GARY BARTA STATEMENT
Our purpose today is to take what has happened this past week and answer as many questions as we can, specifically related to Dominique and Anthony, and there has been a lot of photos and other things talked about with social networks, do the best we can to answer those questions. I will forewarn you that we don't have any earth shattering or major updates in terms of Dominique or Anthony, just expanding on anything we can answer related to those. Before we do, just a couple of comments that I have.
It probably goes without saying, but it has been a difficult week off the field. Anytime a member of our family, a student athlete, coach or staff member is involved in a bad decision potentially, or misconduct, it hurts. It hurts because we all take it so personally. We spend a lot of time and energy and take a lot of pride in the fact that we try to do things right. When something doesn't go the way you like, it hurts. I have had the whole range of emotions; anger, disappointment, concern, embarrassed, all of those things, related to the situation with Dominique and Anthony, related to the photos, some comments that have been attributed to some websites, it has been a challenging week. We have spent many hours and conversations trying to educate, communicate with our student athletes, we have brought in experts on more than one occasion in the last year on these topics, and that makes it difficult.
When something does go wrong, when there is an issue, we try to gather the facts; try to figure out what has happened and what action needs to be taken. Kirk and I have been talking, President Mason and I have talked, she is fully up to speed. She is supportive of where we have been so far and understands that we are making every effort to take care of it. Before I hand it over to Kirk, I have been asked a few times, about the broader athletic department. Clearly, what we are talking about this week is serious and important and we are taking it that way, but I don't want to lose site of the fact that this week is one of my favorite times of the year, because students are coming back to campus. In our case, almost 700 student athletes. Our goal is to get through this, take it seriously, but we have a lot of student athletes ready to compete for championships. All of this has taken the focus away from that point. I will turn things over to Kirk.
KIRK FERENTZ: Thanks Gary. It has been an eventful week for us. On the football side of things it has been a positive week, if you can imagine that. We have forged ahead as a football team. We made some progress, and at this point we are making some decisions. That has been accomplished for the most part. Then off the field, it has been an extremely disappointing week for all of us involved. First of all, these are serious issues that we are dealing with and we are very concerned about. We spend a lot of time educating and working on the image that we want to portray as a football team and how we represent the university and our state. There has been some poor judgment made in that regard. It's ironic in some ways, because camp is a time where we spend a lot of time talking about some of the things involving image and how you make decisions. It was a year ago today when Marvin Sims did a presentation on the facebook, for instance. That was addressed again in May, and again by Fred Mims at the beginning of camp. Sometimes you have things come up that you haven't covered, but not in this case.
The bottom line is that we have to be proactive and learn from what takes place with our student athletes and what we can do to improve on our process. That is an obvious point at this stage. This is something we will work through, and we have all done a good job of gathering information and moving in an appropriate manner and we will continue to do that. This is like a lot of things that have happened before, things that we were not hoping to happen, and we will try to learn our best from it and move on and be better for it and I am confident that that will happen. But that is a matter of weeks, not days. Q: These events occurred on May 8th, and they were charged last week. Did you know anything about it before then?
Kirk Ferentz: No, I learned on the way out to practice on Saturday, that both Anthony and Dominique were being requested to visit with the police. So going to the field, I knew that but I didn't know the extent. I didn't speak to the investigating officer until around 6 or 7 o'clock that evening. That is when things began to come clear what was going on.
Q: Are you normally kept in the dark like that?
Ferentz: I don't know that I was kept in the dark, but I know I learned about it Saturday. I don't have a lot of experience.
Q: Are those two on campus? Do you know where they are?
Ferentz: Both Dominique and Anthony were on campus for the better part of the week, I think they are both off campus now. I think they are both going home. We expect both back on Monday beginning classes, with a few stops along the way. Our understanding is that they will be going to school, we support that. Hopefully this gets resolved as quickly as possible, one way or another.
Q: Was the team aware?
Ferentz: As far as the charges, no. I am sure they didn't know that. The web stuff, I would imagine a lot of people were aware of it because it was a widespread concern.
Q: Were you aware at 7pm that night, that the charges they were going to file were felony?
Ferentz: Yes, I was told Class D felony.
Q: Are the rest of your players in the clear?
Ferentz: As far as I know, they are. We have been working on that this week, and we will continue. At this point, I think it will be handled internally. It has been addressed team wide and with several individuals, but not all. Basically, I think they knew better and I don't think they are real proud of some of the images I saw and I have not seen all of them.
Q: Are any more players facing legal issues?
Ferentz: I am not expecting that. But I can't answer that with total certainty.
Q: As it stands now, are Dominique and Anthony suspended indefinitely, and when will this be revisited?
