This is a brilliant idea, the player development director. It's probably two years late -- give Iowa's recent "record" -- but it's still cutting-edge thinking, evidenced by the fact that Chigozie Ejiasi, in his formative months on the job for the UI, is getting calls from colleges who are in even more formative stages of player development director.
The one thing that Kirk Ferentz has said about this all along is that it's not a panacea. Iowa is still going to have players who get PAULAs, get arrested and flunk out. Ejiasi should help curb this, but he won't get everything. Let's not kid ourselves.
What I like about Ejiasi in this position? He's traveled the road of a walk-on at Iowa, playing and graduating at the UI. He's young enough to connect and yet old enough to know this program needs to stem the bad PR. Plus, he's from here, a Cedar Rapids Prairie kid. He knows the unique challenges of African-American student-athletes who come to college in Eastern Iowa.
By Marc Morehouse
Chigozie Ejiasi Settling in to new job
IOWA CITY — Part of Chigozie Ejiasi's job is to police the downtown bar district. He's the director of player development for the Iowa football team. This is part of the job.
It's not the only part of the job, it's the reason the job exists.
Since April 2007, Iowa has had 20 arrests or alcohol-related incidents. Five players have been ticketed for underage possession of alcohol. Five arrests were felonies with three later pleading guilty to misdemeanors. Nine players have been dismissed or have left the program after arrests.
So, Ejiasi, a 26-year-old Cedar Rapids Prairie graduate and former Hawkeye defensive back, has already walked the beat since he was hired in September.
"I have already and will be downtown," Ejiasi said during an introductory news conference Friday. "I've made a few contacts with (bar) owners already. The owners have been good about talking with me and are willing to help out."
Of course, this is the director of player development job at its most base level. Ejiasi sees a job that will grow into a "big brother" role, with an eye on academics and acclimation focused on first-year student-athletes.
"The guys can come into my office anytime. I'm located in the players' lounge," Ejiasi said. "I'm really here for these guys and just these guys. That's academically, socially, football, they can come and talk to me about anything. That's what I'm here for."
Since the job came online in September, the focus has been on first-year players. Ejiasi's first months have been geared toward tracking players with an academic issue.
Being a native of Eastern Iowa, he's aware of the cultural difficulties African-American players face when they move from their homes in Florida and Texas to Iowa City. He'll have a seat on a few committees that will deal with this issue.
"If you're a minority, it's going to be different for you coming into a college," Ejiasi said. "Now all of the sudden, you are a huge minority in that community."
Ejiasi said he's never had a baby-sitting job and doesn't consider himself one now.
"This is really a position to be a bigger brother for these guys," he said. "And also, kind of be a dad for these guys also."
But he also acknowledges a drop in the legal issues would be considered a success. That means policing downtown, curfew checks and academic progress reports. He also knows that he won't be able to get to all 130 players every minute of every day."Four or five years from now, one of the players comes back and tells me I really helped him going from high school to college," Ejiasi said, "that would be the success I'm looking for."