Ferentz calls absence after player hospitalizations ‘bad judgment’


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Kirk Ferentz may have altered his decision-making amid last week’s hospitalization of 13 of his players, given a second chance.

The Iowa head football coach met with the media Wednesday for the first time since those hospitalizations. He said he spent time on Jan. 25 trying to contact all 13, as well as their parents.

Ferentz talked to nine parents and left four voice mails that night before returning home. The next day he elected not to delay recruiting-related travels, missing the UI’s initial news conference to address the hospitalizations and returning that evening to finally meet with those student-athletes and the parents present.

Ferentz said his decision not to return more quickly was “bad judgment.”

“I would suggest that perhaps my appearance that day, presence that day, could have provided a calming influence,” he said. “I may have underestimated that.”

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Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta — who was also criticized for his absence during last week’s news conference — said his primary focus was on the student-athletes’ medical conditions.

“If I’m criticized for doing that instead of standing before the media at that time, I guess I’ll have to take that,” he said. “Most important to me was communicating with the student-athletes and the families.”

The 13 student-athletes hospitalized suffered from rhabdomyolysis — a syndrome often caused by over-exertion in which muscle fibers break down into the bloodstream. The condition can affect kidney function. The condition was likely due to intense off-season workouts that included players squatting half their maximum weight 100 times as quickly as possible.

Ferentz said similar workouts had been completed three other times — December 2000, June 2004, and December 2007 — since he took over in 1999. He also dismissed the idea that such workouts were used punitively. Iowa went a combined 9-15 in the 2000 and 2007 seasons, but in June 2004, the Hawkeyes were coming off a 10-3 season and an Outback Bowl win over Florida. That instance was even more difficult, Ferentz contended. Players completed as many repetitions of their body weight in squats. And similarly to recent workouts, student-athletes were coming off of four weeks of rest.

“It’s about every three to four years, and probably our thinking is we want everybody somewhere during his career to go through a challenge like that,” he said. “And it is challenging.”

Ferentz also acknowledged a report that cited head strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle as saying, “We’ll find out who wants to be here,” during a team meeting and defended him. Ferentz said he has “tremendous confidence” in his entire staff, including Doyle.

“I would stand by those words,” Ferentz said. “And I’ve used those words in the past, and I’ll use them in the future.

“What we do here is very competitive, and it requires an awful lot of had work. I can share this with you: I don’t want to work with people who are not that committed, and I don’t want to coach players that are not committed, because that’s really what it takes to compete successfully in this endeavor.”

Still, Ferentz said Iowa will cease using this workout “unless somebody tells us it’s a safe thing to do.”
“We can’t run that risk again and we won’t,” he said.

Additionally, Ferentz acknowledged an article in which a medical expert suggested that “maybe players did some things over the weekend” that led to the muscle syndrome and defended his players.

“I’m not aware of anything that would suggest or indicate the players did anything wrong and put themselves in harm’s way,” he said.

Ferentz said he wouldn’t “pinpoint” a time for those that were hospitalized to return to workouts.
“The key right now is for the medical experts and scientists — and people a lot smarter than me certainly — to take a look all of the possible factors that could have affected our players,” he said.

“Basically what we are trying to do is analyze what may have happened and more importantly, ensure the future safety of our student-athletes.”

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