Ferentz: I think right now, from my standpoint, and we have been involved seven days. Basically I have heard both players version of what has taken place and I have spoken with the investigating officer last Saturday. The bottom line is there is a big gap between the two stories. I want to be supportive of our players and plan to be, but I realize this is a serious charge, and there is a wide gap right now. The only intelligent thing to do is to let this thing run its course legally and let the experts make that call and we will move accordingly.
Q: Is there a date?
Ferentz: I have no idea. I am just hoping that its sooner rather than later for everyone's sake.
Q: Did you hear the player's side of all of this?
Ferentz: I spoke to the players independently, and I wanted to hear what both of them had to say and I spoke to the officer. There is a big gap between what information I was given from all parties. That is why we have a legal system.
Q: What is the gap?
Ferentz: I am not going to share everything that has been told to me. By saying there is a gap, they would contest what they are being charged with.
Q: Statistically, this crime gets pleaded down or eliminated quickly. If it becomes a misdemeanor, and the players have no past criminal record, will they be allowed back on the team?
Ferentz: That is all speculative to me at this point. We gathered information last week, I think we moved accordingly. I am aware of the article that you are referring to. I don't have much experience here and quite frankly, our whole time and effort has been concentrated on moving the team forward. We addressed the events during the week and used them as education opportunities, but we will have plenty of time to discuss possibilities.
Q: Has it been a distraction for the players?
Ferentz: I haven't asked the players. It has given us a great chance to continue to educate. Ironically, this was our scheduled meeting on Tuesday night with the Johnson County law enforcement. We have had plenty of other things to talk about. It has been a good process. As far as what players are doing in meetings and on the field, their attitude and focus has been good. Given the fact we are in our third week, and that is not always smooth sailing. I think we are moving along. Not to be callous, I will go back in terms regarding Anthony and Dominique; it's a serious charge and we are treating it as such, we will support them but the bottom line is that they are not with the team, they won;'t be in the near future. It's like an injured player, we have to prepare as if they will not be there. We have a game one week from now, and we have to pull together with whomever is ready for this season.
Q: What has been the bigger gap; the players versions individually, or the player's versions to the police report?
Ferentz: That's why we have the legal process. Every parent wants to believe his son. I feel that way about our players. At the same time, I realize that charges like this aren't filed out of mid air. I am going to stay removed from this thing outside of the fact that it's serious and we will let the process play out. It is speculative right now, to say how we will handle things.
Q: What was your first reaction?
Ferentz: Disappointment, clearly. But I am not going to say surprised. What was surprising to me was when I learned that on the average, we have 32,000 members on campus, of those sites. More surprising is that we have an average member checks the site six times a day. I would be happy as hell if they looked at their gameplan twice a day. But that is the world we live in. The next thought is that we have kids at home. Quite frankly, I haven't thought of that one. That is not my area of expertise. It's the world that we live in. I would be careful about being too judgmental. We live in a diverse society. If you are involved in a team activity like football, with 100+ people from different parts of the country, its one of the great things about sports. You learn to appreciate the diversity. If you have a good team, things pull together.
Gary Barta: If I could add, one of things for the last few years, as you asked about facebook or social networks. We try every year to work with our student athletes on issues we thing are relevant in the country. The last few years, that has been a focus of ours. We brought in people just to talk to the football team, I have brought in people to talk to coaches, the rest of the teams, because it is prevalent. To think that 32000 facebook or myspace accounts exist on this campus, and that is what is happening around the country. We will continue to educate and work with our student athletes.
Q: Can you ban athletes from having pages?
Barta: Can you, that would be a legal question. It has been tried at a few institutions and it didn't go over real well. Our approach is to explain to our student athletes how to act and hold them accountable. When they do something inappropriate, we deal with it on a case by case basis. At this point, the University has not said they will ban facebook as an institution, and we have not banned social networks accounts.
Ferentz: I have given that thought. We have one player on our team that is engaged to someone he met through this thing. That blows my mind. He is a tremendous young guy and that is a great thing. But I have had that thought. The other thing that I have learned, too. As we question some of the players, friends can tinker with their sites. A few of the pictures got on one of the players site because of their friends, which is scary. So I am fuzzy as to what good comes out of this, other than meeting a fiancé. Q: What about the images of the players with the cash?
Kirk Ferentz: I have said to the players, anytime they are in public, they have to be very conscience of what image, what message are you trying to send. To me, this is a public thing. I am all for individualism. I went through it growing up. I think its great to have independent thought, but when you are on a team, there is a responsibility. To me, this is a public venue, and I think players have to treat it with that respect. I asked a few players, how do you think your mom or dad would respond, how about your mentors in your life, would they be proud of those pictures. I haven't gotten any affirmative answers on that front. It's pretty basic stuff.
Q: Is there pressure on you, in the context as being fair to players, looking to see how you deal with this?
