Iowa Media Day: Kirk on the Side

After his main press conference to kick off Iowa Football Media Day, Kirk Ferentz spent another 20 minutes speaking with reporters afterward, touching on several topics not covered in the main presser. Read what Ferentz had to say about off-the-field issues, Shonn Greene's weight, the status of Marcus Wilson, and more in this premium transcript.

Q: Shonn Green's not available today?

Kirk Ferentz: I want to hold he and Spievey until the 16th, mainly because they haven't done anything. They've had one practice, I'll give them credit for that but neither guy's gone to a class yet, done anything significant, let's let them get their feet on the ground. Then on the 16th, you can have them for as long as you want, as long as they're still here, which I hope they are (chuckle.) I think they will be, but I'd rather let them get settled and do something first.

Q: The true freshmen, we talked to them last year.

Ferentz: I might open them up on the 16th, the true ones, the ones that just came in. I still have a bit of scar tissue from that Iowa State question. I can't remember who asked it. Leading a witness the week before Iowa State, I'm still a little…. Julian Vandervelde, nicest guy on our team… We'll let these guys get seasoned a bit.

Q: What's the latest on Marcus Wilson?

Ferentz: All I can tell you is that I know he's working on his summer school now, which I think should be completed. As I understand it, he's admitted to school, that part's OK. He's got eligibility issues, on grade-point I believe. I'm not sure when those will get resolved. If he can get those resolved, we'll welcome him back on the team. It won't be in camp, we're moving on right now, we're only allowed 105 spots. He has not trained with our guys, he hasn't been in the summer program like the other guys, so it's just way too many variables, but whenever he can get them resolved, I know he's working real hard. We'd love to have him back, but realistically we need to be focused on moving forward with the group that's been here.

Q: For Shonn to have done what he did, play two years, then ran into academic problems, and then he worked his butt off to come back, and he's eligible, what does that say?

Ferentz: He's always been a delightful guy. He's always had good work ethic, a good attitude, I'm pleased, obviously. None of us were happy about him being dismissed academically. He fell asleep at the switch on that one, but it says a lot that he's committed himself to get back, he's worked hard. He's in good shape. Going back to him covering kickoffs, that's when people started noticing who Shonn Greene was. He's been a guy who everyone in the program's liked. He's got a good attitude, he's an older guy who's got some hardness to him that veteran players have. That'll be a real nice contribution to make to our football team, not just our offense, our football team. We're excited about that, I don't think there was a more important recruit that we could have gotten last week than Shonn Greene. It would be tough to recruit a guy like him.

Q: How much contact did you have with him?

Ferentz: Really not much. He worked with our academic counselors, making sure he had the right courses and was on the right path. Shonn didn't come around much, maybe he doesn't like us, he didn't come around a lot. In and out every now and again, but really he was a ghost. He was in town, working, all that stuff. Until you know he's really going to get back, I don't mind telling you, I was a little worried about it. We got good news in June.

Q: How's his weight?

Ferentz: Good, he's about 228, it really looks good. I did see him in the spring, he was a little heavy in the spring.

Q: How heavy?

Ferentz: I didn't work at a carnival, I'd fail on that one.

Q: Guess.

Ferentz: Coach Fry could nail it, within ounces he would have nailed it. (pause) He wasn't in nose-guard territory, but he would have been a big linebacker. Fortunately, he looks like Shonn Greene. You'll recognize him. He looks like a running back.

Q: What does it mean for a guy to be away from football that long?

Ferentz: I'm not really worried. If he was in bad shape, then I'd be worried, but he was able to join the team in the summer, midway through June. All the feedback was positive. If he was way out of shape, something like that, I'd be worried. It takes time to get guys in shape and you can't…. it's like a lot of things, you need time. We're not talking about a reclamation project, I had that thought in my mind at one point. When I saw him in the spring, I was a little concerned about that.

Q: What have the last six months been like, for you, dealing with the off-the-field issues?

Ferentz: It's no fun at all. Basically I have two thoughts. We've opened the door. When you open the door, people are going to step in on it. The only regrets, I'm not crying, but some of the coverage has really been unfair. That part I have an issue with, but I'm a big boy, I'm an adult. When you open the door like we have, that's part of the territory. It really doesn't do a lot of good to burn too much energy on it. It's not fun, it's part of the job, unfortunately. Hopefully it won't be a big part of my job for the years to come.

