CHICAGO -- The good news, depending on your view of Iowa football, is that Kirk Ferentz's job is probably safe.
The same can't be said for Iowa president Sally Mason, general counsel Marc Mills and athletic director Gary Barta. Someone is -- or some people are -- going down in the wake of a scandal that looks like Iowa officials have -- at best -- botched a rape investigation.
|Despite the off-field troubles, expect Kirk Ferentz to remain head coach at Iowa. (Getty Images)|
Those, in order, are the names of Iowa officials accountable during a widening scandal. Mason has admitted to withholding documents from the board of regents. Mills leaned on hard-to-decipher student privacy laws as a reason for not turning over letters written to the university by the accuser's mother. Barta is Ferentz's boss so -- we're just assuming here -- the guillotine will be dulled enough before it gets to the head football coach.
Take this all in context: Since April 2007, 18 Iowa players have had scrapes with the law. A skeptic might suggest the state's highest-paid employee (Ferentz) is cutting some recruiting corners trying to improve a program that has slipped to the second division of the Big Ten.
Take this in Ferentz's context: His and Barta's actions were justified when they met with the accuser's family. Plus, there are stupid people all over the place when it comes to heinous acts. Ferentz gave the example of former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned after his involvement with prostitutes was discovered.
"There's a pretty intelligent guy who has been around the block a couple of times," Ferentz said. "From where I'm sitting I don't know if anybody has done anything dumber than that."
If Ferentz sticks around long enough in Iowa City he might find out. The current situation is beyond bad. What seems like a cover up has almost overshadowed the alleged crime itself. The woman says that she was raped in October by the two players, since dismissed from the team. The key issue is that when asked to meet with the alleged victim's family, Barta and Ferentz actually met with the alleged victim's family.
My question: Why do you even take that meeting? Why isn't your first reaction to a) decline, b) refer the family to university attorneys or, better yet, c) refer them to the police?
"I didn't want to be there, neither did Gary Barta," Ferentz told me last week at the Big Ten media days. "We were invited to be there, requested to be there, by the young woman and her family. That's the only reason we were there."
"The best way I could put it (is) if any of my kids had an issue with any university and I sat in any meeting and didn't get satisfaction, my first move would be to go to the police," said the coach, who has two college-age daughters. "That's common logic."
No, the first move is not to agree to the meeting in the first place. Barta and Ferentz say they checked with higher-ups before meeting with the family. But the perception is that the two most significant persons in the athletic department were trying to protect the football program. I'm not the only one who was amazed that the meeting was allowed to take place.
"I would never meet with the victim or the family of the victim," Ohio State AD Gene Smith told the Des Moines Register, "and neither would anyone in my department."