Wadley: Playing for Iowa ‘was a living nightmare’

  • College football reporter.
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2008.
  • Graduate of Northwestern University.

Former Iowa running back Akrum Wadley on Monday detailed several allegations of mistreatment by current and former Hawkeyes coaches, writing that “playing for Iowa Football was a living nightmare.”

Wadley, who played for Iowa from 2014 to 2017, mentioned head coach Kirk Ferentz, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz and former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle in the allegations, published on Facebook by Robert T. Green, whose sports advisory firm is working with several former Iowa players to voice their experiences with the program.

Iowa has hired the Husch Blackwell law firm to conduct a review of the program after a large group of Black former players spoke out about alleged mistreatment early this month. On June 14, Iowa reached a separation agreement with Doyle, who led the football strength and conditioning program throughout Kirk Ferentz’s 21-year tenure.

Wadley alleges that Brian Ferentz, son of Kirk Ferentz and an Iowa assistant since 2012, repeatedly asked him if he planned to rob a liquor store or a gas station whenever he saw Wadley wearing a team-issued wool cap. He also alleges that Iowa targeted him and other Black players for not gaining enough weight during the season, which led to him bingeing on shakes before workouts and becoming sick.

“I was threatened by Kirk Ferentz that my meal card would be taken away and I will not eat nor be able to sit with my teammates during eating sessions,” Wadley writes in his statement. “He did follow through on his threat. I went to use my meal card and it was declined. I had to call my mother from New Jersey at 10 or 11 at night because I was hungry to order Domino’s Pizza for me. Or I would have to go to a fan’s house earlier at night to eat because there was no way I was going to be able to make it through the next day vomiting, being weak and be able to make it through school and practice.”

Wadley writes that he asked Broderick Binns, Iowa’s director of player development, to find him a therapist “because no one in the football program would help us or listen to what we had to say.” After meeting with the therapist once, Wadley writes that “she disappeared.”

“No one told me where she went and no one was put in place for her after that,” Wadley writes. “I didn’t want to ask too many questions because we would get punished for anything and everything.”

Wadley writes that he turned to alcohol to cope because of his experience at Iowa. He led the Hawkeyes in rushing in each of his final two seasons and finished his career with 2,872 rushing yards in 43 games.

Iowa did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wadley’s allegations. Athletic director Gary Barta on June 15 reiterated his support for Kirk Ferentz to continue to lead the program, but said additional personnel actions could come after the independent review. Brian Ferentz reports directly to Barta because of the school’s anti-nepotism policy.

“My time at Iowa has done things to me that I am not going to discuss because knowing how these people treated me and other black athletes,” Wadley writes. “I am done giving them power over me. But if I could do it all over again. I wish I never played for the Iowa Hawkeyes. I would not encourage any future athletes or parents to send your kid to go play for the Iowa Hawkeyes under that current coaching staff.”

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