Coach with University of Iowa football program placed on leave over 'racial disparities'

"These are painful times," Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz said Saturday. "As a leader, you can learn a lot by listening, but at some point you must take action."
Image: Iowa Hawkeyes coach Chris Doyle during a game in Illinois in 2018.
University of Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle during a game against the University of Illinois in Champaign, Ill., in November 2018.Michael Allio / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images file

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By Yuliya Talmazan and Austin Mullen

A longtime strength and conditioning coach with the University of Iowa football program has been placed on administrative leave, the team confirmed Saturday, after a number of black former players recounted "racial disparities."

Head coach Kirk Ferentz said in a recorded message Saturday that the assistant coach, Chris Doyle, had been placed on administrative leave, effective immediately, while an independent review took place.

Calling it a "defining moment" for the Iowa football program, Ferentz also announced the creation of an advisory committee that will be led by former Iowa player James Daniels.

Daniels, who now plays for the Chicago Bears, started the discussion about the disparities with a tweet Saturday.

"There are too many racial disparities in the Iowa football program. Black players have been treated unfairly for far too long," he wrote.

A number of former players have responded with their own experiences.

"I remember whenever walking into the facility it would be difficult for black players to walk around the facility and be themselves," tweeted Amani Hooker, who now plays for the Tennessee Titans. "As if the way you grew up was the wrong way or wasn't acceptable & that you would be judge by that and it would impact playing time."

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Responding, Ferentz said he had seen "some difficult and heartbreaking posts" on social media in the previous 24 hours and had been reaching out to many of the players individually to hear more about their experiences.

Ferentz said many of the discussions have centered on Doyle.

"I have spoken with him about the allegations posted on social media," he said. "They're troubling and have created a lasting impact on those players."

He said a longstanding ban on players' using social media was lifted Thursday so they could engage in the national conversation about injustice and racism.

"These are painful times," Ferentz said. "As a leader, you can learn a lot by listening, but at some point you must take action."

Doyle did not immediately respond to a request for comment.