More thoughts on the Rhabdo 13 and the presser

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The press conference yesterday was a swing-and-a-miss by the Athletic Department. No Kirk Ferentz, no Gary Barta, not even Chris Doyle, and ultimately no (or very little) answers.

On Ferentz

The big thing that a lot of people were focusing on was Ferentz's absence. It looks bad and like he doesn't care about the kids. I guarantee that is absolutely not the case. Biff Poggi let us know that Ferentz has been calling and talking with the parents (Poggi had talked to him 4 times in the past couple of days). So he does care. Still, this would have been a perfect time to use some of those 35 private jet hours.

Instead Ferentz was on the recruiting trail in Ohio. Which, to me, is okay, I guess. There is a very limited amount of time when Ferentz actually gets a chance to get away from Iowa City and meeting with recruits in person. That's his job too. But that begs the question, why didn't Iowa wait until Ferentz's return to hold the press conference? That would have quelled the Ferentz doesn't care mumblings. Yesterday, they could have sent out a more detailed press release than the mostly information-less one on Tuesday and then held the press conference this morning.

Would Ferentz have been able to provide any more information? No, probably not. But he is the Head Football Coach and ultimately should have been the one "answering" questions.

Ultimately, I put the blame on whoever is in charge of media relations...Haddy or whoever. I understand in today's fast-paced world or whatever there is some urgency needed to get in front of public, but the really needed to wait for Ferentz to get back in town.

On Barta and Doyle

Barta was apparently in-transit to Florida to attend a fund-raising event (aka golf) for the Iowa Athletic Association that is scheduled for Friday. Why he had to leave on Wednesday...we don't know. Just like Ferentz and recruiting, fund-raising is an essential part of Barta's job, but I think in this instance he could have rearranged his travel plans and flow on later on Wednesday night or this morning.

The absence of Coach Doyle is probably the most puzzling. He is the one who is in charge of the winter workouts and is in Iowa City. He could have provided answers about the details of the workouts and spoke more about Iowa's processes to ensure the players' safety during workouts.

On the cause

We're still no closer to figuring out what happened to these now 13 players. Based on some of Biff Poggi's testimony (and Paul Federici's comments to an extent) though, I think we can make a few more speculations. Here's what we know.
  • The 13 players impacted were not all working out together.
  • They do not all play the same position.
  • They are not all freshmen (like Jim Poggi) and are all ages.
  • Every player did basically the same workout (100 squats at 50% of max weight followed by some sled work) and they have done this same workout in the past.
  • Poggi didn't workout over break and the intense workout was on the first day back.
  • Poggi was taking protein shakes, but to his father's knowledge, no other supplements.

So thus far no real trends are emerging. Initially I thought it was likely that the 13 players impacted were all taking the same supplement so were all more susceptible to the rhabdo. After thinking about it some more though, this was not really an isolated case. After taking away all the seniors and other players leaving there were probably only around 60-65 guys participating in these workouts. So that's 20% of them in the hospital. That is a huge number. So maybe it was just from the workout.

Because the workout has been done before for years and there have been no other cases of rhabdo, I don't think that the workout is the sole cause. Right now I'm leaning towards the players pushing themselves above and beyond what was required. There was a time component to the 100 squats. Biff Poggi said that Jim had completed the 100 reps in 17 minutes and that Jim had texted him and was proud on the accomplishment. Having never done a squat in my life, it's hard to gauge how fast 17 minutes is, but it at least sounds fast. That is a rate of about 1 squat per 10 seconds. My only frame of reference is a tweet by DJK that said that he had done the same workout over the course of an hour. So it at least sounds like the 100 squats in 17 minutes is excessively fast.

The rumor floating around is that things got a little too competitive and peer pressure took over during the workouts and that players were over-exerting themselves trying to best eachothers' squat times. If true, then there should have been some sort of coach intervention to keep the workout safe. All 5 strength coaches were present at every workout session, so they had to know what was going on.

Should anyone be fired?

Iowa needs to get this PR thing figured out. While it's obviously not a priority to the program, it needs to be better. Public perception matters to recruits, donors, etc... Having 13 players hospitalized is bad enough from a perception perspective, the bad handling of the press conference and press released just puts it over the top. Couple this with the poor handling of the whole "drug problem" press conference and Iowa may need to reevaluate who is in charge or public relations.

With the strength coaches, I think the verdict is still out. Was it a coach pushing players too hard or providing a harmful supplement? Even if it was, I don't know that they would deserve to be fired. I think a re-evaluation of some parts of the strength and conditioning program may be needed.

What needs to happen now

Kirk Ferentz needs to talk to the media before signing day next week (he'll have a presser then to talk about the next recruits). Otherwise he is going to get bombarded with off-topic questions. Iowa also needs to do more research into the how this happened and explain (without violating HIPAA) what they are going to do to ensure that it does not happen again.
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