Iowa coach disbands diversity group created after 2020 probe

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz has disbanded an alumni advisory committee that was created after a 2020 investigation found evidence of racial bias against Black players in his program and bullying behavior by some of his assistants.

The Gazette reports that Ferentz’s decision to end the committee came shortly after its leader, former offensive lineman David Porter, suggested it was time for Iowa to part ways with Ferentz. But Ferentz said he had decided to overhaul the committee last fall before Porter made his comment to other committee members in a text message.

“I have come to a decision that this is an appropriate time to dissolve our committee as it stands currently,” Ferentz wrote in an email to the 10-member committee on Tuesday. “As we start a new calendar year and prepare to move forward with our preparation for the 2022 season, I am giving thought to how we restructure the committee/board in a way that best serves our program moving forward.”

In 2020, the university hired the Husch Blackwell law firm to review the program after dozens of former players, most of them Black, spoke out on social media to allege racial disparities and mistreatment. Their activism came as protests against racial injustice swept the nation following the death of George Floyd and after attempts to raise concerns inside the program resulted in only minor changes.

The report said that some of the football program’s rules “perpetuated racial or cultural biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity.”

The program cut ties with longtime strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle after agreeing to pay him $1.1 million severance, but Ferentz resisted making other changes to his staff. Doyle has denied allegations that he bullied and discriminated against players.

Clearly, university leaders still have confidence in Ferentz because the Iowa Athletic Department announced Friday that his contract has been extended through the 2029 season. Ferentz, who has led Iowa since 1999, is the nation’s longest-tenured FBS head coach.

Ferentz said in a statement that his program learned from the committee’s work and he believes “we can be a team and celebrate players as individuals.” He said he appreciates “the time and dedication of those volunteer members who shared ideas and best practices.”

But Porter said he is disappointed that Ferentz appears to have ended the committee without a plan to continue its work, which remains unfinished.

“Our overarching theme was making sure that when kids go through the program they feel safe and protected,” Porter said. “Fear and intimidation is an issue we want to make sure we can address.”

Porter said the further away the group got from the 2020 report there seemed to be less urgency to address the issues even though a lawsuit 13 former players filed accusing the university of discrimination remains pending.

“For a while we were making good progress,” he said. “But as you get further away from the initial situation and issue, people tend to lose focus on why we were formed in the first place.”

Air Force football sanctioned for recruiting violations

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AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force football program received two years of probation from the NCAA and had its squad size reduced by 10 for four years as part of its sanctions for recruiting violations.

The penalties were announced Thursday after Air Force and four individuals reached an agreement with NCAA enforcement staff on recruiting violations. A fifth individual in the case has contested their role and will be heard by the committee on infractions.

The sanctions also include a fine and a reduction of 46 total official visits for the football program in the 2022-23 and `23-24 academic years. In addition, there’s a prohibition on unofficial visits in football from Sept. 1 through Oct. 12, 2022, and a reduced number of evaluation days this fall.

Air Force has around 115 players on its varsity roster, plus a JV team that all count as NCAA athletes and its roster size.

“The (committee) appreciates the parties’ efforts in working collaboratively together to reach agreement on the violations, levels, classifications, and significant and meaningful penalties,” Gary Miller, the chief hearing officer for the panel and president at Akron, said in a statement. “The panel also recognizes that Air Force has gone above and beyond in its overall approach to this case.”

In a joint statement, Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark and director of athletics Nathan Pine said: “The U.S. Air Force Academy is pleased that our case has progressed to the point of the NCAA accepting our negotiated resolution. We will continue working with the NCAA on this ongoing self-reported case from the COVID dead period, as it’s our responsibility to ensure integrity of the institution, athletics department, cadet-athletes and staff.”

The Falcons are off to a 3-1 start and host Navy on Saturday to begin the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition. The trophy is presented to the service academy with the best record in the round-robin format.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”