Ferentz: When you talk about discipline and things like this, there is no manual. You have to try to be fair. You can't be perfect 100% of the time. They key thing is to be fair to the individuals and everyone else and we have tried to do that. But there is no guidebook. We have a code of student conduct and our actions have fallen in the lines of that. Bottom line, it's like coaching; if you are fair with someone, and I think most of us in all walks of life can deal with fairness and honesty, but for us to try to predict how all of this will come out…it would be senseless.
Q: Did the Pierre Pierce issues of the past come to bear on how you have dealt at this?
Ferentz: I don't think any at all. It's separate. I don't pretend to be well versed in his case. I didn't know all the facts in that. I had my hands full with other things. The way things work is for Gary and I to discuss things, I get Gary's approval and he has been wonderful and President Mason has been involved as well. The communication has been great. We are going to weather this thing and get through it.
Q: How is depth at wide receiver?
Ferentz: It takes two people off the field. We started out with 10, and I think there was one day this week where we had maybe three that were unflawed at that point, someone not hurt. So we are thinner than we were. One player that won't be with us next week will be Paul Chaney, he suffered and injury over the weekend and he will miss at least a week, probably a couple. So we are thinner. But just like with an injury, when someone comes off the field, someone goes out and we have had a lot of great stories there. Our guys will rise to the challenge. Someone will step in.
Q: Is there more pressure on Jake Christensen now?
Ferentz: I don't look at it that way. We have some veterans out there. Moeaki, Brodell, our backs are capable. I am confident that whomever is out there, be it Cleveland, Stross, Sandeman, will do a nice job. Dominique was a great story last year, now maybe there is an opportunity for another one this year. That is how we are going to look at it. All any player has to do is to do his job. If they can do something on top of that great, but start with your job. Jake has to worry about playing quarterback, he will do fine.
Q: What is wrong with Chaney?
Ferentz: He has a toe sprain, there is a bit more involved, but it will be a couple of weeks.
Q: Will you now have staff members to look at facebook?
Barta:: The direct answer is no. It is all of our responsibility. Kirk talked about being a part of a team is to help each other. First of all, we can't legislate morality. We can tell people what we expect. When lapses of judgment occur, we deal with it individually. It would be impossible to keep looking at everyone's site. If we suspect something, we will look at their site. Just like if we suspect someone is doing something wrong outside the class or at a bar, we will check on it. But we don't have someone in a bar every night to make sure nothing wrong is going on. Q: Are there any clearinghouse issues?
Kirk Ferentz: I think we are all set there.
Q: Are you worried about the underage drinking images, and the reputation that might go along with it?
Ferentz: As I said earlier, anytime you go public, be it by choice or someone else taking a picture, there is an image that we want to portray and that is not the image we are looking for. If anything comes along at any time that we are concerned about, we will handle it. We typically handle things internally unless they are more serious. If a player is suspended, it becomes public. We try to address anything that comes along.
Q: How are things along the offensive line?
Ferentz: Where are we at on that?. Today, we practiced with Meade at center, but happy to say that Rafael will be back by Sunday or Tuesday of next week. Basically, we feel good about Olsen, Calloway and Eubanks. I think that the contention for the job inside, Vandevelde, Meade, Doering and Kuempal are the others guys. Bulaga has a bit of a shoulder injury, but we expect him back Sunday or Tuesday also. He has missed some time this last week. He is doing a nice job.
Q: Do you have Seth at right tackle to protect Jake's backside?
Ferentz: I have heard that thing about left handers. It's more about formations. It's more based on his experience out there. He has done a good job. Wes is in the equation, too. Seth can slide either way.
Q: When will Dace be back practicing?
Ferentz: Dace is the other guy. Paul Chaney is out, I think we may get Dace on the field doing football stuff next week. But basically, to think he could play next week is unrealistic. I am wondering about two weeks from now, because he has missed so much football during this camp. It's a matter of how long we can bring him along. The good news is that he has played, so we are not brining some guy along that has never played.
Q: What is Alex Kanellis' status?
Ferentz: Alex is actually has an appointment as we speak with someone at the hospital. We are still gathering information, and hopefully after today we will find out more. He wont be with us next week.
Q: What about Arvell Nelson and his arrest warrant last week for failure to show up for a court date?
Ferentz: In that case, I think he is a guy that is a young guy. I think he is a real good guy, he has made some poor decisions in terms of judgment. It's more negligence with him. We are working through that too. I think he will be fine. He needs to grow up, and he knows that.
Q: Is Sandeman ready to play
Ferentz: Yeah. I guess the good news is that we didn't know last week that he would have to be ready, but he was making some real improvements. He is natural out there. We are pleased with a lot of freshmen. We still have 12 guys in the picture. He was doing well with what we were feeding him, he kept taking it and he has had a good week this week. I think he will step in and do a fine job. You will definitely see him on the field a week from now.