On Dec. 30, wayward Iowa running back Marcus Coker told The Gazette via Facebook that he wanted to return to the Univeristy of Iowa.
“Hawk for life,” Coker wrote. The 6-foot, 230-pounder was suspended from the Insight Bowl on Dec. 20 for a violation of University of Iowa policies and the UI Student-Athlete Code of Conduct.
Tuesday, the Big Ten’s second-leading rusher last season with 1,384 yards asked for and was granted his release from the UI.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was unavailable for comment, according to UI sports information director Steve Roe.
Coker, who was pre-registered for the spring semester at Iowa as late as a week ago, withdrew his application to enroll. Immediate attempts to contact Coker were unsuccessful.
Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said Coker asked for his release Tuesday morning. Barta said Coker remained suspended until the sophomore from Beltsville, Md., cut ties with the UI Tuesday. Barta didn’t know if there were any stipulations to the release and that might still be under discussion.
“I don’t know that I knew what to expect, other than I knew that his status at some point would be adjusted one way or the other,” Barta told reporters before the Iowa men’s basketball game Tuesday night against Michigan State in East Lansing.
Coker wrote this post on his Facebook page Tuesday night: “Welp so much for that. It was a good 2 years iowa..best 2 I could of asked for. Thanks again for the support. I really wish I could tell u guys wats goin on cuz its really ridiculous to b punished for somethin I didnt do. Id like to think [thank] the coaches and athletic staff for everything. Hawk for life.”
Ferentz said during the Insight Bowl pregame radio that he expected Coker and freshman Mika’il McCall to return from suspensions. McCall, who was suspended since late November for an unspecified violation of team rules, said last week he would transfer.
Barta was asked if there was an ongoing legal investigation concerning Coker: “I don’t think so,” he said. He also was asked if there ever was an investigation concerning Coker: “I’m not going to comment on anything beyond where I’ve been so far.”
Late Tuesday night, Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine confirmed to the Gazette that Coker was the subject of an investigation for an alleged assault.
According to an Iowa City Police Department incident report from Oct. 28, 2011, a woman reported to police that she was the victim of an assault at Coker’s residence, 618 Iowa Ave.
The report isn’t detailed, but does note the responding officer was dispatched to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for a sexual assault.
Coker was never charged and the investigation has concluded.
Iowa defensive lineman Darian Cooper, a former teammate of Coker’s at DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland, showed support for Coker in a Facebook post late Tuesday night: “marcus Coker has been like a big bro to me since the seventh grade I can say I tried to emulate his wherever I went (ex high school, and even my descion on where to go to college). Best of luck bro u def got talent.”
Nearly eight weeks passed since the alleged incident and Coker’s suspension. Barta declined to offer any insight beyond Tuesday’s statement.
“There’s nothing I can do about rumors,” Barta said. “They happen every single day in every walk of life, every business aspect and certainly college sports.
“What I can tell is what I’ve told you. When we went into the bowl, he was suspended because he violated the student-athlete code of conduct. Beyond that, he was suspended because he violated the student-athlete code of conduct. Beyond that, I’m not going say anymore. I know there’s a lot of speculation.”
A violation of the UI student-athlete Code of Conduct has an appeals process. After a written request from the student-athlete, Barta would consult with UI officials on whether the suspension should be modified or lifted. If “circumstances warrant a change in a suspension,” Barta would then be able to reinstate an athlete. It’s not known if an appeals process was requested from Coker.
On Dec. 30, Coker was “Hawk for life.” On Jan. 10, he was released from scholarship and shopping for a new school.
Coker’s Iowa career ends with 2,006 yards and 18 TDs. The 2012 season will be the fourth consecutive Iowa will go into with a substantial change on the running back depth chart.
Coker’s Iowa career ended prematurely, just as five running backs have had their careers at Iowa end in the last 13 months. Including Coker and McCall, Adam Robinson (suspension before marijuana citation that led to dismissal), Jewel Hampton (transfer) and Brandon Wegher (left the team, cited personal reasons) also left the UI before reaching their junior seasons.
It’s a stunning amount of attrition at one position.
“Obviously we’ve had several running backs that haven’t finished their career at Iowa,” Barta said. “That’s a concern. But again, it’s a concern; it’s probably more public when it’s a position like a running back position but anytime a student-athlete — I have 700 of them in our program — and any time one leaves it’s a concern.
