Welcome to Spring: Kirk on the Side

On Wednesday, after his main press conference, Kirk Ferentz spoke with the media at length about a number of issues, including player accountability, a possible new position, a few player notes and much more. Read what he had to say in this premium transcript.

Q: When you evaluate the performance you got last year, from your leadership group…

Kirk Ferentz: Ironically, as I said all during the season, I thought our attitude was good as a football team. I thought our leadership was good on the team, I thought the committee did a good job, and I thought the team overall had good leadership, we enjoyed that. It's got to extend beyond football, certainly. Other guys looking out for other guys, that's part of the equation. A lot of the instances that we're looking at, to me a lot of it just gets back to individuals who already know what's right and wrong using better judgment, doing the right thing. Believe me, I think about this daily. It's been a long haul, longer than I'd like to remember, maybe. The more you bandy it around, think about it, it just gets down to guys doing the right thing on a continual basis, realizing it is important. As I said before, we've had players that have had problems. We haven't had a lot, but we've had them. They've worked hard to address them. The guys that have conquered problems have wanted to get it done. The other aspect is that it might be a guy just doesn't care enough, or he doesn't get it. Either of those two scenarios aren't good, it's hard to work with guys that don't get it or don't care enough. It's the same thing as a football player. If it's not important enough to you, it's going to be hard to be good.

Q: Do you sense a different culture than when you arrived in the 80s?

Ferentz: Yes and no. When I came here, I know there was a rash of problems. I came in curious about maybe our guys getting picked on. If you're a student athlete in Iowa City, it's a chance your visibility is going to be higher than someone else's. After being here those first couple years, I was convinced it was more about players bringing attention to themselves when there was a problem, I still feel that way. I think things have obviously changed nationally. You can't read the paper without hearing about a college or pro athlete, I'm just talking football, getting into some kind of trouble. The visibility's higher nationally right now. I don't think anybody's being singled out. If the police show up at your room at 2:30 in the morning, there's probably a reason for that. The judgment, we all know the world we live in. DUI laws from 25 years ago, it's a totally different world, nationally. Things have changed, but not in an unreasonable fashion. I'm not blaming it on anything else.

Q: Of the 14, whatever it is, what was the most glaring, to you? The biggest?

Ferentz: I don't want to pick out one specific, but the conclusion I came to in February, is if you're dealing with repeat circumstances, that's hard to understand. To me, it's either a problem, or they just don't' care.

Q: The most recent one, the drugs in the room, that kind of set off my alarm at least.

Ferentz: Anytime you deal with drugs, assaults, there are no good crimes. Just for the record, I'm not trying that case by any stretch of the imagination, but any of those things, there aren't any good alternatives here. Flipping it around, you expect PAULAs to take place, a lot of citations every year, every weekend. Public intox, every weekend. Once you get beyond those, I'm not condoning those, once you get beyond those things, it's a bit hard to understand.

Q: Going back to the picture of these four guys, a lot of the trouble from those guys. Now that they're gone, do you expect trouble to go down?

Ferentz: (Pause) I don't want to be naïve enough to prognosticate, but I would say the culture that gets established somewhere is extremely important. I think we reestablished the culture the way we wanted it to. I think it turned somewhere in the summer of 2002. . I think it's probably fair to say we're in a similar circumstance. At some given point, the culture has to change. At some given point, I hope we can look back and say the line of demarcation is here. I hope we're looking backward, not forward at the end of the day. If it doesn't, we're not going to be successful. It's not going to be acceptable.

Q: You say you think about it daily. It's got to take away from football.

Ferentz: All these things impact us in so many ways, whether you want to talk about time, energy, players not being there. Obliviously last year, our leading receiver from the 2006 season wasn't on the field, then you couple that with two quality players there were hurt, obviously the damage was done. Injuries were part, you understand injuries, that's part of the game, unfortunately. You have to deal with that. Anything outside of that, it's not good. Equally as important is just our public image, it's important. It's a privilege to be a college student athlete. With that come responsibility. That's part of the deal.

Q: Player development director, what's that?

Ferentz: That's a position we're looking to create. I'm hoping it's going to be a life-skills mentor, for lack of a better term. A person who helps pull ideas together, I think we have endless resources in our community, former players, community members, state members that would be helpful in mentoring our players, someone to help coordinate that. We've got a lot of ideas we're still banging around. We'll pull that together. I want to get a person that can help coordinate that.