Q: What's been unfair?

Ferentz: You know… Can I pass some kudos out? I did talk about some things in Chicago. One was the term "arrest." I noticed the coverage out of Chicago, no one used that word, I appreciate that. It's easy to use that word, but we've had some arrests, and that's troubling to me, and grouping, lumping, etc. Broad-brush treatment. I made reference in Chicago to a radio show where at one point it was 15-20, at the end of the 4 or 5 minute session, the host was using the term 20. It's easy to throw those terms out. The other thing, it doesn't make it right or wrong, but I think if you look at the way we've treated the things we have had to deal with, I'll put our method up against anyone in the country. I follow this stuff pretty closely, what goes on in other regions, even some teams we play, I think we handled things the way we were comfortable with. I think Gary and I are on the same page with President Mason. We haven't fooled around, we've been pretty firm. Given our last however-many months it's been the ante's going to go up, too. That's the way it goes, our players know that and embrace that, it's the way it goes. We can't ignore our past, our past is our past. Somehow, we've got to get it corrected, we'll do that. I read a couple in the last week, last seven days, where it just makes me wonder. I'll let that go.

Q: Are you at all worried that an investigation into an investigation could become a distraction to this team?

Ferentz: If we allow it to be. I'm talking about our team now, if we allow it to be a distraction, then it will be. This has been in the news about every other day. I can't imagine there's ever been a story covered any more in the history of this state. I mean that in all seriousness, and I've been living here for 18 years. That's a fact, that's just my opinion, but that's a fact. It's received enormous coverage. Chances are it's going to continue to be covered. We're dealing with two things. We're dealing with the incident, and the procedural issues. I addressed both of those 10 days ago. Chances are it's going to continue to be in the news. Our players read the news, hear the news. If we allow it to be a distraction, fine. I think we're moving forward.

Q: Can you ban your players from reading the papers?

Ferentz: You could try, but that'd be senseless. I'd prefer to say, "Hey, we're talking about it." You talk about a great learning example for any young person.

Q: Are you doing anything differently in talking to your players this season?

Ferentz: That started months ago. We've got a couple veteran coaches on this staff that have been other players. I'm thinking two in particular, they've commented that they haven't been a place where we've addressed it as much as. You look around the country, there's bad things happening everywhere, college-aged students and adults too. That doesn't make it right, these guys have be acutely aware of where they live, the environment that's here, the temptations, any college student has a chance to make bad decisions. It's a different place than most are used to. It's a different time than it was 20 years ago. At the end of the day, our best answer is what we can do to be more proactive with the guys that are here. I don't' think we can change our recruiting process a lot, it's been thorough, but nothing's 100% there, so the other way to approach is what we can better do once the players are on campus. That's what we're trying to do now, find smarter ways to approach this thing.

Q: How soon do you guys feel like you'll have a life skills coach?

Ferentz: Soon, hopefully. Things don't usually happen fast in a university environment, I don't' know if you've noticed that. We're working forward, but we'll get there.

Q: Have you been re-interviewed with the new investigation taking over?

Ferentz: Not yet, but I will be.

Q: Is it your opinion that the media coverage has been overblown?

Ferentz: I didn't say that. I said "some." I said some coverage has been unfair. A very small percentage. After that, I'll let everyone draw their own conclusions. I'll start by saying what I said initially. We've opened the door, so I'm not going to sit here and cry about it. Things have happened over the last year and a half. As I said in Chicago, most of the things, allegations or things that did happen, they were things players knew in 4th and 5th grade that things were wrong. I'll let you draw your own conclusions after that. It's not an easy subject, not an easy topic. It's part of the territory.

Q: Do you feel like your players are being pinpointed by local police?

Ferentz: I've never felt that way, no. Let me qualify that. Coming in, 9 years ago, that was suggested to me, and after being here for a short period, I think most of the things, I'm going back 9.5 years now, most of the things that have happened, PAULAs and things of that nature, usually there's a reason. If you like a …. If you act improperly, there's a chance you're going to get caught. There's a lot of people that don't' get caught, but there's a good chance you may. If you take that risk, you put yourself at risk. I don't think anybody's been pinpointed at all, but then again, I coached at the University of Pittsburgh in 1980, and there's a big difference between a college town and an urban campus, and life in the 80s is a lot different than it is now. We have to better educate our players to that.