“I’m not going to speculate. I know today Marcus left and we’re out recruiting and we still have guys that are on the roster. Our goal is every time we bring somebody to campus, we bring them with the purpose of competing for championships and graduating. Anytime that doesn’t happen, it concerns me.”
Sophomore Jordan Canzeri is now Iowa’s leading returning rusher with 131 yards on 31 carries last season. He had 58 yards on 22 carries in Iowa’s 31-14 defeat to Oklahoma in the Insight. The 5-foot-8, 175-pounder also had six catches for 28 yards and a TD. Sophomores De’Andre Johnson (18 carries for 79 yards) and Damon Bullock (10 carries for 20 yards) are on the roster.
Last week, Iowa received a commitment from Erie, Pa., running back Greg Garmon, who rushed for 2,859 yards and 27 touchdowns in his career at McDowell High School.
(Gazette reporters Scott Dochterman and Gregg Hennigan contributed to this post.)
Gary Barta interview from Tuesday:
WHAT WAS MARCUS COKER’S STATUS?
His status hasn’t changed. When we went into the bowl, he was suspended for a violation of student-athlete code. That’s still his status, or it was his status up until today. That isn’t unusual because classes haven’t started nor have football activities.
WHEN DID IT HAPPEN?
My understanding is that he withdrew from classes this morning and then subsequently asked for a release, which we will grant.
DID YOU EXPECT HIM TO LEAVE?
I don’t know that I knew what to expect, other than I knew that his status at some point would be adjusted one way or the other.
ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT RUNNING BACKS LEAVING HAS BECOME A TREND?
I’m concerned whenever somebody comes into our program and for whatever reason leaves before they graduate. That’s no different than any other situation whether it’s Marcus or anybody else. Whenever somebody leaves our program and we brought him here for a reason and I’m concerned when they leave.
So whether it’s a trend or not, I’m just concerned whenever it happens.
ARE THERE STIPULATIONS TO HIS RELEASE?
We haven’t gotten to that point yet. I’ve been here and he’s asked for a release. We’ll grant it, I don’t know when and what format that will take.
ARE THERE ANY SCHOOLS NOT ALLOWED UNDER THE RELEASE?
I’m not going to speculate.
WHAT WAS THE NATURE OF COKER’S MEETING WITH KIRK FERENTZ?
I’m not going to go into details. He asked for a release, he withdrew and that’s where we’re at.
ONGOING LEGAL INVESTIGATION CONCERNING COKER?
I don’t think so.
WAS THERE EVER AN INVESTIGATION CONCERNING COKER?
I’m not going to comment on anything beyond where I’ve been so far.
REGARDING TREND AGAIN
Obviously we’ve had several running backs that haven’t finished their career at Iowa. That’s a concern. But again, it’s a concern; it’s probably more public when it’s a position like a running back position but anytime a student-athlete, I have 700 of them in our program and any time one leaves it’s a concern.
SO IT’S JUST A COINCIDENCE?
I’m not going to speculate. I know today Marcus left and we’re out recruiting and we still have guys that are on the roster. Our goal is every time we bring somebody to campus, we bring them with the purpose of competing for championships and graduating. Anytime that doesn’t happen, it concerns me.
I don’t know how that will play out. I know we’re having a good year recruiting. We recruited well last year. We’ll see how it goes.
ON CHIG BEING EFFECTIVE?
I think Chig has done a terrific job. He’s doing what we asked him to do. No one person can be responsible for a whole group. That was the case before we created and hired Chig’s position and it will be the case afterward. But he’s doing exactly what we’d like him to and overall it’s going well.
There’s nothing I can do about rumors. They happen every single day in every walk of life, every business aspect and certainly college sports. What I can tell is what I’ve told you. When we went into the bowl, he was suspended because he violated the student-athlete code of conduct. Beyond that, he was suspended because he violated the student-athlete code of conduct. Beyond that, I’m not going say anymore. I know there’s a lot of speculation.
Our APR have been fairly favorable. Our graduation success rate is very high. I haven’t looked at it to see how much it will affect it because football is a large squad there tends to be a little bit more of a percentage wiggle room that way.
ON FRUSTRATION OF PLAYERS LEAVING EARLY
Our coaches work so hard recruiting in all sports. When you put all that time and energy – whenever somebody doesn’t finish with you, because that’s the goal – the goal is to win championships and watch, in this case young men, walk out the door with a degree in their hand. So anytime that doesn’t happen – they’re teachers, they’re mentors – so anytime that doesn’t happen they’re frustrated. And it’s not just this situation; it’s any time it happens.