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Commentary: Football situation blown out of proportion

BY SETH ROBERTS | JANUARY 31, 2011 7:10 AM

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From the DJK fiasco to last week’s rhabdomyolysis outbreak, the past few months haven’t been great for the Iowa football team.

You’ve no doubt heard all about the events — or at least what information the athletics department has made public.

The national media, which under normal circumstances couldn’t care less about what happens in Iowa City, have been all over the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics story. If you believe what you read from some of these people, you’d get the sense that Kirk “Spawn of Satan” Ferentz has been conspiring with the ghost of John Wilkes Booth to methodically slaughter any players he doesn’t see fit to sacrifice on the football field.

Relax.

The rhabdomyolysis situation is serious — 13 athletes in the hospital is hard to ignore (all have since been released), and I wish them all a speedy recovery — but it isn’t the threat to national security that a number of columnists appear to believe it is.

Take ESPN.com senior writer Pat Forde, for example. Forde’s Jan. 28 column said Ferentz doesn’t care about his players because hedidn’t make an appearance at the team’s press conference on Jan. 26.

Ya gotta be kiddin’ me.

Ferentz didn’t show because he wasn’t in Iowa City. National signing day is this week, and it’s kind of a big deal in college football. It’s the day you find out what your team’s future looks like. It was Ferentz’s job to be on the road, and it’s not like the Rhabdo 13 would have improved if he had contributed a sound bite at the press conference.

Does this mean he doesn’t care about his players? Uh, no — especially not when the players are being watched by some of the best doctors in the country. They’re in great hands.

It’s hard to find a coach with a better reputation than Ferentz. He routinely takes middle-of-the-road recruits and, through hard work and a little bit of magic, turns them into stars. He might not be a saint, but Captain Kirk’s 89-60 record at the Hawkeye helm says a lot about his leadership and dedication to his players. If Ferentz didn’t care, he would still be coaching Maine.

Whatever happened in that workout will be revealed eventually. The state Board of Regents launched an investigation of the events at the end of last week, and the results will be announced within 90 days.

You know, when they’ve had time to actually figure out what happened.

Until then, the Fordemites should stop the guesswork. For all we know, this was an unfortunate accident — like when USC tailback Stafon Johnson dropped a weight bar on his neck in 2009.

Football is a brutal game, and injuries are going to happen when its athletes push themselves to their limits.

Speculation is weak journalism, but thanks to the 24-hour news cycle propagated by ESPN and the Internet, it’s become the predominant form of information. You don’t need facts anymore to have a job writing columns about evil football coaches. All you need is a computer and a flair for exaggeration.

Maybe Ferentz is at fault, but maybe not. We don’t know yet.

Stop guessing.


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