Ferentz, Barta Talk Football
Dec. 14, 2010
THE MODERATOR: We have athletic director Gary Barta and head coach Kirk Ferentz.
Starting last week we went back and looked at all those protocols. We've been drug testing since 1988, I think. I'll talk a little bit more about that.
Before we do that, I wanted to give you an update on some of our student athletes. I would only say that as Kirk gives the update on status, as you can imagine, we're not going to be able to go into great detail about every student athlete. I would caution all of us to understand that every situation is unique. Assuming that they're all lumped together, I understand the tendency, but every situation is unique and we've approached it that way.
I'll pass it over to Kirk.
COACH FERENTZ: I'll comment on the two players we released yesterday, update on that.
Basically in a nutshell we had a player who has decided to transfer. Got another player that will not be accompanying the team to the bowl site or practicing this weekend. So he's been suspended basically throughout the next period until we start classes. It will be his choice to rejoin the team or not at that point.
One thing I would point to in both players' instances, one player went through a suspension. Jewel had a suspension first game of the year, dating back to a public incident in June. Adam, as you know, did not start the Ohio State game. And as I said after that game, it was academically related.
The only comment I would make, big part of coaching, big thing we try to do is try to shape behaviors and sometimes try to change behaviors. Every student athlete that comes here comes from a different background typically. 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. That's a player's choice; sometimes it's a coach's choice. In both of those instances, I think that's really what we're looking at. That's about it right there.
Shifting back to a week ago, we had an arrest, a player arrested. Certainly that was disappointing news to all of us. Just to tie that in, that was drug related obviously. The only thing I'd care to say right now about that and will elaborate later on, I think one of the things, if you do your homework, we've been very proactive with drug testing. I feel fortunate coaching at Iowa. I've never had anybody tell me that we don't have a budget to do it. We've been extremely proactive. 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.
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 obviously. 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.
My rationale has been to get out ahead and my goal is to always find out about a player that has issues ahead of the game. That's pretty much our rationale for that. We've been very, very proactive this year alone. I think we've had 92 football athletes tested this fall; 27 by outside bodies and 65 by in house procedure. I'd venture to say that's probably as high a number as you'd find in the country. The rationale is to try to stay out ahead of things.
That being said, I'll turn it back to Gary.
GARY BARTA: Following up to a week ago when we had a student athlete arrested, obviously that was of great concern. One of the things you always do when something comes up is you look back and say, Could we have avoided it? What else could we have done? What are we doing? Going through everything, interviewing student athletes, trying to get as full a picture as we can, if there is any more to the picture.
As part of that process, I know I did receive some inquiries on: What does Iowa do in terms of drug testing? So what I thought I would do is give you some background. I also have here, I'm looking around the audience, somewhere here is Dr. Del Miller. Del is a psychiatrist at the University of Iowa. He has worked with us in the past on evaluating drug tests and more recently we've hired him as an outside consultant to manage our drug testing program.
Let me go back and give you some context.
As Kirk mentioned in his comments, there's multiple levels of testing. The NCAA tests. They generally test on campus. They generally come here once or twice a year, and all campuses, then they test at every championship site or most championship sites. That's one level of testing.
The second level of testing comes through the Big Ten Conference. A few years back as athletic directors we agreed and gave the Big Ten the ability to go and start testing our student athletes on our campuses. So that's the second level.
Finally the third level, I mentioned it began in 1988. We are not mandated by the NCAA or anybody else to conduct drug tests on our campus. There's no requirement. It's something we choose to do. And we do it for some of the reasons that Kirk mentioned. We spend about $70,000 a year to manage that program. I'm going to go through in just a minute here sort of how it works.
But the goal of our drug testing on our campus is education, making sure that our student athletes are aware of the dangers, certainly deterrents. 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.
If we learn of a positive drug test through our own drug testing, we go through our student athlete Code of Conduct, but immediately we can engage that student athlete in counseling and begin to go through a process to catch it before it becomes a bigger or legal issue. That's the goal of our on campus drug testing. Again, it's not mandated, it's something we do to try to be proactive.
