Howe: Don't Blame Ferentz for Misconduct

With a rash of off the field problems hitting the Iowa football team in recent months, many fans and outsiders are wondering if anyone is guiding the Hawkeye ship. Fingers are being pointed at Head Coach Kirk Ferentz. columnist Rob Howe explains why the blame is misdirected in this opinion piece available to all visitors of Hawkeye Nation.

Kirk Ferentz still looks pretty healthy for a man of 52, but this trying season certainly has taken its toll.

The Iowa coach usually has bags under his eyes and red lines in them, the result of long days and sometimes longer nights. This year, those signs of wear appear a bit more extreme.

Dana Brown's assault arrest last week became the 14th known of an Iowa player since April. Add that to a 3-5 overall record and a 1-4 mark in the Big Ten and you have a recipe for wrinkles on the head coach.

"We'll have to ramp up our efforts even more," Ferentz said on Tuesday. "That's my only answer. It's kind of like everybody is asking what we're going to do with the offense. We're going to work harder. We're going to work smarter, work harder. We'll do the same thing (with off-field conduct)."

Really, that's all Ferentz can do. He and his assistants can't hold the hands over 100 players 24/7. These guys need to be responsible.

"Ever since I got here, you had to make sure you were doing the right things," fifth-year senior Mike Humpal said. "One person can't make the decision for another person. You hope that if you're making the right decision, people see that and follow."

It seems like a fair approach to me. Getting in the face of a teammate heading for trouble probably won't be the deciding factor if someone is about to use the idiot card.

I know what some of you are thinking. Ferentz makes a lot of money to see to it that these things don't happen during his watch. I agree to an extent in that he's the ultimate fall guy if these things continue just like it's his head on the chopping block if the team doesn't return to its winning ways.

Ferentz has tightened the screws. He imposed an earlier curfew. He removed fifth-year senior Clint Huntrods from the team earlier this season after his being charged with the suspicion of interference with official acts, public intoxication and urination in public at 2:25 a.m. Sept. 6.

Brown was booted last week shortly after being arrested for allegedly slamming his live-in girlfriend to the ground, punching her in the stomach and shutting her leg in a door last Tuesday night. Earlier that day, Ferentz again took time out during a team meeting to address off of the field conduct. Perhaps Brown was daydreaming.

Brown also had been convicted twice since May for fifth-degree theft. Ferentz only was aware of one of those.

"Sometimes people don't learn the way they need to learn," Ferentz said. "That's frustrating. Things happen in college athletics. They happen with the student body. It's part of life. It's like a turnover. You don't want to accept it. You want to try to coach against it. That's what we're going to continue to do."

Ferentz went through a rash of misconduct with his players early in his tenure as Iowa's head coach. From the start of the '01 season to April of '03, at least 14 scholarship players were cited for unlawful activity. I know because I'm retrieving the information from a story I did while working at the Iowa City Press-Citizen at the time.

Bob Sanders (you might have heard of him), Matt Roth (him, too), C.J. Jones and Derreck Robinson were among those arrested. Jones missed the 2001 Alamo Bowl because of it. They all went on to become productive members of the team and later on in life.

That's where I think it's a mistake to blame these infractions on recruiting the "wrong guys or bad guys."

"The coaches have been the same from my first day here. I'm sure they'll be the same way up until the very last day," Humpal said. "The guys coming in have all been good quality, good character guys. Wins and losses have changed, somewhat, but the people haven't changed."

It's also virtually impossible to predict how a kid is going to act once he gets on campus. He and those people around him are going to tell the coach everything he wants to hear during the recruiting process to make him sound like Ward Clever. Sometimes you end up with Eddie Haskell.

"You know, I've said this before, in the NFL they spend millions of dollars researching players that they're going to potentially recruit. They still make mistakes," Ferentz said. "It's really a crapshoot in recruiting, judging talent or all the other things."

Ferentz was asked on Tuesday if he thought that these things are cyclical.

"I'm hoping that's the case. I don't know," he said. "I just speak from my experience. In 2001, we had an awful year. This one certainly rivals that one. Although we have a couple cases that are still pending, no judgment has been made on two of them, keep that in mind. That aside, we still have had more to deal with than we'd actually care to. One is too many, but it's naive to think you're not going to have something."

The two pending cases drew the most focus. Dominique Douglas and Anthony Bowman were charged with illegal use of a credit card in August. They've both pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. They've been convicted in the court of public opinion but not in a court of law.

Those guys also were caught up in a public relations backlash when photos on social network showing them holding liquor bottles and money made the rounds at around the same time of their arrests.

Critics attempted attaching the images to Douglas and Bowman as evidence of guilt. It seemed like some folks were blaming it on culture. Both players are from Detroit.

"Fred Russell's from Detroit, and he was a model (citizen)," Ferentz said. "He came in, like a lot of young guys, missed a study hall, did some things. I think that's an unfair thing, Jerome Bettis is from there, he's an awesome guy."

The reason for these off of the field problems doesn't rest in the area from which they are recruited. It's not because the coaches are bringing in bad dudes.

These issues have popped up at Florida and Texas recently and Urban Meyer and Mack Brown don't need to recruit questionable characters just to win. Ferentz is at least as honorable as those two guys and wouldn't sell his soul for victory.

This is just as bad cycle right now. It shouldn't be ignored and isn't. It will calm down, but that's not to say another series isn't waiting down the road. Odds are good that it is.

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