Dec. 14, 2010
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Here's a message for all the weblogs, internet forums, wikis and podcasts: the state of the University of Iowa football program is in excellent hands and the UI athletic program remains one of the nation's most proactive in terms of drug-testing.
Gary Barta, UI director of athletics, and Kirk Ferentz, Hawkeye head football coach, met with nearly 50 media members Tuesday in the Hayden Fry Football Complex addressing the status of three football players that will not participate in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28.
Senior wide receiver/kick returner Derrell Johnson-Koulianos has been removed from the team following an arrest Tuesday, Dec. 7; sophomore running back Jewel Hampton, who is recovering from a second ACL repair, is transferring, and sophomore running back Adam Robinson, the team's leading rusher with 941 yards and 10 touchdowns, has been suspended for the postseason, but he is welcome to return to the team in January.
"A big thing we try to do is try to shape behaviors and sometimes try to change behaviors," Ferentz said. "Every student athlete that comes here comes from a different background. We have over 115 players on our roster typically. It's a wide slice of society when we put a team together. Players come with all kinds of backgrounds, habits academically, football-wise, socially. We certainly have expectations in our program and basically it's a process of the player adhering to what we look for and coming our way or not."
The transactions concerning Hampton and Robinson are unrelated to Johnson-Koulianos's arrest.
Never a fan of the internet or social media, Ferentz felt the need to clear the air with a press conference after reporters began calling parents of current Hawkeye players.
"That's really one of the reasons we got together today. I learned of some phone calls that were placed to some of our parents, some of the alarming content, just ridiculous questions they were asked. I'm not a huge fan of the social networks, but so much misinformation out there. I have no idea what's out there other than the feedback I got from maybe some parents; seemed like it was time to address this."
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
"That's really one of the reasons we got together today," Ferentz said. "I learned of some phone calls that were placed to some of our parents, some of the alarming content, just ridiculous questions they were asked. I'm not a huge fan of the social networks, but so much misinformation out there. I have no idea what's out there other than the feedback I got from maybe some parents; seemed like it was time to address this."
Neither Barta nor Ferentz expect any more changes to the football roster.
This season 92 Iowa football players have been drug-tested -- 65 in-house and 27 by outside sources. Iowa began its testing in 1988 and spends approximately $70,000 a year to maintain the program. Virtually every Hawkeye athlete -- in all 24 sports -- is tested every year by either the school, NCAA or the Big Ten Conference. The tests search for performance-enhancing and street drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. The UI also tests for alcohol. If a student-athlete refuses a test, they are declared positive and face the consequences set forth by the school's code of conduct.
Ferentz purposely increased the number of drug checks for his team this season. Because of increased hype of returning 25 seniors from an 11-win Orange Bowl championship team, Ferentz wanted to make sure the players stayed "hooked into reality" and kept their "feet on the ground."
"This past year we've been as proactive as anytime during my 12 years here for the main reason of all the expectations and all that stuff that started back in January," Ferentz said. "Anything that I felt was necessary to try to keep the players hooked into reality and keep their feet on the ground -- that was my aim. I've always felt fortunate that nobody has ever told me that we can't test. My rationale for testing is I certainly want to get out ahead of the game. I think anybody in coaching anywhere in this country, probably any team, if you're coaching college students, pro athletes, I'd venture to say high school athletes, too, if you don't think drug culture is part of those student bodies, both those levels, and the professional ranks, I think you're a little a little bit naïve."
For more than 20 years the UI has been ahead of most other Division I institutions with its stance on testing for illegal substances. That approach, Barta says, helps educate and deter the student-athletes and in some instances catch a problem before it becomes a bigger or legal issue.
"The goal of our drug testing on our campus is education, making sure that our student athletes are aware of the dangers, certainly deterrents," Barta said. "We'd like to have it in place so it would deter behavior, poor decision-making, but also then trying to get ahead of something."
Because of the recent arrest, the UI is examining its drug-testing procedures to assure that there are no flaws and all the "protocols are appropriate."
Although Ferentz fielded questions about Johnson-Koulianos, Hampton and Robinson, he stressed that the three cases are independent of each other. Hampton was suspended for the season-opener against Eastern Illinois because of a violation of team rules. Ferentz said the two sat down Sunday evening and came to a "mutual decision" that it was in Hampton's best interest to transfer. Robinson did not start the nationally televised game on Nov. 20 against Ohio State for academic reasons and missed two other games because of a concussion.
"We're pretty firm in what we want to do, how we conduct our business," Ferentz said. "Sometimes it's not comfortable for a player to stay with the program. I don't want to speak for Jewel, but talking in broad based terms, those are decisions players have to make.
"Adam Robinson is a good guy. He just has not been taking care of business the way I expect him to. It's a simple equation. He got to the point. He was approaching that point a couple weeks ago, as evidenced in the Ohio State game, him not participating at the front end. In my estimation, he wasn't learning fast enough from that point on. To the best of my knowledge, he'll be eligible for the game unless he fails to take his finals. I don't anticipate that. It's not a matter of eligibility. It's a matter of him following up the way I feel he should."