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Iowa parts with football strength coach Chris Doyle amid claims of biased behavior based on race

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Iowa AD explains decision to part with Chris Doyle (1:17)

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta announces the school's "separation" from strength coach Chris Doyle after players described mistreatment in the football program. Barta then apologizes to current and former student-athletes. (1:17)

Iowa has reached a separation agreement with longtime football strength coach Chris Doyle, the school announced Monday.

The agreement, signed Sunday, is effective immediately.

Doyle, who had led Iowa's strength and conditioning program since 1999, was placed on paid administrative leave June 6 after a large group of former players had spoken out about mistreatment in the program. Most of the allegations came from black players and focused on Doyle.

Some players also made allegations toward head coach Kirk Ferentz and several on-field assistants.

Doyle, the nation's highest-paid strength coach at $800,000 annually, will receive 15 months' salary, which equates to two payments of $556,249.50. He and his family will receive benefits from Iowa for 15 months or until he finds employment elsewhere. He is also prohibited from seeking employment at Iowa or holding strength and conditioning camps at the university. Doyle's son, Dillon, a linebacker for Iowa, announced last week he would be entering the NCAA's transfer portal.

"Iowa City has been home to our family for 21 years," Doyle said in a prepared statement. "I am grateful Iowa football provided an opportunity to work with incredible players, coaches, and support staff. I have worked diligently to make a positive impact on the lives of student-athletes, support them as they speak out, and look forward to continued growth. I am confident that my record and character will be confirmed in the course of the independent review. The university and I have reached an agreement and it is time to move on from Iowa football. My family and I are looking forward to the next chapter."

In a June 7 statement, Doyle said he never "crossed the line of unethical behavior or bias based on race." Former players alleged Doyle disparaged, demeaned and bullied them while in the program.

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta decided last week that separating from Doyle would be the "thoughtful and sensible" approach for Iowa to move forward. Barta spoke with Ferentz, who fully supported the decision, and then began discussions with Doyle that led to Sunday's signing.

"This was not a decision that I made lightly," Barta said Monday, "and it is just one piece of a plan that's going to be needed for us to move forward."

Barta said that the external review, led by Kansas City law firm Husch Blackwell, likely would take weeks but had no specific end date. The review will report to university president Bruce Harreld, and while Iowa athletic department staff members have no oversight, they will cooperate.

"I'm sorry to former student-athletes, coaches, staff, current student-athletes, anybody who's had a negative experience with Iowa football," Barta said. "When I say negative, if you felt mistreated, misled, discriminated against, whatever the case, I truly am sorry."

Barta remains confident that Ferentz can continue the program, noting that Ferentz's proactive response since the allegations surfaced June 5 has been encouraging.

"He knows as the leader of the program that he's responsible for everything that occurs in his program," Barta said. "How much he knew or didn't know, he and I have had several conversations about that and I believe him that he didn't know all the things that he's heard."

Barta is aware that Kirk Ferentz, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, linebackers coach Seth Wallace and others are mentioned in the former players' allegations, along with Doyle. Barta said the review will determine "any additional actions" that could be taken with the staff. Brian Ferentz, the son of Kirk Ferentz and a former Iowa player, reports directly to Barta.

Kirk Ferentz on Friday reiterated his support for the remaining coaches and staff, none of whom have been placed on leave or had their roles altered.

Raimond Braithwaite will continue as Iowa's interim director of strength and conditioning. Braithwaite has been an assistant under Doyle since 2008 -- he also worked with the program from 2002 to 2004 -- and led last week's voluntary team workouts.

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Why Iowa's separation with Chris Doyle was inevitable

Adam Rittenberg reports on Iowa reaching a separation agreement with football strength coach Chris Doyle.

Doyle led Iowa's strength and conditioning program throughout Ferentz's tenure. Ferentz said many of the allegations from former players concerning Doyle came as a surprise to him.

"Coach Doyle probably has more power than any position coach there," former Iowa defensive back Diauntae Morrow told ESPN last week. "If Coach Ferentz is the CEO, Coach Doyle is the COO. Coach Doyle is the longest-tenured coach with Coach Ferentz, so what does that say? You're working with the guy for that many years, you mean to tell me you don't know what type of person he is?"

Barta said the allegations from former players "caught me off guard." Barta said Iowa formed a diversity task force for athletes in 2018 after a review of graduation rates showed its black male athletes graduating at a lower rate than their white counterparts. The task force conducted anonymous interviews with athletes and reported in early 2019 that many of Iowa's black athletes experienced challenges, especially in the football program.

"There were concerning statements like, 'I had to put a mask on, check my identity at the door. I was told by my coach to change my hairstyle because it didn't fit the Iowa culture,'" Barta said. "One student-athlete said a staff member cursed and yelled, degrading an African American student-athlete in front of his peers."

After the report, Iowa's football program implemented several changes, which Barta admitted were not sufficient.

"I had convinced myself that we were doing enough," Barta said. "Frankly, the past few weeks has been a wake-up call for me, for others in the department, I know for Kirk, for everybody at Iowa football and Iowa athletics. I thought we were on a path of making things better."

Barta, who has served as Iowa's athletic director since August 2006, became emotional several times during Monday's news conference when describing the national discussion about race.

"I've had conversations about race before," he said. "It's easy to say racism is horrible, but the subtleties of learning from colleagues and friends of mine, student-athletes, about what it's like to go through that is very impactful. Until we create an environment nationally and then drill down into Iowa athletics and Iowa football, where, forget the form or the piece of paper or the job description, are we really creating an environment where you can share a concern?"

The recent allegations from former players didn't mark the first time Doyle faced controversy during his Iowa tenure.

In January 2011, 13 Iowa players were hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis, a stress-induced syndrome that can damage cells and cause kidney damage, following a strenuous squat workout led by Doyle. Iowa commissioned a review and found that similar workouts had been done in the past but that the timing of the workout, after the winter break, likely contributed to the hospitalizations. The review found that Doyle did not use the workout to punish players. In April 2011, Ferentz named Doyle as Iowa's assistant coach of the year.

"I'm not looking back and thinking, 'What should I have done back then?'" Barta said. "I'm trying to focus on this situation with what we're dealing with, what we're hearing, not just with Chris Doyle, with all the things that I heard the last week and a half, with the things I heard a year and a half ago, listening to [last Monday's] team meeting and now trying to say: Forge a way forward."