Yesterday Iowa hosted a press conference regarding the mysterious hospitalization of 13 of its players that virtually every observer, this blog included, regarded as a "near-total disaster ." The major complaint: despite the grave importance of the issue and the need to present the most united front possible, neither head coach Kirk Ferentz nor athletic director Gary Barta were present at the press conference. In fact, no Iowa football coaches were present at all.
So putting aside the issue of why strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle wasn't present to address the workouts that had led to the hospitalizations, where were Ferentz and Barta in the program's hour of need? Columnist Mike Hlas of the Iowa City Gazette has your answers:
Barta was out of town on Wednesday. He will be in the Fort Myers-Naples, Fla. area through at least Friday. An annual University of Iowa Athletic Association fundraising golf event is in Naples on Friday ...
“He made the best decision he could make based on what he needs to do,” said Iowa senior associate athletic director Jane Meyer , who didn’t flinch from taking questions herself after the press conference ...
Ferentz, meanwhile, was in Cleveland to reportedly meet with Glenville High School Coach Ted Ginn about possible future recruits. The night before, he was in Strongsville, Ohio, to visit with a high school tight end who has verbally committed to the Hawkeyes.
Hlas correctly points out that even if Ferentz and Barta were present at the press conference, the notoriously media-unfriendly duo wouldn't have yielded much more information, if any, than was revealed anyway.
But regardless, their entirely-avoidable absence sends the message -- as inaccurate as it certainly is -- that they don't view the hospitalization of 13 (13! ) of their players as an issue that's really all that important. Ferentz and Barta appear to believe, even if they don't, that a serious health issue that took place within their team on their watch isn't worth their time. As Hlas writes:
They’re the two main men of Hawkeye sports, the leader of the athletic department and the boss of all things football. Unless they have their own family crises, when 13 of their athletes are in a hospital, they have to be the faces and voices that are out front.
How much damage their absence will really do -- how much damage the gushing torrent of bad press can actually cause -- is highly debatable. But there's no question that their unwillingness to confront the issue in person has done nothing to make an already ugly situation for the Hawkeye program any better.