part of all problems in college athletics.

I'm tired of all this. I'll bet you are too.

Keith

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm confused... Ferentz has no control over room assignments, yet he had two players move into the room were the alledged rape took place. Don't his players report where they are living to him? Also, would it have been wise of him to know the whereabouts of these two players after the allegations were made?

I don't think that Ferentz is a bad person, but obviously after 16 months of being under the microscope because of his players' actions his judgement is skewed. Maybe a sabbatical is in order so that he can get his perspective realigned.

Anonymous said...

Ferentz roughly says UofI staff would have to lack morals and brains to try to do a coverup. The reason there have been 18 crimes by the players he has recruited is because he and his staff lack morals and brains.

Rk

Anonymous said...

What is it that makes people want to believe Ferentz so badly? Why is he the least culpable of the lot? His actions speak louder than words. Why is his moving players into a room that was allegedly used for a serious crime given a pass as simply bad judgement? That is unbelievable. Ask yourself if you would do the same. He knew of the allegations. And, for that matter, why doesn't he want to be in the room when someone accuses his players of rape? Would you? I sure as hell would. Sounds to me like someone who wants something to blow over and perhaps even goes out of his way to help it along. Football must be more important. This lack of morals is the reason that there is such a big problem with his football team and everyone's willingness to see him as Saint Kirk is the reason this will continue.

Of course he wants you to see this year's team as different. Last year's team is the one that had all the problems, right? It's only about football, right? It's a new season for crying out loud! Just don't start losing more games cuz then we're *really* gonna start to get angry about how you've brought in these criminals to our town.

kennys said...

Keith.

Well done.

Hope they get this mess cleaned up.
To many people getting involved to
make them selves look good
keep up the good work
Kenny S.

footballdaddy said...

One reason for the lack of integrity in the football program is this. Iowa is a second tier school in the grand BCS scheme. they are looking up at USC, LSU,Florida, and Ohio State to mention a few.The best players go to these teams first. If you wre recruited by USC and Iowa, which would you choose? Probably not Iowa. This leaves Iowa to choose from solid citizens with less talent or potential impact players who have some baggage. It's obvious which way the Hawkeyes went, and it's backfiring. I believe Hayden Fry took those with less talent and made them and the school better for it. I think the culture of entitlement is prevalent at all the state schools, but it seems to have been taken to a new level at Iowa. Perhaps Iowa City is sold to the recruits families as a place far away from the big city and the trouble that can be found there. Obviuously that's not the case.