IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz met with 30 members of the media Wednesday for a Zoom news conference. Here are the takeaways:
Bigger than football
Coaches are teachers and Ferentz continues to emphasize the teaching aspect of the profession. Ferentz communicated with all student-athletes on the Hawkeye football roster during a team meeting Monday in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25.
“It is about players being educated, whether it is their course work or real-life events,” Ferentz said. “Football is important to us, but what is going on in real life impacts all of us. Everybody in our program realizes that change is needed, and it is in our hands to try to do something with it.”
Timeline for a return
It was a significant week at the Richard O. Jacobson Football Operations Building. On Monday, Ferentz joined a limited number of coaches and administrative staff, as well as all the strength and conditioning staff, in a return to campus.
On June 8, more staff and veteran players will return, and on June 15, more staff and first-year players will arrive.
Prior to entering the building, a COVID test will be administered. There is one controlled access to the building and temperatures are taken and medical surveys conducted daily. If cleared, a wristband is issued to signify allowable entrance. If a person leaves the building, the protocol is repeated.
“We’re trying to encourage people to take care of things while they’re here and get their business done,” Ferentz said.
Everyone in the building will be involved in social distancing and wear masks.
“It is about players being educated, whether it is their course work or real-life events. Football is important to us, but what is going on in real life impacts all of us. Everybody in our program realizes that change is needed, and it is in our hands to try to do something with it.”UI football head coach Kirk Ferentz
Once the players are back
Ferentz expects a “mixed bag” physically when players return because of the varying training equipment available to them since March 13.
“We’re curious to see what they look like,” Ferentz said.
The workouts will be slow and progressive.
“Our work capacity next week will be well under 50 percent of what we would normally be doing,” Ferentz said. “We have to be cautious and move slowly so we’re not putting people at risk; making sure we don’t incur injuries that could be avoided and will impede players’ progress over the coming months. We’re going to be smart about that and progressively ramp things up, especially in June with the goal of being able to train with a little more vigor once we get to July.”
Remembering Johnny Majors
When Ferentz was a senior football student-athlete at Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh in 1973-74, he watched as area player after area player was offered a scholarship to attend the University of Pittsburg for head coach John Majors.
Ferentz was not on the offer list.
“I did a Nike clinic in New Jersey eight or nine years ago and we shared a ride to the airport,” Ferentz said. “I teased him that I was the only senior in western Pennsylvania they didn’t offer. He said they didn’t need any slow, short guys.”
Majors, who led Pitt a national championship in 1976, died Wednesday at 85.
“Coach Majors was a wonderful person and he was great for college football,” Ferentz said. “He was a delightful guy.”
40 back, 40 ahead
When Ferentz thinks back to March 12, football prospects were not favorable. Looking back to the last 40 days, the outlook has improved, and Ferentz is cautiously optimistic when he tries to envision what it will look like 40 days from now.
“Things were looking dicey back then,” Ferentz said. “We realize we are hardly out of the woods at this point, but a lot of science is showing that we’re making progress. I think the key thing is what can we do individually to make sure we’re not having any major setbacks and incurring any real road blocks.
“We’ll take it day-by-day, week-by-week before we think about the season, but we’ve made great improvement. If we are smart and keep our fingers crossed, we’ll continue on that path. I’m half crazy enough to think maybe the stadium will still be full in September.
“That may not be likely, it may not be possible, but you never know.”
“If one good thing comes out of this, maybe we’ll all have a different appreciation for the things we’ve been able to do.”UI football head coach Kirk Ferentz
Ferentz is relying on medical personnel and department protocols to keep the Hawkeye student-athletes safe. He will also educate players to focus on details.
“We’re going to try to sell our players on the value of paying attention to little details,” Ferentz said. “A lot of college students don’t pay attention, but all of our lives are going to be different moving forward because of the virus.
“We’re all going to have to be on heightened awareness and be more disciplined and aware of what we’re doing. We want these guys in the facilities the least amount of time possible and a lot of players are used to being in there for recovery and hanging out in the locker room.”
Ferentz is grateful for the Hansen Football Performance Center as the team begins to navigate its “new normal.”
“We’re lucky we have this facility that allows us to space out and still get work done,” Ferentz said. “Our waiting rooms are gigantic, we have three practice fields we can utilize when they’re on the fields, so we have plenty of room for spacing.
“It’s not going to be perfect, and it’s not going to be like it was last summer or the summer before that. In terms of being able to come and go and all those types of things, we all realize our world has been rocked pretty hard and we’re going to have to do things differently.