When I first saw this response from Iowa (see below) to the SI.com story, I was cynical. Iowa had 18 players with police records, tied for second-most among teams ranked in Sports Illustrated's 2010 preseason top 25. What kind spin was the school going to put on this issue, I thought?
We saw how the Iowa administration reacted rather clumsily in the first few hours of the rhabdo crisis in late January.
This time Iowa got out in front of the story -- well, after the fact -- by being candid and thorough. Overall, this statement is more informative than self-serving and, in a way, calls out other schools that didn't react publicly.
Rather surprisingly, the school admits that "underage consumption of alcohol and extreme comsumption of alcohol have been issues ..." at Iowa for several years. Wow. Iowa also admits to not doing criminal background checks on players it recruits. Later, AD Gary Barta says, "I am anxious and open to discussions with my peers in the state and in the Big Ten Conference and beyond on whether criminal background checks need to become a regular piece of our recruiting process."
That is beyond impressive and shows the power of the media in a story like this. Before seeing Iowa's statement, I spoke to a Pac-12 AD on Wednesday who said it may be time to start doing background checks as a conference initiative. Just a thought, but the places to start may be the Big Ten and Pac-12, two conferences who fancy themselves academically like-minded.
We have a long way to go on this issue but the SI.com story did move the discussion to a positive place. While some states are more liberal than other in such cases, there is absolutely no excuse for schools not to do at least cursory background checks. It wouldn't be that difficult. Think of it as preventative.
What's it worth to land a Johnny Touchdown in recruiting when there is an equal chance he could burn the opposition as much as his own school?
Here is Iowa's response to the SI.com story released Wednesday night ...
The University of Iowa does not have access to the detail behind the SI.com survey that examined the 2010 pre-season top 25 college football programs. However, the UI does know that a total number of 18 student-athletes who were on the 2010 team roster have, in fact, been charged with offenses since 2007.
All 18 charges were misdemeanors. Of these charges:
• 15 were alcohol related;
• Two were for possession of a controlled substance;
• One was for misdemeanor assault, and the student-athlete plead guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct.
Underage consumption of alcohol and extreme consumption of alcohol have been issues for The University of Iowa and Iowa City community for several years. Staff of the UI and the City of Iowa City have and currently are collaborating on a number of efforts to address these concerns.
The University of Iowa currently does not do criminal background checks of student-athletes it is recruiting for participation in its intercollegiate athletics program. UI coaches do routinely have extensive conversation with parents, high school coaches, and other individuals important in the lives of student-athletes they are recruiting.
The following comment is from Gary Barta, director of athletics at the University of Iowa:
“I learned about the SI story this morning. Our total number of incidents match that in the story, however, the detail shows that all 18 of our incidents were misdemeanors and that the vast majority were related to poor decision-making associated with alcohol. And, as many in Iowa know, this has been an ongoing concern for all students on our campus and in our community.
“Each incident involving a student-athlete is taken seriously and handled according to our student-athlete code of conduct. Some football student-athletes who have had an incident while a participant in our program have successfully graduated, others are still with us, and others are no longer a part of the program.
“I am very confident in Kirk’s approach to recruiting. I know he and his staff go to great lengths in trying to assess character when deciding whether to invite a young man to the UI. Like the vast majority of our peers, we don’t do official criminal background checks.
“Recruiting quality student-athletes in all sports is of the utmost importance to me and our coaches. I am anxious and open to discussions with my peers in the state and in the Big Ten Conference and beyond on whether criminal background checks need to become a regular piece of our recruiting process.
“Lastly, I continue to be impressed and pleased with the work of the overwhelming majority of our football student-athletes in their athletics competition, in the classroom, and as representatives of the University of Iowa on a daily basis.”
The following comment is from Kirk Ferentz, head football coach at the University of Iowa:
“For 12 years we have dealt promptly, firmly, consistently, and within the student-athlete code of conduct when we have incidents involving members of our football program. My staff and I will continue to work to ensure our student-athletes are successful as a student, as an athlete, and as a citizen of the Iowa City community.”