Posted by: marcmwm | April 7, 2009

I couldn’t kick my son off my team

Does he need to kick him off the team?

My answer is no. Hear me out.

If this is my son, I want him near me. I want to physically change his behavior. I want him sleeping in my house, under my wife’s watchful eye. I want to drive him home after practice, after games, when all his buds are out celebrating for what I’m sure will be the 15 minutes of downtown time they’re going to get after this.

I want him to pay a price. I want him to explain to the entire team, seniors and everyone, why the downtown curfew has suddenly become a time you can measure on a stopwatch. I want him to take responsibility for his actions. I want him to feel this as he’s banned from the sideline for five games next fall.

I want my son to see that he’s only 19 years old, that he’s a scholarship football player who, if he lives his life right, might have a shot at the NFL someday. If my son has a legit problem, I want to see my son through. I want to be by his side while he goes through what, I imagine, would be bruising self-examination. I’d want to be there for my son.

Maybe I’m overdramatizing. Maybe this situation isn’t anywhere near this type of boiling point. But I do remember Kirk Ferentz’s reaction on this topic last fall. My heart went out to him. This is flesh-and-blood stuff.

James Ferentz will be an Iowa football player for five years. Kirk Ferentz will be his father forever.

I could never seperate “son” from “player.” I’m not sure anyone could. I don’t think it’s fair to ask that of anyone. (This is the part where someone mentions salary, I’m sure.)

I’d want my son to know I love him and I’d do anything for him. I’d want to be a positive force in my son’s life.

I couldn’t, in my heart of hearts, turn my back on my son. Yes, it’s only football and football is a small part of life and maybe there’d be a larger life lesson in a booting. But look at the household we’re talking about here.

Is there a right answer? No, there’s not. The only conclusion I have is this: I have a son (he’s 9 and loves football) and I’d want him to know I love him. How I would show that in this case? I’d want him close, maybe closer than ever.



  1. This is not that big of a thing…geez, last year a goofer player got drunk, beat the hell out of two old men for laughing at him–choked one out. Thats a big thing!! Punky made him a captain and he didn’t miss a down! Yes, what JF did is off the charts stupid, but generally, we as a society do not punish stupid; at least not to the degree of removing someone who may or may not have an alcohol problem from the team for two minor, minor violations in city where the police only have minor, minor violations to pursue. If people were to be seriously punished for stupidity, MN would have to build a prison the size of Anoker County!

  2. ‘House,
    Again, this is a well-thought, well-written post. Part of what I admire about you.
    My gut feeling is there should be some type of public display (punishment) meted out. The image I have is these boys (and that is what they are) on the Strip or at Kinnick with a bag, a pole and a placard that states “This is what I get for drinking” picking up trash.

  3. I agree with you, ‘House. I am really fed up with the overreaction by national media members (like Rittenberg) saying that KF needs to throw JF off the team. 80-90% of the so-called “arrests” have been for possession of alcohol or public intoxication. While I am not condoning those actions, they are certainly not problems that warrant the labeling and characterizing that national pundits are using to describe the state of the Iowa football program.

    Does he deserve some severe punishment from a football perspective? Absolutely. I think his football punishment will be a cake walk from the punishment he will receive from home.

    To me, a fair punishment would be a suspension for the first half of the season.

    Is there a team wide penalty? I am sure that they have something along those lines, but if it were me, I would impose a penalty on the entire team if someone had a mishap. Extra community service, workouts, etc. for the entire team for any gaffe by an individual player.


  4. I’m in exactly the same position as KF in coaching my boy’s U8 soccer team. Yeah, right, but I do feel the coach/parent conflict on a small scale, so I can only imagine having it in the news. As a prosecutor, I see a lot of parents dealing with their kids bad choices. I had two mothers call me about their sons’ legal troubles this weekend and they were in real anguish.

    This is why clear and fair policies have to be set out prior to problems, so it doesn’t look like favoritism. Fans also need to realize that there is a vast range of behavioral and legal issues to consider, so no two violations will be the same. Simple misdemeanors are very different from Felonies.

    Also, it is difficult to expect college students to be different from all the people violating the open container and public intox laws on football Saturdays. Many people wonder why Iowa City allows underage people in bars. Many wonder why we don’t allow adults under twenty-one to drink legally. What does our society really think we should do to resolve this enduring hypocrisy?

  5. I think playing on a team is a privilege, and if he is going to violate the rules (not to mention the rule of law), then he should face serious consequences. Two arrests? My dad would have kicked me off the team after the first one.

    And seriously, it’s just not that hard to stay off the police blotter.