I mentioned Dr. Del Miller is here. He'd be able to answer questions about how we go about it.
Roughly what we do, Del oversees the program for us. We hire an administrator who does the actual testing. That administrator hires medical students, pharmacy students on our campus to collect the samples. They samples are then sent to an outside testing agency. The tests come back, and Dr. Miller and the administrator Dr. Miller sees the tests with no name attached. The only time the name is attached is if it's a positive drug test. That's how our departmental policy works.
As I mentioned, so after last week, one of the things we wanted to do is just go back and look at everything, look at how we do it, how often we do it. This is something we do with all student athletes, not just football. It's something we do all year long, not just certain weeks of the year. And through those three tests, virtually every student athlete at some point during the year gets tested.
We average, I think Del told me, somewhere between 800 and 900 a year, and we have roughly 700 student athletes. So you can see the numbers that we go about and test.
One of the things we did last week is go back and just make sure that our testing, the protocols, procedures were all in line. We did learn there were some flaws and inconsistencies. We didn't catch anybody cheating on the test. I'm not at all concerned in following up that there's a staff member that is involved in some sort of inappropriate behavior or cover up. But we did find pretty strong evidence there are a couple ways our student athletes have and probably have at some point gotten around the test in some way. That's something that every drug testing situation, it's almost become a cottage industry around the country, how do you beat a test. It's something we have to be constantly on top of.
Working with Del, we made sure all of our protocols and procedures are appropriate and we just continue to test, satisfied that those protocols and procedures are in place and that we're collecting samples that are legitimate.
Two more things. One short term. I talked about going back with Dr. Miller and our staff and making sure our protocols are solid in the short run, continuing to monitor with all of our sports, including football. Long term, making sure over the next month or two that we're looking at best practices around the country and making sure what we're doing is the best possible way to do it, and if not taking a look at ways that we can improve that going forward.
Finally just part of this process, I mentioned education. When a student athlete tests positive, Fred is here, as you all know, Fred works with me on the student athlete Code of Conduct, making sure if we have a student test positive we are getting them help.
One of the people who has helped us for years, Marvin Sims, unfortunately passed away this past year. Marvin has been a long time person on our staff who helped us in that process.
What we've done in the interim since Marvin passed away is we work with Sam Cochran. Sam overseas the counsels for all the students on our campus, not just student athletes. He's helped us provide a stopgap for student athletes since Marvin passed away. We're in the process of hiring a replacement for Marvin. It's not yet complete. So while we're going through that process, Sam Cochran, who heads up all of our counseling on campus, is trying to help us stopgap. No question we miss Marvin and all that he meant to our program.
With that I'll stop and we can try to answer questions.
Q. Are there any other players or instances who have come under this?
Kirk, you don't anticipate anybody else?
COACH FERENTZ: That's really one of the reasons we got together today. 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.
As far as we know, we dealt with two transactions yesterday, one last week, and I anticipate everybody else on the roster to be ready to go, at least on the plane, I don't know about health status, but I expect them to go and play well against Missouri.
Q. Is Jewel leaving by his choice?
Saturday night we had 25 seniors sitting in front of team that have done a great job, not only in terms of their graduation, academic progression, but their conduct and football careers overall.
At the end of the day it's tough to get up to the front of the room. I have a lot of admiration for anybody that's a senior in this program. Again, Saturday night we celebrated 25 great stories.
Q. Have there been any drug tests since Derrell's arrest on Thursday?
We didn't ramp up a new drug testing program since last week. It's something we've been doing. As I mentioned earlier, we test between 800 and 900 student athletes every year.
Q. Football players?
Q. Gary, has any athlete in those tests refused to take the test?
Q. And refusals?
COACH FERENTZ: If a player refuses a test, they test positive.
