CHICAGO - When 13 Iowa football players were hospitalized following off-season workouts in January, national media pundits unloaded on Hawkeye leaders. Some of them called for firings and others predicted mass transfers.
CBS' Dennis Dodd and Pat Forde were two of the more outspoken national columnists talking about the Rhabdomyolysis illnesses. They stood by their opinions when I caught up with them on Thursday here at the Big Ten Media Meetings.
"I know what Iowa's take on it was, but even though it's happened in other sports and in other places, I can't recall one where there were 13 athletes," Dodd said. "I talked to health care professionals and they were outraged that it happened. Frankly, on a national level, the story just kind of died away."
"My reaction was "What the heck happened?"" Forde said. "The main thing that I had a problem with was that there was a lack of anybody standing up and taking charge of the situation. (Kirk) Ferentz was on the road and you trot out the ops guy (Paul Federici) to handle what seemed like a serious situation? I thought that it looked like Iowa wasn't taking it all that seriously.
"I wanted to see three-million-dollar-a-year Kirk Ferentz up there saying, "This is my program. This is what's going on it" or the A.D. (Gary Barta). You don't put the ops guy out there in a situation like that."
Said Dodd: "I was frankly shocked there wasn't more of a reaction from parents and media and other coaches. I don't remember something of this magnitude happening.I think it should have been a bigger story. The media is to blame for that, too"
CBS' Gregg Doyel probably was the most critical of the national columnists. He did not attend the Big Ten Media Days this year.
Doyel fired his shots without much familiarity with Ferentz and his program. Dodd and Forde have been around and interviewed the coach for quite some time. Both guys said they respect Ferentz as a person and coach.
"When you talk to people in football circles, he's incredibly respected," Forde said. "My intent was not to say that it was an incorrect characterization. But to me, it was very surprising that he wasn't ready to get out in front of this considering the number of players that were involved."
Said Dodd: "Why did Kirk not show up until the next day? I know he's explained all that. Why wasn't Gary there? If I were a parent (of one of the hospitalized players), I would have been outraged. My kid is in the hospital and the coach and AD aren't there. Gary was in Florida at an alumni function.
"It was totally out of character for Iowa. It was totally out of character for Kirk. Gary Barta. That's why it was so surprising. I hope to find out who more of those kids were."
Dodd and Forde received some heated comments from Iowa fans after sharing their opinions.
"That's fine," Forde said. "That comes with the territory. I get that from Ohio State fans and Auburn fans, too. The only time it was out of bounds was when some (Iowa fans) got a hold of my cell phone number.
"You can send emails or say what you want on Twitter. When you start calling my cell phone, that's too much."
Forde said his one regret was that he had moved on from football to college basketball coverage and didn't do a good enough job following up on the rhabdo story. He did read later stories on the situation, however."
"I guess they probably answered enough questions," Forde said. "I can't say that I've read everything that's come out about it. So, I don't know if they've answered every single question about the situation. Apparently Iowa fans are satisfied with the explanations of what happened."