By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The Iowa football program has struggled, it seems fair to say, from a public relations standpoint ever since accusations of racial disparities surfaced in early June.
From the moment former Iowa center James Daniels said on Twitter on June 3rd that there were racial disparities within the Iowa football culture, the program has been placed under a microscope, and much of what has been revealed hasn’t looked good.
Multiple former black players have said they were mistreated and most of the accusations and complaints were about Chris Doyle, who has since lost his job as the highest paid strength and conditioning coach in the country as a result.
Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz also has been accused of verbally abusing players, while his father, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, has been accused of allowing it to happen under his watch.
This is all old news, but it should help explain why the Iowa football assistant coaches would have scored a huge public relations victory if they all had turned down their annual pay raises for fiscal year 2021, or at least had the raises delayed due to the troubling circumstances.
Each of Iowa’s 10 on-field assistant coaches already had his salary cut by 10% as part of cost-saving measures to help offset the anticipated budget shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
So it’s not that they haven’t sacrificed because they have, along with anyone else in the athletic department earning $200,000 or more.
The 10 on-field coaches already are giving up $527,000 of their combined salaries as reported by the Des Moines Register on Wednesday.
But why didn’t the coaches take it a step further and just turn down what was left of their raises?
The pay raises are business as usual, but these times hardly are business as usual.
The salaries of Iowa’s 10 on-field coaches for fiscal year 2020 ranged from defensive coordinator Phil Parker at $800,000 to running back coach Derrick Foster at $250,000.
The annual raises for fiscal year 2021 are so small after the 10% salary cuts that it would not have been a huge sacrifice for the assistant coaches to have turned down what was left of their raises.
It would have sent a positive message that far outweighed any financial boost or benefit from a raise.
And while it’s true that the Iowa football program has been self-sustaining since 2007, it still doesn’t look good from an optics standpoint for the assistant coaches to have received any kind of pay raise just days after Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta announced that four sports would be cut.
These are tough and scary times for college athletic programs, and it’s uncertain how and when the suffering will end.
The Big Ten fall football season has been canceled due to health concerns and the challenge now is to limit the financial damage and to get back on the field as quickly and as safely as possible.
The Iowa assistant coaches shouldn’t be criticized for accepting their pay raises because it’s part of their contract, and because they earned it with Iowa finishing 10-3 last season.
That isn’t the purpose of this column.
The intent is to show that the Iowa coaches had a chance to earn a public relations victory by making what would have been small sacrifices in each case.
But that’s also easy to say when it’s not your money.
So again, this isn’t meant as criticism.
And it’s worth noting that Kirk Ferentz has been very generous with his money, giving a substantial amount to charity over the years.
It just seems that the Iowa assistant football coaches missed a chance to send a powerful message of hope and unity.
It wouldn’t have changed what already has happened with the cutting of four sports. But it would have been a good and decent thing to do under difficult circumstances.