GARY BARTA: The way the Code of Conduct works, if a player refuses to take a test, it de facto in the program becomes a positive test.
Q. Are they declared ineligible?
Q. Under the school?
Q. Kirk, what was your initial reaction to the news about Derrell? You were praising him this year. Was it shock, anger, disappointment?
Q. Gary, with his arrest last week, the transfers, the actions of the last six days, did you have with Kirk a state of the program meeting or anything like that?
So have we had conversations about each incident? Yes. The state of the program is in great hands. We're dealing with some important and challenging issues. But I have great confidence in Kirk's handling of them.
Q. Do you expect Adam back?
Q. Gary, you said you have found evidence that student athletes have been able to get around the testing at some point. Can you give us examples of what you're talking about?
Q. Are they using masking agents, other people to go in and test? Is it accurate in terms of watching individuals?
What I'm confident about, unfortunately we learned there's enough evidence in our protocol to say that we have to tighten up, that it's pretty likely that someone, and I don't know if it's 1 or if it's 21, but someone has gotten around this process. If it's only one, then it makes you doubt all testing. So we had to make sure, working with Del, working with the staff, that everything was tightened down.
That's the best I can give you.
Q. How do you not know that Derrell is living with a drug dealer? How much policing can you do of that?
I'm not sure how you'd know that. Maybe that's something we need to do, do background checks on roommates that are not on the team. That we'll consider.
Q. With Derrell, it's hard to imagine he didn't have a group of friends on the team who might have been engaging in the same behavior. Have you found that that is the case?
Q. Are you able to point to last month on the football field, whether it's Adam, whatever his transgressions are, Jewel, whether it's D.J.'s arrest, fighting, rumors of discontent, are we seeing the root of this come to the surface?
But knowing that you're doing all those types of things, you're going to have things happen that you don't choose or like, that are not of your choosing. You deal with it. As they come along, you try to get ahead of the game. But as they come along, you try to get ahead of it.
Q. Did drugs cause an issue in the locker room?
Q. Did you have any idea before his arrest that he had any kind of a drug problem whatsoever?
Q. You talked about the end of the 2006 season being a low point. How does this compare to that?
Q. In the big picture, do you think this team is no different as far as chemistry?
Q. (Question regarding Derrell, Jewel being divisive figures.)
Q. The speculation went viral pretty quickly across the nation.
Q. Do you think the reputation of this program has been damaged?
Again I'll go back. The other night we had 25 seniors in front of the team that have done a great job. They have done a great job academically, they've done a great job on the football field. You're not going to win 11 games as much as you'd like to. We're not going to win 11 games every year. That's part of the landscape.
The media attention in a negative light, that's never a good thing certainly. But there's not a lot of focus on good things typically. There have been a lot of good things that happened this year. We have a lot of good people on the team right now.
GARY BARTA: I would add to that. Beyond just this year, I think one of the things that the University of Iowa has done and certainly Kirk has done, if you look at the body of work over many years, to answer your question about, Does this damage the reputation? Again, for today, it's no fun to stand up here and talk about a challenge that we're dealing with. Overall, I think people know what we stand for over the long all.
And to that end, and I'm doing this purposely, but Kirk talked about the banquet, he talked about the positives. We have so many student athletes who are doing things the right way. I think we sent out our graduation success rate. It's 12th of bowl teams. I understand there's other things being talked about. But to put back into the perspective, the vast majority of our student athletes, and our football players, are doing things the right way.
I know when we go through issues like this, that can get lost.
Q. Kirk, when you came here, you brought a heightened awareness to drug testing. I know that. Why was that? Where did you get that philosophy?
If you waited around for the Big Ten testing, NCAA testing, I think you'd really lose ground there. We have been very proactive. This year in particular with all the hype and expectations, for lack of a better word, and really around here one of the downfalls of Iowa, one of the great things about it is the attention. Our fan base is the best. They're extremely enthusiastic. Our media coverage is extensive and thorough.