  6. ~ Marc, I might agree with your assessment if the situation were limited to a father-son relationship, but I think this is different. The primary distinction between the role of a father and overseeing a highly-scrutinized organization is that the latter has specific rules and requirements its participants must meet. Although it should have been done well-preceding, if Ferentz took his son to task on his first “violation of terms” it should have been made clear that it would be his *last*. Indeed, keeping him close and setting those boundaries would have been a good idea…to start. And if that happened, the message sure didn’t get through. I won’t argue with a pre-season suspension, but it does seem that if mini-Ferentz doesn’t get his act together soon, any failure to remove him from the team completely may smack of nepotistic enabling and the elder Ferentz confusing personal preferences with professional responsibilities. Put another way, a father refusing to acknowledge his own failures and uphold standards in yeah, I will mention it, a concern for which he is being highly paid. It’s called a mandate, leadership and showing your son and other players what happens when they makes choices. All which clearly defines the objective in every facet of life: Bring in people who make good choices and can perform without screwing up, backpedaling and making excuses. God knows, there’s plenty of them out there.

  7. This from my fantasy golf pal and former co-worker Mike Koolbeck (good thoughts here):

    Apparently young Ferentz has other issues far more important than playing football at this point in his life.

    If it means saving his life, Dad has no recourse but to kick him off the team and into a treatment center. He’s not kicking him out of his family. He’s not saying he doesn’t love him. He would be using tough love to confront a problem that left unchecked will produce further, more serious, problems throughout life.

  8. I am sorry to offend those people that have offered this suggestion, but to say that JF has a drinking problem that needs help through alcohol treatment is a bit overboard.

    If JF needs to go to a treatment center, then so does almost every other student on a college campus.

    These actions by JF certainly do not merit the severe punishment some have been asking for on this forum.

  9. I’m not asking for anyone to agree. I’m learning about myself with this kind of post and this kind of situation. I’m not naive enough to think I won’t ever go through an issue like this with my kids (I have an 11-year-old daughter, too).

    Keep the discussion coming!

  10. He’s screwed up 2x and has never played a down at Iowa.

    Methinks if this is someone else they’re probably SOL and out of IC.

    I don’t know that he has a problem, that could have been me a hundred times over but I got lucky and never got caught.

    If he stays he needs to be suspended for the season. 2 screw ups like that should cost you a year, and make him move back home.

    It’s going to be really interesting to see what KF does here. He’s a father before he’s a coach and, quite frankly, I feel bad for the position his son has put him right now as you can’t watch your players, or kids, 24/7.

  11. To those of you who argue that young James does not have a problem with alcohol there is a simple test to apply to this situation. Has alcohol caused you any problems in your life? Have you missed class/work, arrest record, treatment history, missed time away from athletics, spent time in jail, paid fines…the list goes on and on. I think you get my drift. 2 alcohol related arrest at the age of 19 is not a good start to this young mans life. This needs to be addressed before it becomes a bigger problem as he gets older. Whats next? DUI’s? At this point, I think football needs to be the last thing on this young mans mind. He needs to work on staying sober.

  12. No, no, no, no, no, no and no. I, and a LOT of other people, got lucky, James hasn’t faired so well.

    No one knows if he has a problem or not. Based on what he know, superficially, about his family makes me think it’s bad luck and being young and stupid.

    I may be wrong but I kind of doubt it in this case.

  13. Marc, I agree with much of your column, KF needs to help fix his son, thats job one.

    Unfortunately, KF is running a big time football program. I have read that when they recruit, they are looking for Students, who are mature and focused, and believe in conducting their lives with the discipline necessary to be successful in school and create something special as a member of a team. Young James apparently didn’t get the memo.

    Kids are smart. They will push the limit to see what they can get away with. But when a line is drawn in the sand, you need deterrence to keep them from crossing the line. And when that fails, you must be punitive. You can not run the program without instilling personal discipline.

    Unfortunately, the harder the punishment, the greater the impression it will have on the rest of the team. And I am sure it will be harder on KF than on James, but it just has to be done.

  14. ~ Wow. This may be the first comment section I’ve EVER seen on the internet not plagued with curse words, rampant insults and gross misspellings every three words aka there werds. It seems you people actually read. Keep up the good iPen work, guys.

  15. This is a smart group, ic. It’s all I can to keep up.

    And I appreciate the civility.

  16. While I am starting to be swayed by the opinion that JF deserves a year long suspension, can we at least dispense with the option that he should be kicked off the team?

    How much time must pass before people forget about our “incidents” over the past two-three years and quit labeling the Iowa football program as a dysfunctional, out-of-control group off the field?

  17. How much time must pass before people forget about our “incidents” over the past two-three years and quit labeling the Iowa football program as a dysfunctional, out-of-control group off the field?