Q: A dean of discipline

Ferentz: I'm thinking more proactive rather than reactionary. It's going to be proactive. The focus point, I think, will be on our first-year players. Also second-year. The thing I go back to, I think we do a good job of our guys in camp. Once we break camp, there's a lot going on, we're going right into season. We're unlike some other sports where you have a couple months to buffer. The coaching staff's set on that first opponent, the team's focused on that, and I think some of the younger players might get lost in the cracks a bit. The more we can do to be proactive with first year players during that first semester, base that on how they're going to make choices, remind them of those things. We do it in camp, we do it after practice. I'm thinking more in-depth and more individual time with our players.

Q: Like an FCA thing?

Ferentz: We're a public institution. It won't be so much faith-based, but it's more a person who's going to supplement our academic counselors. Their time is a bit limited at times. We'll have to work with that part of the equation. Life skills, organizing time, what kinds of choices, dilemmas do you face? Every college student faces that when you go off to college., I know I did. A structured way to help better-educate the guys, get them assimilated, orient them to being successful in college, hopefully avoid making some bad decisions.

Q: Someone that's outside the building now?

Ferentz: Gary and I have had discussion, we're talking abo9tu creating a position. It's something we're looking into creating as a new spot.

Q: Would it be someone with a football background?

Ferentz: In a perfect world. I've got a lot of ideas, we'll have to zero-in a little edit, someone who understands what student athletes go through, understands college environments, college towns, etc. Some of the choices and decisions they're going to make.

Q: Last year, Rob Bruggeman got put in during the last game to see what he could do, what does he bring?

Ferentz: Prior to his injury, he was right in the thick of things. Rob hadn't started near as much as Dace, but Rob's an older guy. To me, he's a guy right in the thick of competition at the guard or center spot, a veteran guy, extremely smart, extremely hard working. It would have been interesting to see if he'd been with us full-speed last year going into camp. I think we have a lot of dead heats going on in that group. That's a good thing.

Q: He was one of the stronger guys?

Ferentz: He's real strong, physically. Extremely smart.

Q: (Bryan Bulaga) has tackle dimensions. Was that move wanting to see him there?

Ferentz: We wanted to take a look at it. I think Seth is pretty comfortable both ways. We looked at Bryan at tackle in those two days of bowl practice prior to finding out we weren't going anywhere. It was something we wanted to look at . He looked really good out there, we wanted to see our flexibility out there, keep our options open.

Q: It doesn't matter in spring, but do you want to see some ownership of positions?

Ferentz: If it happens, great. If it doesn't, for the right reasons, that's great too. For the wrong reasons, that's not so good. I'm confident we'll have some good competition.

Q: Can you guys get back to anywhere close to what the 2002 line did?

Ferentz: Time will tell. We're not as veteran as that group, maybe. Flipping that around, in these last couple of years, Bruce nelson wouldn't have been a four-year starter. Bruce was thrown in there by necessity, last-man-standing, those deals. That's how he ended up being a 4-year starter. It just remains to be seen. We've got a lot of work to do. That was a real talented group, 3 of those guys with the great physical skills. At the end of the day, I think it can be a very good offensive line, but we have to make every day count.

Q: In 2002, not taking anything from the skill players, but how much of that is the offensive line?

Ferentz: If you can get some things done up front, I think that opens other areas up for you. It gives your skill guys a chance to operate a little more efficiently. It all goes together, but I think if you can have that strength and experience up front, it affords you the ability to get some things you might not necessarily get done. It started happening in 2001, and hopefully we're somewhere in that area and moving in the right direction.

Q: What would you say to those who would question if you've taken more chances on recruiting lately?

Ferentz: It's always easy to look backwards. I'm not sure that is fair. People can have their opinions, I'd offer up that there have been several guys that we've opted to not recruit, those decisions proved to be smart, I guess. It's recruiting. I'll never forget when Phil Savage left, he was in for the MSU game, he was in scouting that week. He said, "I don't know how you can offer a scholarship. We have so much information, you have so little." It's a little bit of a crap shoot. You do all you can to get the information, but people aren't always forthcoming with information. You never know how a young man's going to react once you get to campus. The first time away from home, there are a lot of variables. To answer your question, I'm not sure we're doing things a lot differently than we ever have. We'll continue to look at and examine that, you try to make good decisions, but there are some variables at play.

Q: Albert was very outspoken a month and a half ago saying a number of things, but one of them was that sometimes he has seen guys come to campus and as soon as they sign the national LOI, turn into real problems. Is that accurate?

