Athletics committee members frustrated with lack of communication

BY HAYLEY BRUCE | MARCH 02, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said officials won’t know the nature of any policy changes in light of 13 Hawkeye football players’ hospitalizations until after a 90-day investigation by the state Board of Regents is complete.

Barta and other sports officials didn’t present any new information to the UI Presidential Committee on Athletics during its monthly meeting on Tuesday.

Barta said he has not received an update on the investigation, but he expects the report to be completed before the 90-day deadline. The examination was launched on Jan. 27; it is being headed by UI President Sally Mason.

“Depending on what the review shows, certainly we’ll talk about the results,” Barta told reporters after the meeting.

But one member of the advisory committee said he was disappointed with the lack of information.

“There might be reasons that I don’t know, but I think generally that the Presidential Commission should receive some information about what’s been in the papers,” Jeff Cox, a UI history professor and three-semester committee member, said after the meeting. “But I could raise this issue myself, and maybe I will.”

Cox said his colleagues often ask him about the Athletics Department because he is on the committee, but he is rarely able to answer their questions, which frustrates him.

The Hawkeye football players were initially hospitalized Jan. 24 for rhabdomyolysis, a condition that breaks down muscle fibers, after a strenuous off-season workout.

The university received national media attention following the hospitalizations, and documents released last week detailed disagreements among officials over how much information to release.

Since then, UI Vice President for Strategic Communication Tysen Kendig has told The Daily Iowan that officials are looking to make internal improvements to communicate with the public and press more effectively.

Several committee members said they weren’t expecting an update Tuesday, but noted they still take issue with the initially disjointed response.

“I think there should be some communication improvement, and I think that’s part of what this review is about,” said committee member Karen Baker. “I think we should just be informed and kept a little bit more in the loop and actually involved in decision-making instead of having reports with no actual input.”

Committee member John Solow said he did not expect a presentation of the reasoning behind the hospitalizations because such meetings are typically more focused on policy and not news.

“Is there a policy that needs to be changed?” he said. “As far as I know, I don’t think so.”

And while Solow said he believes the initial incident was handled well policy-wise, he said steps should be taken to prevent hospitalizations in the future.

“It was an odd event, but not an event that’s unheard of — [rhabdomyolysis has] happened at other schools and high schools,” Solow said. “Is there something that has to be looked at to see that it doesn’t happen again? Probably.”

DI reporter Nina Earnestcontributed to this report.

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