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Players not taking life as a Hawk for granted

[ 0 ] October 25, 2013 |

For members of the Iowa football team, the controversy at Grambling State University is a sad reminder that some college football players are not as fortunate as they are.

“You have to sit back sometimes and just realize how great we do have it,” Iowa junior running back Mark Weisman said. “We have great travel, it’s unbelievable, great facilities, and now they’re only getting better.

“It’s unbelievable to have (all this) and shame on us if we take it for granted.”

Playing football at the Big Ten level is demanding and time consuming for the Iowa players, but it also has many built-in luxuries of which players from smaller schools could only dream.

From an endless amount of food at the training table to staying in fancy hotels to practicing and playing and studying in the finest facilities, life as a Hawkeye isn’t too shabby.

“It’s a blessing,” Iowa senior linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “None of us guys on scholarship have anything to complain about. We’re treated well and we’re treated with respect.

“So that’s all you can ask for, and it’s something you can cherish.”

Football is played at hundreds of colleges in the United States, but a vast majority of them don’t offer the perks or have the resources that come with playing for a BCS school. Some schools barely have budgets large enough to support a football program.

The players at Grambling State made news when they boycotted and ultimately forfeited last Saturday’s game against Jackson State in protest of what they described as substandard facilities and unhealthy conditions.

The facilities at Iowa, on the other hand, just keep getting better, the latest example being the indoor practice facility, which is now in phase two of $50 million project.

Phase two, which costs about $30 million, includes construction of the football operations center, strength and training facilities, locker rooms, training rooms and meeting rooms.

Phase one handled the construction of the new indoor practice facility.

“I would like to think without having worked at all the other institutions in this conference, if I had to wager, I would say the schools in this conference are doing their best to maximize their student-athlete’s experience as well, whether it’s facilities, training table or how they travel, the workout clothes that they wear, whatever aspect you may want to consider,” said Paul Federici, who is Iowa’s director of football operations. “That’s what we’re here for. We’re not here without these student-athletes. I think that’s all of our responsibility and I would say that it’s a pretty competitive balance amongst our institutions all trying to do the same thing.”

Weisman described traveling as an Iowa football player as being unbelievably convenient. The starters and the other seniors on the team even had the rare opportunity to fly first class to Ohio State last weekend at the request of coach Kirk Ferentz.

“We’re treated very well,” said Kirksey, who will make his 33rd consecutive start Saturday. “Coach Ferentz looks out for us. The university looks out for us. So that’s something to be proud of.”

The goal with each road trip besides making it convenient as possible for the players and coaches is fitting it into a tight 36-hour schedule.

“Unless there are some unique circumstances such as multiple overtimes or there is some sort of weather delay or some sort of crisis in the stadium, our goals are pretty simple,” Federici said. “When the game ends, win or lose, we want to be moving away from that stadium in about 60 minutes after the end of the game. And that depends on other circumstances that we can’t control. But by and large, in 60 minutes, we want to be leaving the stadium on our way to our charter. We want to be in the air about an hour after that.”

In addition to tuition, room and board and a monthly stipend, a player on scholarship also has free access to the training table, which includes one meal per day with a menu that is closely monitored by Federici and Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle. Items with little to no nutritional value such as pop and candy are not on the menu.

“In terms of fueling the needs that these players have and in a way that’s consistent with what coach Doyle wants, we try to use a varied collection of menus and vendors and caterers and the menu is carefully put together,” Federici said. “Coach Doyle and I work together on that on an ongoing basis. And that’s when we travel as well.”

Federici said making the college experience as pleasant as possible for the players is a group effort that starts at the top with UI President Sally Mason and with Director of Athletics Gary Barta.

“We have an athletic administration and a president that really gives us the resources to do the right thing and maximize whether it’s a site plan for construction or it’s traveling or conveniences with the players,” Federici said. “It really gives us discretion to work within the rules and the finances to help them be successful, whether that’s athletically or academically.”

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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