Iowa football’s last two months have been interesting. The Hawkeyes made headlines with drug scandals and dismissals and, when those incidents died down, sent 13 players to the hospital with exertional rhabdomyolysis after workouts that were too strenuous. The athletic department’s response at every turn has been muddled and naive, only inflaming speculation about endemic problems within the program.
Iowa doesn’t get it. After hospitalizing 13 players, Iowa held a press conference. Kirk Ferentz and AD Gary Barta were absent, as were the team doctor and assistant coaches. None of the five strength coaches, all at the workout, were at the press conference. There were no players who participated in the workout. There was no one who could answer concrete questions in an informative fashion. Iowa’s unwillingness or inability to address the issue seriously breeds the presumption of guilt.
Here are two things that are clear.
Offseason Workout Culture Needs to be Modified: These workouts are not “ambitious.” There is no goal, nine months before the season. Players are thrust straight from a winter break into workouts they can’t possibly be prepared for. The intention is to make players tough. The reality is it’s just pure sadism. Other sports don’t do this, because there’s no constructive physical benefit. Causing that much trauma is detrimental. Puking in a garbage can in January has no bearing on performance in September. It is psychologial, hazing performed by university officials.
Aside from being stupid and cruel, such workouts are also exceedingly dangerous. Nineteen college football players have been killed from non-traumatic injuries in offseason conditioning workouts since 2000. The same thing happened to an Oregon high school team last summer.
There’s a Lack of Institutional Control: The drug test controversy was damning. The workout controversy is even worse. Whoever was responsible for these workouts should be fired. This was no “anomaly.” The hospitalizations were a result of and conceivable outcome from the severity of the workout. The players’ reactions don’t suggest this workout was routine. Those who designed and carried it out failed at their most basic and important task, keeping players safe. That’s inexcusable.
Kirk Ferentz also has some culpability. How many arrests, inconceivable mistakes and damage control press conferences must Iowa have before the Teflon man faces some measure of scrutiny? Rich Rodriguez has the NCAA and media hounding him for years about practice time. Ferentz permits an apparently rampant drug culture, places his entire team at risk of serious heath issues and…nothing. Iowa really put its foot down with him this year. They didn’t offer him his customary raise and five-year extension.
[Photo via Getty]