A rerun Iowa fans don't want to watch

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

From reading the coverage of Iowa's possible missteps in its handling of the sexual assault case involving two former football players, one name keeps coming up. It's a name Iowa fans don't want to hear again: Pierre Pierce.

If you don't remember Pierce, here's a refresher. The former Hawkeyes basketball player was charged with sexual assault in 2002, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and returned to the team after sitting out the season. Three years later, Pierce was involved in an incident with a former girlfriend, whom police said he threatened with a knife.

Initially charged with felony first-degree burglary and several other counts, including intent to commit sexual abuse, Pierce reached a plea agreement and served almost a year in jail. Iowa and basketball coach Steve Alford were blasted for their handling of the Pierce situation, a PR nightmare that wouldn't go away.

That brings us to the current situation involving the University, Athletic Director Gary Barta, the athletic department, the football program, head coach Kirk Ferentz, former players Cedric Everson and Abe Satterfield and the alleged victim, a female student-athlete. As Mike Hlas writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette:

"It may be completely unfair to say "cover-up" until we've heard both sides of the story, whenever that may be. University people are at the disadvantage of being unable to speak on the matter for legal reasons. The "best-case" scenario may be that decent people in the athletic department have shown poor-to-rotten judgment in how they handled this matter. Who knows, maybe they didn't want to force the woman into making a decision she didn't want to make at the time.

But after all the arrests of Iowa football players over the last two years, can outsiders be faulted for wondering if the insiders may have felt rape charges against two Hawkeyes were something to be diverted if possible? Can outsiders be faulted for thinking football is the engine that drives an entire athletic department, and the department would have deeply wanted to avoid this kind of hit?

Maybe that's grossly unfair to suggest. But given the off-field record of Hawkeye footballers in that time period, how can you not expect a certain percentage of the public to consider it a serious possibility?

But perhaps the most pressing question for now is how in the world, after the university royally bungled its handling of the Pierre Pierce sexual assault case in 2002, could it have handled this situation so awkwardly, to put it kindly. Who designed a policy that would have an "informal" option and allow athletic department people to steer matters? Is that even a real policy? It seems bizarre."

Alford never really took the fall for the Pierce situation, choosing to leave Iowa for New Mexico in March 2007. But if the allegations from the alleged victim's mother prove true in this case, heads likely will roll. Iowa fans want to win just as much as anyone else, but they care about the character of those running the teams and the athletic department. It's the reason Dr. Tom Davis remains a beloved figure in Iowa City, and why Alford's approval rating sunk. Ferentz is well liked, but the recent string of off-field transgressions and the spotlight on this case can't be helping his cause.

As Hlas writes: "This isn't just Pierre Pierce all over again. It may be much worse."