Q: You've never said publicly what your curfew is…

Ferentz: I'm not going to do that.

Q: …or what places you've made off limits.

Ferentz: I don't think we have anything off limits right now, but we'll have a curfew again. It's just common sense. It's usually involving younger players, and typically, it happens at certain hours on certain nights of the week. You could ask any police officer for that information, they'd give it to you. Anywhere, not just in Iowa City. There are certain regions, geographically around here. If you're in the ped mall late hours on the weekend, there's a lot of crazy stuff that happens down there. I think it's a good idea that our guys clear out, that's what we're going to encourage them to do.

Q: Have you discussed any living arrangement situation, changes, alterations?

Ferentz: I'm not sure what we can do, actually. In the 80s we had athletic dorms, but that stuff's all been legislated out. I'm almost leaning to the point, a year ago, I'm trying to give our guys younger guys incentives to move off campus. I used to have a flat rule, you have to live here X amount of time. I'm giving them incentives to move off, demonstrate maturity, get them off campus sooner. I lived in a dorm four years, and I saw a lot of wild things. Of course, that was the 90s. (Laughs)

Q: You remember them at least…

Ferentz: I wasn't part of them, I witnessed them. I don't know that things have changed. College campuses, another common denominator is alcohol issues. Every campus in America is facing the same battle. It's all common sense stuff. How do you better educate?

Q: Can you mandate your kids not to drink, even the 21-year-olds?

Ferentz: You can. It's like anything else, you mandate anything, but kids---

Q: Can they drink during the season?

Ferentz: We don't have rules on game days, I'll say that. Post-games. We have rules during the week, certainly.

Q: Who controls where you guys live within the dorms right now?

Ferentz: That's pretty much by the university. There's formal stuff that the NCAA has, in terms of what percentage of athletes can live on a certain floor. We discussed, is it better to have them bunched or spread, I've heard conflicting reports, it depends on who's opinion you get there.

Q: The university pairs them up?

Ferentz: We determine roommates, but as far as how they get spaced, there are NCAA rules on that.

Q: Is Riley Reiff practicing?

Ferentz: He is.

Q: Do you think that all the arrests in the off-season would be as big of a deal had you won more this past season?

Ferentz: I'm not going to address that one. Probably not, and that's a sad commentary on college football. I will answer it I guess, I've got an opinion. Probably not, and that's a sad commentary on sports. It's a reality, you can study that one too. Hey, none of us are running from the facts. None of us are running from the facts. Again, I go back to coverage. Sometimes, some of the coverage hasn't been based on factual evidence. That's unfortunate, but that's life, that's sports. Politics is a lot worse.

Q: (a question on if something has changed with the reporting of athletic legal troubles)

Ferentz: I think a lot of things have changed, certainly our society's changed. OWI or DUI, those weren't a big deal in the 80s, you rarely heard about them, yet there was plenty of drinking and driving, I'd venture to say a lot more than there is now. Now, it's just not socially acceptable. People are making it more socially aware, making it an awareness issue. It's totally different than it was 20 years ago. Certainly the internet, all that, there aren't many secrets anymore. There have always been issues, and there always will be issues on college campuses. I'm talking about all students, not just athletes. What can do you to better educate, hit it head on? You can make all the rules you want, but the idea is to get people to understand why it's a bad idea. That's the endgame. If you can get to that point, then you're in business. It's a tough challenge.

Q: Did your staff have to… I hate to use the word babysit, but go knock on doors more than you would have?

Ferentz: If we get to that point, that'll be the day I get out. What are you teaching anybody? Our job is to educate, that's what we're going to continue to try and do. I'm not saying we won't knock on a door, at times, or do class checks, but we've never walked people to class, done that stuff. If a young person doesn't have enough motivation to do things the right way, they're not going to last long anyway. Our job is to try to teach and get to their minds a little bit.

Q: Have you ever felt through this whole process that your job is in jeopardy?

Ferentz: No. Pretty simple answer there.

Q: Do you have finalists for the life skills coach? What's holding it up?

Ferentz: Things take a long time. Hiring people is a challenge. It's a challenge. Because of procedures?

Q: Do you have people in mind?

Ferentz: We have a real healthy selection available to us, we've just got to go through the steps. I don't really understand all the steps, I'm a little slow in that department.


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