Ferentz: It can happen. I can't comment particularly about anybody. I think it gets back to the culture that you establish or don't establish. We were able to get it turned in 2002. I think that's the challenge right now, getting everybody to buy in that it is important, looking beyond themselves. It's like anything else, you have to realize that your decisions, what you're doing on the field as a football player, how you approach that, as a student, or as a citizen. They all go back to the team, all 3 impact our team. It doesn't do any good to have a good player who's a good guy who flunks out. It doesn't do any good to have a great football player who doesn't handle themselves appropriately. It doesn't do any good to have a great student who's a model citizen who doesn't work hard at football. All 3 of those things have to go together. I think there's two things, it's our job to educate our players and there's accountability that goes with being on the team. All those have to go together.

Q: Do college athletes need mentoring by peers?

Ferentz: That's part of being o0n a team. If you see somebody doing something stupid, hopefully you can address that with that person.

Q: Is there enough of that going on with this team?

Ferentz: I'd say no. Based on what's happened. That' part of the thing. Guys have to look out for each other. If you see somebody's going to do something stupid, somebody's got to be not afraid to step in and say, "That's not right, that's not going to cut it." That's part of accountability, I think. It's not easy. You understand, you expect some of those things with younger players that don't get it yet. That's our job, to make sure they're getting it a little quicker. Everything you do impacts everything else. You've got to see the world bigger than you. This is not a me, me deal, it's bigger than you.

Q: The position you're creating, do you know of any other schools that have done that?

Ferentz: I'm sure there are.

Q: Kind of like Iowa State?

Ferentz: I don't' really look at their deal, but I know NFL teams have done it. There are a lot of parallels between guys who are young players in the NFL versus guys that go to college. Probably the biggest difference is that our guys don't have money or near as much time, our players face some of the same challenges.

Q: Is it beyond fixing itself?

Ferentz: No, I don't. Hiring a person or creating a position isn't going to be the end. It goes back to accountability, understanding what's expected of you and being accountable. I'm hoping that we've turned the corner. All I can say is that we hope we can look backward for that line of demarcation. That's in our hands, nobody can come in and help us with that, we've got to get it done.

Q: How much did that peer pressure change the situation in 2002? Were they policing guys?

Ferentz: The more guys that get it, the more that happens, the less goes the other direction. For whatever reason, we've regressed a little bit in that area. We've done OK. There's a couple other programs in contention with us right now. Not the poll you want to be involved in. It's not unique, necessarily, to us. That doesn't make it OK either. I'm guessing, I haven't talked to coaches, but I guess they'd say the same thing. These guys knew better, made dumb decisions.

Q: Is there a hands-on factor that's missing or needs to be there? I don't want to say as far as babysitting….

Ferentz: The position, if we create this position, we're not talking about someone who's going to be going downtown, that's not the idea. The idea, to me, if we do it right it's more about education and 1-on-1 interaction with people. I still think that's the essence of coaching, I think it's the essence of everything. If you're doing it at the front end, if you're proactive, if you're doing what you can to educate and work with people, it's going to work. That's what happens in football, it happens in any sport. I don't' think it's a lot different in this regard, probably the same thing academically. I think maybe we can provide more structure and more opportunity for 1 on 1 feedback, discussion, etc. We're all fighting the same battles, the lack of time, trying to work with your football team that's on campus, recruit the next team, and educate the guys, particularly the younger players. There's a lot of things going on. The fact that we leave camp and go right into a season… maybe we can bridge that gap a little bit, get more 1 on 1 interaction with the younger players.

Q: Most of the transgressions have been made by the younger guys who are, if I'm not mistaken, living in the dorms. Are the older guys around the younger guys enough, outside of the complex?

Ferentz: That may be part of the discussion. I would just volunteer this. There are a lot of other students living the dorm, athletes and non-athletes who I haven't been reading about. To pin it on that, in the old days, we had everyone in there. Maybe it would be, maybe it's a thought. The whole team would go on strike if that happened, putting them in there. I don't think that's the crux of the problem, I think we'll just get back to education and accepting responsibility.

Q: What was Anthony Bowman's reason for doing an about-face?

Ferentz: I don't' know if there was a specific reason, but I think he feels it's better if he goes somewhere else.

Q: Do you know where he's going?

Ferentz: No.

Q: How did pro day go, any highlights?

Ferentz: I think the guys did well, I know Albert ran well, Humpal ran well. Charles had a good combine, followed with the same thing. Both the defensive ends. I didn't get a lot of feedback, but I think it was a good day.

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