Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during the Hawkeyes' media day on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Iowa City.

Iowa coach: ‘Dealbreaker’ if players bet on Hawkeyes’ games

Head coach Kirk Ferentz plans to take a hard-line position on any players proven guilty of placing bets on Iowa games.

Ferentz said Friday that the ongoing investigation into illegal gambling activity by student-athletes at Iowa and Iowa State produced new revelations about players on his Hawkeyes’ roster betting on Iowa games.

“I think the key point there is betting on our games,” Ferentz said. “… It’s a deal breaker if that is, in fact, proven to be true. So, we’ll deal with that when we get there. But, I think as we move forward, I think, at least in my opinion, it’s been a learning process.”

Twenty-six athletes in five sports were part of an investigation into betting announced in May. Three more were added to the list by prosecutors this week.

Sports betting, gaining legal approval in more than 30 states, is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 in Iowa. NCAA rules prohibit athletes and most university-affiliated employees, including coaches, staff, trainers and support staff, from wagering on college sports and most professional sports, regardless of age.

Investigators revealed last month that electronic gambling accounts connected to players under names of parents or family members tipped off authorities of the widespread nature of the betting trend among state university athletes.

The NCAA revealed an organized but independent investigation into the matter, which includes Iowa defensive tackle Noah Shannon. Shannon said he’s part of the NCAA investigation but unlike most of the other Iowa athletes named, Shannon hasn’t been charged by Iowa authorities and is over the age of 21. Ferentz said on Friday that Shannon’s issue is largely related to injury.

“It’s really not that big of a deal right now, quite frankly. I’m not trying to be coy, but it just isn’t,” Ferentz said. “Noah is injured; he would be the most prominent player, to my knowledge, that’s involved in this. Let’s say he was 100 percent healthy, which he’s not. If we got closer to games, that’s something we’d have to weigh and measure.”

Ferentz said he doesn’t have a timeline for when any NCAA decision or legal ruling might take place. He asked the NCAA last month at Big Ten Media Days to take into account the climate around sports betting, which has become omnipresent in and around sports. Regardless, he said there is accountability for athletes, too.

“As I stand here right now, the one thing it doesn’t — it can’t be compromised, the integrity of the game, that’s first and foremost. That’s got to be protected, and that’s where everything should start,” Ferentz said. “We will continue to cooperate. I think everybody involved has done a good job of that. That will be ongoing, and as we move forward, just hope that whoever is making decisions, they’re thoughtful. Hopefully they’re making appropriate decisions, and then being timely would be appreciated, as well.”

–Field Level Media

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz walks to the sideline during a timeout in the third quarter of the TransPerfect Music City Bowl game against Kentucky at Nissan Stadium Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. Iowa defeated Kentucky 21 to 0 in the first shutout in bowl history.

Ncaa Football Music City Bowl Iowa At Kentucky

State reaches $4M settlement in Iowa discrimination suit

The state of Iowa has reached agreement on a $4 million settlement with 12 former Black football players who accused Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz of racial discrimination, the Des Moines Register reported Monday.

Further, auditor Rob Sand, one of three on the Iowa Department of Management’s State Appeal Board, wants Iowa athletic director Gary Barta ousted before approving taxpayer funds to be doled out in the settlement.

Under the settlement, the school would pay out $2.175 million and the state would pick up the rest.

“Enough is enough. Clear personal accountability is necessary. I will not support taxpayers funding this settlement unless Gary Barta is no longer employed at the university and forfeits any severance or similar pay,” Sand said in a statement to the other board members.

Sand cited three other discrimination lawsuits under Barta’s watch before this one as reasons to oust Barta.

The 12 former Iowa football players signed the settlement on Feb. 23, according to the Register. They will receive roughly $184,201.05 per player. Thirteen players originally filed the lawsuit in November 2020, claiming a culture of mistreatment against Black players.

An outside law firm, Husch Blackwell, conducted an investigation and concluded that “the program’s rules perpetuated racial or cultural biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity.”

The accusations led to the dismissal of strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.

The lawsuit originally sought $20 million in damages in addition to the firing of Ferentz, his son, Brian, Iowa’s offensive coordinator, and Barta.

–Field Level Media

Iowa offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brian Ferentz, left, talks with Iowa quarterback Alex Padilla (8) during a NCAA football game against Ohio State, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

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Iowa amends contract of embattled OC Brian Ferentz

Iowa offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brian Ferentz, the son of head coach Kirk Ferentz, signed an amended contract for 2023 with new performance-based incentives on Monday.

The university said in a release that Brian Ferentz’s salary will be $850,000, a $50,000 pay cut from last season, and added bonuses tied to objectives that “include an average of at least 25 points per game and a minimum of seven wins, including regular season and a possible bowl game.”

The Hawkeyes averaged just 17.7 points per game in 2022, good for 123rd out of 131 FBS teams. They also ranked second to last in total offense with 251.6 yards per game. Iowa still went 8-5 (5-4 Big Ten) behind the strength of the defense.

A school spokesperson told Sports Illustrated that the points per game incentive includes “any points scored,” meaning defensive and special teams scores will also help Ferentz’s cause. Iowa had six defensive touchdowns and two safeties in 2022.

Iowa made no changes to its football coaching staff this offseason, and last week Kirk Ferentz danced around pointed questions about what makes his son a good offensive coordinator. He did say the offense was “not good enough.”

Help is on the way for the father and son. After Spencer Petras took most of the snaps at quarterback in 2022 and finished with just 1,725 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions, former Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara transferred to Iowa and figures to be the starter in 2023. McNamara needed a new starting job after the Wolverines ultimately stuck with J.J. McCarthy in 2022.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2020; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz runs off the field after the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa coach Ferentz tests positive for COVID-19

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz tested positive for COVID-19.

The university announced Friday that the 65-year-old is asymptomatic and will work from home until Dec. 27. The team’s final regular-season game, scheduled for Saturday against Michigan, was canceled because of an outbreak among the Wolverines.

The No. 16 Hawkeyes (6-2) intend to play in a bowl game and will learn their destination on Sunday.

“We have been fortunate this season to have played eight games and to have very few positive cases,” Ferentz said in a statement. “When the team returns to practice on Tuesday, I will participate via zoom and our collective focus will be on preparing for the bowl game.”

Ferentz is the longest-tenured coach in the FBS. He is in his 22nd season as head coach of the Hawkeyes and 31st with the university. He has a career record of 168-106, including a 9-8 mark in bowl games.

The Hawkeyes have finished under .500 just four times since Ferentz took over the program in 1999.

–Field Level Media

Dec 27, 2019; San Diego, California, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz reacts after the Holiday Bowl against the Southern California Trojans at SDCCU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa rejects demands of ex-players who allege racial discrimination

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