Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz defends player safety decisions

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IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa Hawkeyes Coach Kirk Ferentz fired back at a television commentator who criticized him for his decision to leave star quarterback C.J. Beathard on the field late in the game of a blowout bowl loss to Florida last January.

In an interview with the New York Times last week, retiring color commentator and ex-offensive lineman Ed Cunningham blasted Ferentz for not pulling Beathard from the game when it was out of reach and Beathard was noticeably limping. Cunningham told the reporter he had to fight an urge to confront the Iowa coaches after the game.

In the post-game press conference after the Outback Bowl, Ferentz noted Beathard had been cleared by medical personnel, was not suffering from a head injury and as a senior requested to stay in the game. At his weekly press conference in Iowa City today, Ferentz said he found Cunningham's critique offensive.

“As a seasoned head football coach and the father of three sons who have played collegiate football, the health and safety of our student-athletes is a top priority of the Hawkeye Football program. We have a strong relationship with the medical staff and medical experts at the University of Iowa. Each player is fully evaluated and all established protocols are followed prior to the decision to play and during the game," Ferentz was quoted in a release from the University of Iowa.

"Comments made by a retiring sports broadcaster about the coaching staff subjecting a player to possible long-term health related issues because we allowed him to play in the Outback Bowl were surprising and offensive to our coaching staff, the player and his parents. We do not allow a student-athlete to play unless he is medically cleared – that is my commitment to our players and their parents.”

The coach's version of the incident was also verified by Casey Beathard, C.J.'s father.

“The coaching and medical staff at Iowa were always very thorough and diligent in addressing any injury situations, and shared all medical information with C.J. and us, as parents," he said. "We had absolute confidence in Coach Ferentz, his coaching staff and the medical team to make player safety an uncompromising priority on game day, on the practice field and in the weight room.”