One of my fears has always been that players don't always have to do a lot around here. All you have to do is be on the team and you're a celebrity. Try to keep our guys grounded. I'm not going to put my head in the sand. We want to be proactive, get out ahead of things. If a player does have an issue, I would like to think we know things on the front end so we can shape a change.
That's what I said at the beginning. We're in the game of education, trying to help people along and grow. There is a drug culture on every college campus. If someone is involved in that, we want to know ahead of time so we don't have an incident like we did last week. That's a bad result. Anytime a player leaves our program for social, academic or football reasons, I feel we failed. Those are losses, not the games on the field. We want to try to do all the things we can to try to alleviate those things.
We're not going to win them all, as hard as you can try. We're not going to turn our head, turn away, hope nothing comes along. That's never been our approach.
I like to hear bad news first. I don't want to hear it on the news or have police officers come tell me about something that's going on right now. That's not a pleasant experience. I'd rather know ahead of time and have a chance to try to fix it, which really is the spirit of our student Code of Conduct here. That's how that has been shaped. I fully support it. We've tried to do a good job of working within that framework.
Q. Have you had conversations with the Iowa City Police Department to know what happened?
Q. Did they give you any indication that other players might be involved?
Q. Gary, what does the NCAA, Big Ten and Iowa test for? Is it the same thing, performance enhancing and...
Our campus drug testing, Del I think I'm right, includes alcohol as well as marijuana and all the other street drugs. Ours is a little bit more focused on alcohol and street drugs. We do include enhancement drugs in our tests, however.
FRED MIMS: Gary, the other thing that sort of relates to a previous question is we also test, as does the NCAA, and Big Ten, for masking agents, some agents students may take to get a negative test.
Q. Gary, you talked about policies and procedures. What are some of the policies and procedures when it comes to drug testing? Is there a big sign that says 'Drug testing today'?
DEL MILLER: These tests are unannounced. The drug testing coordinator and the professional health science students will come to a practice or team meeting and they will pull the student athletes out of the practice or team meeting. That's usually arranged with the coaches prior to that day. But the student athletes are not aware the testing is going to be occurring, so they are random tests.
Q. Who is allowed to have knowledge of those results once they come out, positive or otherwise?
DEL MILLER: The results, as Gary said, come back. Well, I should go back. They are sent with a number code on them to an independent outside lab. There are no names attached. And the results come back in the same coded manner.
The drug testing coordinator is the only person that has the list of names that correspond with those numbers. And if there is a positive result, she informs me, we inform the athletic administration, we inform the coach, and we then inform a substance abuse counselor who will do the evaluation and treatment of that student athlete.
Q. So the first step is not suspension? It's conceivable someone could flunk a drug test and still be competing?
Q. Is there kind of I hate to say 'three strikes and you're out' policy, but does it specify at a certain point if you have come up positive on so many tests, this is what happens no matter what the situation?
FRED MIMS: No, we go by offenses. The first offense is assessment, see if the student is healthy enough to get back in, then the second positive test is where suspension comes into play.
GARY BARTA: It's all in our code and drug testing.
COACH FERENTZ: I'll interject. What happened last week is public record. The other stuff, again, there are a lot of contributing factors to the decisions I make about a player being suspended at any time. You know, again, I'll go back to Jewel. He was suspended for the first game of the season last year. That was directly as a result of an incident back in June. I want everybody to be careful not to lump this all together, which I get that's the sense that's going on right now. I think every story is a little bit different.
Q. Have you noticed a difference after hiring a life skills advisor a couple years ago?
As I said earlier, too, we have higher expectations for our players as they get older and move further along in the program. They should be more knowledgeable, they should be more disciplined and diligent with their studies and conduct, as well as their football. We have more expectations football wise as they get older.
GARY BARTA: In hindsight, I'm pleased from an administrative standpoint with the hire and the decisions. One of the things we knew when we hired the position, sort of like a quarterback in a football game, they get too much credit when things are going well and too much blame when things aren't going well. We can't monitor all of our student athletes, it would just be impossible.
