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‘A living nightmare’: Former Hawkeye Akrum Wadley details negative experiences at Iowa football program

101915 Akrum Wadley Iowa Football
Akrum Wadley

(KWWL) - Former Hawkeye running back from 2014-2017 Akrum Wadley is the latest of ex-Iowa football players to speak out against the program and the coaching staff.

A statement was released in a Facebook post from the account of Robert T. Green, a sports advisor who is helping several Iowa players and other athletes express their opinions.

#SportsIsNotAGame #SportsIsAllBusinessWhy we wouldn't send your #AfricanAmerican sons to play for #Iowa #Football for...

Posted by Robert T Green on Monday, June 29, 2020

In the statement, Wadley describes several harmful experiences and expressed his negative feelings towards the program and his time there. He details problematic interactions with the coaching staff and gives his perspective on how he and other members of the team were treated.

Wadley wrote, in part:

"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. My experiences with people outside of the program in the Iowa community are ones that I cherish and will be with me forever grateful for. My hope is my story and those of my teammates save others from the experiences, truths and mistake of playing under and for a coaching staff at Iowa that did and said nothing to stop the bullying and racism from happening to us under Chris Doyle, Brian Ferentz and Kirk Ferentz. What you see on TV isn't what you get behind closed doors."

Read Wadley's full statement here:

"During the winter, the Iowa coaches handed out black wool NIKE hats to all the players. When we finished practice while leaving the field I liked to put my hat on immediately because it was cold and when sweating I didn't want to get sick. One time when I was jogging to the facility, Coach Brian Ferentz says, "Hey Akrum, are you going to rob a gas station?" I was so upset, but ignored him and kept going. This happened a couple more times in the same situation. The only difference is he said, "Akrum are you going to rob a liquor store?" Those other times I just looked back at him and shook my head because I knew responding to him would result in some type of unfair punishment.

One morning I had an exam, I wanted to grab a shake that was made for me because I wanted to make weight before practice. So I went to the facilities to get it. I didn't want to be late to class. Knowing it would only be 15 to 30 seconds for me to grab it out of the refrigerator. I pulled into the back of the facility and pulled into an unmarked and unoccupied parking spot. I did that because finding a spot on campus would have caused me to be late or miss my exam. As I was getting back into my car to head to my exam. Brian's see me about to leave as he and the other coaches were on a jog. Brian then yelled to me, “You dumb Mother F-----, who the f--- do you think you are!” I will get you when I get back.” I got back in my car and went to class not even focusing on my exam anymore. All I knew was I was angry, frustrated and numb all at the same time.

There was a press conference Kirk Ferentz had prior to us leaving for the PinStripe Bowl Game in New York which is near my home town in Newark NJ. A reporter said to Kirk Ferentz “Coach it’s a good thing you are going to New York because your star player Akrum Wadley who’s from New Jersey can show you guys around.” Kirk Ferentz responded to him “That’s the worst thing about it!”. It was hard to even see his face on most occasions. One of the many reasons I told several coaches that I wanted to and attempted to leave. I asked coach Broderick to get me a therapist to speak to because no one in the football program would help us or listen to what we had to say. I can't remember her name. But I did meet with her one time to discuss my treatment at Iowa. She disappeared after that. No one told me where she went and no one was put in place for her after that. I didn't want to ask too many questions because we would get punished for anything and everything but nothing that we even knew of. Coach Kirk Ferentz would have Coach Broderick pass out the punishments but when I would ask he said he doesn't know but I just need to do it. I remember being late for one position meeting in my entire career, which is the only time I knew what this "punishment" was about. Kirk Ferentz made a way of not letting the athletes speak their mind about anything other than what and when he wanted us to speak.

It wasn't just not being able to use social media or twitter without his approval. I did tons of press conferences and interviews and before each one he would hand me notes and tell me don't say what you want, but say what's on the notes. When I would tell everyone that would listen I wanted to leave they would tell me no. It got to the point where Kirk Ferentz talked to my mom and asked her to convince me to stay. She wasn't aware of what was happening because he didn't tell her, nor did I in fear of what he and Brian Ferentz would try to do to me or my future. It was like deja vu all over again, when I watched the last press conference he did with the 3 student-athletes. It reminded me of my whole career. He picked 3 guys he knew would not say what many of the guys were so upset about and spoke about in that previous team meeting. He also knew no one would take our word over his based on how they operate in the Iowa Football program. He was arrogant and continued to let everyone know he's in charge. That's why Doyle and Brian Ferentz didn't speak. Kirk Ferentz didn't address any of the issues that I am writing this statement about today.

I felt like playing for Iowa Football was a living nightmare. I never drank alcohol prior to going to college but based on my experience there it became the only thing I could rely on it seems and was what I did to cope. Gameday was the only day that it was somewhat of a relief for me, but that even became difficult based on what happened during the week leading up to it. It was clear to myself and other black teammates we were targeted to the extreme regarding not making Iowa's required weight. Trying to gain and maintain that weight in a workout after drinking pounds of Powerade and/or shakes right before working out. This made me very sick daily which included vomiting and my body aching. This was happening once a week but then went to happening every day. I remember those that were in my group which were all Black transferred. As this was happening as I was trying my best to deal with this to help my teammates. I was threatened by KirkFerentz that my meal card would be taken away and I will not eat nor be able to sit with my teammates during eating sessions. 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 11pm at night because I was hungry to order Dominos 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 that day.

I was sitting in a group meeting and it turned to the topic of my teammate Reggie Spearman who was coming off a bad knee injury but was still trying to practice through it. Brian Ferentz was telling our O-line that he can't stand him and he wishes someone would hurt him, he hates him and he wishes he wasn't here. You could tell how practice went with the intensity when Reggie was in. After that season Reggie was gone before that next spring. Reggie was replaced in the lineup by Josey Jewell.

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. 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. My experiences with people outside of the program in the Iowa community are ones that I cherish and will be with me forever grateful for. My hope is my story and those of my teammates save others from the experiences, truths and mistake of playing under and for a coaching staff at Iowa that did and said nothing to stop the bullying and racism from happening to us under Chris Doyle, Brian Ferentz and Kirk Ferentz. What you see on TV isn't what you get behind closed doors."

Akrum Wadley
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Andrew Pearce

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