A day after Iowa announced that a dozen Iowa football players had been hospitalized, the school conducted a “press conference” in an attempt to answer the questions swirling around the bizarre situation.
Unfortunately, the biggest question facing the football program went unanswered: where the hell was Kirk Ferentz? Or, for that matter, athletic director Gary Barta?
With two of the most powerful people in the athletic department absent from the proceedings — as were the five strength & conditioning coaches who were present for the workouts that presumably led to the hospitalization — it was left to a doctor not directly involved in the treatment of the players, the director of football operations and a player’s father to deal with the questions. Again, more than a dozen football players were hospitalized and the school shoves those three people out front and center to face the media hoard.
Given the lineup, and their limited ability to speak to very many specifics, perhaps the biggest news to come out of the press conference was the fact that there are 13 players, not 12 as originally stated in the press release, who have been hospitalized with what the school confirmed to be rhabdomyolysis. As was the case yesterday, the names of the players were not released, with the exception of Jim Poggi; the freshman linebacker’s father was one of the three to speak at the presser.
Dr. John Stokes, who’s been at the University of Iowa Hospital for 30 years, said he’s never seen such a large group come down with the illness, but refused to say that the players were worked too hard and led to their medical issues. The symptoms first surfaced last Thursday, and the players went through additional workouts Friday and Monday before the appearance of tea-colored urine following the third session forced the players to the hospital.
All 13 players remain hospitalized, and Dr. Stokes stated that “a few days… a week would be a reasonable expectation” before the players are released.
The question of supplements came up several times during the course of questioning; it’s unclear at this time if the players who were hospitalized were taking supplements or, if they were, if they were the same kind. The school will continue to look for that common thread.
Now, as for Ferentz and Barta…
The 13 football players were hospitalized early Monday afternoon. More than 48 hours later, not only did Ferentz not show for a press conference called to address the medical situation surrounding his football players, he hasn’t even been in town. Instead, Ferentz has stayed on a recruiting trip and won’t return to Iowa City until tonight.
I actually respect Coach Ferentz, so I won’t assail him too much until he addresses the situation and offers up an explanation. Others, however, have already unsheathed the scalpel and utterly eviscerated the coach. And rightly so in many, many eyes. If I’m the parent of one of those players, I’m thinking it’s unconscionable that the man I entrusted the care of my son to seemingly deems a recruiting trip more important than the baker’s dozen laying in a hospital bed. Even more so, if I’m the parent of one of the recruits he’s visited the past two days, I’m asking him why the hell he’s here and not back with his current players. And I’m also asking myself if I would want my son to play for someone that would make such a decision.
Again, it’s been more than two days since 13 of his players were hospitalized. How many living rooms did he sit in to gain the trust of not only the then-recruits but the parents as well? The thought process, at least on the surface and from a distance, leaves a lot to be desired absent an explanation. Or even a statement from the school.
Late last year, during the period of time Iowa was dealing with drug issues involving some of their players, both Ferentz and Barta sat in on and contributed heavily to a press conference, addressing some rather serious issues facing the program.
A month or so later, they can’t be there to address the health of their players and a workout program that may or may not have led to their medical issues?
I’ve seen many a school botch public relations on myriad levels, but never so spectacularly — and sadly — as the University of Iowa did this evening.
The football players, by all accounts, will be fine. Whether the same can be said for the image of the football program specifically and the university in general, however, remains to be seen.