At the same time, when we go through a stretch where our level of incidents has been reduced for a couple of years, he's been a contributing factor, but it's much broader with that as well. I'm pleased with the hire and look forward to him working with our young student athletes.
Q. How much do coaches get involved, like your assistants, would they have a say with that?
That's the difference between coaching in the professional ranks versus the collegiate ranks. It's a small percentage, huge amount of time in recruiting, huge amount of time in player development. That's where our biggest focus would be.
All that being said, some stories turn out better than others.
Q. Derrell is done for the bowl game?
Q. You talked about the seniors and the banquet and so on. You have your leadership group. What sort of response do you think you will get?
When players aren't fully invested, they want to make sure we're moving forward in a positive way. My sense is we practiced over the weekend four times, Thursday through Sunday. The team has been very good, very positive in their actions. I see good things ahead.
Q. How do you address these type of incidents with the players? Do you hold a team meeting to talk about what happened? How do you talk about this with the rest of the team?
Yeah, I would emphasize again we have a lot of good guys on the team. 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.
Q. (Question regarding Adam's situation.)
As I think Gary said earlier, we don't anticipate anything or announcements on arrests. We expect the rest of the players to go down to the bowl and expect them to practice and compete well.
Q. You said you have evidence that student athletes have somehow gotten around some of the drug testing. How do you evidence of that? Student athletes tell you tell you that they knew it was coming up?
But we did have enough evidence. We didn't catch anybody. We don't have a specific person that we can say we know this person cheated. We're just uncomfortable that our protocols needed to be tightened up. Del is working with us to make sure there's no way it could happen. I should say there's a much less likelihood there's a chance. There's always a chance. That's the best answer I could give you.
Q. Did you hear from multiple parents?
Q. What was your reaction?
Q. When did you realize and decide with the misinformation out there that this needed to take place, that you needed to come and talk to us?
When you take into account what happened last week, everything between then and now, you take into account what was starting to sound like it was just all sorts of things being said on the social networks, maybe beyond that, we just decided, Let's sit down and have a conversation. There's some limit to what we can say, but talk about as much as we could.
Q. Kirk, do you get a sense that when you had that meeting last Thursday any of your players knew what was going on with Derrell, what he was doing in his private life?
All that stuff is yet to be determined. Clearly there was a reason for the arrest. There clearly was a reason for that. Based on the articles I read, there was some admission of guilt. But I don't have all those details.
Q. You guys help guys get to the NFL, Chris does a great job with that. Is that a possibility with Derrell or is he done?
I know it's a fact right now that players that graduate with college degrees tend to have longer careers and get paid better. If you want to play in the NFL, it's a good incentive to get your degree, go from there. That's a matter of record.
Again, everything you do on the positive side is going to enhance your ability. It's like anybody that is going to employ you, they want to employ people that are building a good résumé.
Q. If he came to you and said, can I take part in your off season program to get ready for the draft, you would have to sit down and decide that with him?
Q. Gary, can you clarify? You said you've wondered why you didn't have more positives. Are you saying that you suspect there is a greater number of players that should have tested positive?
That's the best answer I can give you. We just kept looking at everything involved and decided that, you know what, we believe there's areas we need to tighten up here.
We didn't catch anyone. But we just have enough information we need to tighten down everything we're doing. Del and the staff are doing that. We can't estimate that there was one or there was more than one, but we suspect there was at least one. If there are, then we have the whole thing in question, unless we tighten everything down, go through our protocols again, make sure it doesn't happen going forward.
Q. Kirk, at what point with your players, for lack of a better term, do you turn them loose off the field when it comes to living arrangements? Obviously you have a hand early when they first come on campus. You didn't know who D.J. was living with.
Q. Gary, you brought up the possibilities of fudged drug tests. Why bring that up?
Just sharing with you all the things we've done since last week or as much as we can. That's one of the things I felt like I should share.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.