    An excellent question. I don’t consider a PAULA an “incident” so IMO it would take two years of nothing worse than 1-2 PAULA’s per season to bring this back to the program being in control.

  18. I’m with Morehouse. I think you keep the young lad close by (with severe penalty).

    I’m speculating there is not a serious drinking problem w/JF, but no one here knows that for sure. He certainly is guilty of showing disregard to some very basic team rules.

    With all that being said, it would not surprise me at all if JF transferred due to the intricate issues involving KF’s hard line rules with past violators.

  19. The rate of PAULA charges in Iowa City must be something like 100X the national average…there are a lot of cops in Iowa City downtown.

    If there is a team curfew in place and James violated, then he ought to be suspended like any one else. I don’t think this is at level where he needs to be kicked off the team. Certainly, he needs to change his behavior and do less partying/drinking and grow up some.

  20. Big Question time again. Vote, Register for the draft, charged in court as an adult, but you cannot legally go have a beer. Yet another American double standard, If JF were in the Marines, another taxpayer funded entity, what punishment would be meted out? what if his Father were a Colonel? I have the questions, not the answers.

  21. Good take ‘house. One I concur with.

    JF is guilty of being a knucklehead, no more, no less. It is very frustrating, and he does need to get things figured out in a hurry, but nothing he has done has warranted his dismissal from the team, other than being the son of Kirk.

    Right now, the most grateful fellow in Iowa City has to be Adrian Clayborn… is it we are debating whether JF should be kicked off the team for being a drunkard, while AC seems to be getting a minor pass? It seems our priorities and sensibilities are out of wack on this one.

  22. Dave makes an excellent point. We don’t know if there’s a real abuse problem here. My guess is not, but that’s also speculation.

    Coincidentally, we had a bit of a run in with the principal yesterday. I wanted to hear what my son had to say and then he was punished — 200 pushups a night until an April 13 birthday, if he wants to go to the birthday. (It was a stupid, not-using-your-brain kind of deal, so gotta teach him to think and that there’s consequence for his actions, even if it was just a little teasing.)

  23. 200 pushups/day? Better watchout Marc, with that kind of punishment he’ll be punishing you soon.

  24. Oh I know, E. He’s got a grandfather (wife’s dad) who’s built like an appliance. He seems to be going that way.

    This is going to be a short run for me! 🙂

  25. What did your son do to warrant a trip to the prinicipal?

    If you don’t want to discuss I understand, I am just curious what deserves a call to mom and dad now versus when I was that age.

  26. He grossed out some girls, not once but twice. The first time was a trip to the hall. The second it was off to Mr. Schipper.

    That’s what got me, the second trip. Gotta learn, boy!!!

  27. Marc,
    This is going to sound like a joke, but it’s not.
    Couldn’t KF do all of the things you feel he needs to do for JF by making him the team manager?

  28. Bradedog, welcome to the jungle!!

    I hear you and, yeah, he probably could. But the public embarassment would probably sink that idea. Maybe this could be his function during his suspension?

  29. What did he do to like, totally, “gross” them out?

  30. That’s a little unclear. From what I gathered, it was saying something about intestines.

  31. A 3rd grader talking about passing gas warrants a trip the the principal?

    Poor kid, I would have never gotten OUT of that office. Our prinicpal carried a paddle in the lunch room so things we’re pretty quiet for the most part.

  32. I hope your took the opportunity to point out the valuable life lesson that girls are nothing but trouble.

  33. Somethings you just have to find out for yourself!!

  34. Lord knows I’m still trying to figure it out.

  35. This was a great read, Marc. And some awesome respones to a topic that typically ends in a shouting match. Good job readers.

    I bet Hlas wishes he could get smart readers like yours to respond in this fashion.:)

  36. I think Hlas’s readers are probably just as smart as Morehouse’s. In fact, I bet the Venn intersection of the two groups is pretty big.

    But, what I think makes this blog different is Morehouse uses it to interact with his readers and get a dialogue going. Hlas’s blog seems more personal and not so much commentary. He has great posts but there’s usually only a couple of comments by readers. I suspect if there was more interaction between him and his readers, there’d be more comments.

    One style isn’t better than the other. It’s just different.

  37. Thanks, Paul and MF.

    Venn intersection?

    One technique Hlas uses is the flame war. He likes to pose a question (Iowa over Northwestern for the Outback bid, for example) and let readers fight it out.

    I’m not sure how much babysitting that causes for him. We generally have the same thoughts on allowing comments — constructive, add to the discussion, no personal attacks.

    I’d like to get to the point where we have e-mail questions every week.

    Back to Ed.

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