Derrell Johnson-Koulianos always knew how to attract attention. He wanted the spotlight, even as Kirk Ferentz wouldn’t let him have it. Ferentz had his reasons, even before DJK’s arrest. Clearly the two men did not see eye-to-eye.
College football is now big business. Too often coaches look the other way on discipline because they know the truth about the majority of fans: they care more about winning than “doing it the right way”. So for Ferentz to bench, suspend, and later dismiss, one of his top playmakers, that tells you something. Either Ferentz had a vendetta, or DJK had it coming.
Two years ago, during a lengthy interview Andy Fales and I did with a contrite Johnson-Koulianos, he took full responsibility. He won many people over that day. You can hear what he said here:
Interesting guy. No one would deny.
After the talented Johnson-Koulianos watched his football career quickly flame out in the NFL, CFL, and AFL, a bitter DJK now tells a different story. He holds Ferentz responsible. We won’t pass on the content of the lengthy Twitter tirade here, other than this:
I’ve been advised not to reveal any more details about my experience under KF. Look for the book on shelves this summer.
— DJK (@coachkoul) December 17, 2013
When one of the leading receivers in Hawkeye history makes accusations in a public forum the way Johnston-Koulianos did, they can’t be completely ignored, no matter how much eye-rolling there is at the attention grab.
The targeted tweets don’t mean Johnson-Koulianos absolves himself, but he promises to unload a tell-all book about the Iowa football program. He makes it clear it won’t be flattering, and much of his ire is aimed squarely at the head Hawkeye.
First of all, show me the book. It’s one thing to unleash a stream of sensational tweets, it’s another to actually write a book, find a publisher, and put potentially libelous claims in print. If Johnson-Koulianos does write a book, who among us won’t read it? Many will say they won’t, but no one texts while driving either.
Someone asked me if Iowa was 4-8 right now instead of 8-4, if more fans would be receptive to DJK’s accusations. Easy answer: yes. Some fans would feel the same regardless, but some wouldn’t. If we’re being honest, we know that. We also know many Hawkeye fans think the media should not pay attention to DJK right now, while some Cyclone fans think the story is being under-reported. It’s our version of partisan politics. It’s just as silly.
Tony Moeaki, Dace Richardson, Marcus Schnoor and other former Hawks have rushed to Ferentz’s defense, while strongly discrediting Johnson-Koulianos. Amari Spievey backs DJK. If the story has legs, more people will take sides. There’s no doubt Ferentz-backers will far outnumber those of a charismatic narcissist, who by his own admission, often had it coming.
In any work environment, especially emotionally charged ones, not everyone gets along, and not everyone loves the boss. Sometimes people need a divorce. They’re just a bad fit. That was the case here, and it appears it started that way, and only got worse.
We debated inviting Johnson-Koulianos on for another interview. Don’t even know if he’d even accept. However, an additional interview feels unfair. We had already asked him many questions about these same issues, and as the back-and-forth shows, he was open, candid and likable. Short of some actual evidence of wrongdoing by Iowa or Ferentz, what has changed? It seems like just another social media rant. The modern-day version of scribbling on a bathroom stall.
That’s not to say there’s nothing here. Truth is we don’t want to see how hot dogs are made, and we likely don’t want to see the underbelly of college football. Just as Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four” shocked sports fans in the 70s with its tales of baseball players boozing and chasing women, there’s a book to be written on college football that might not match-up with many people’s perceptions of what locker rooms, practices, and nightlife are actually like. (“The System” comes close. It isn’t by an ex-player, but it puts college football under an unflattering microscope, while showing some of the good too.)
Kirk Ferentz won’t respond to DJK’s tweets. He shouldn’t. That would only bring more of the attention Johnson-Koulianos craves. Ferentz also receives the benefit of the doubt, while Johnson-Kouilianos does not. Doesn’t mean DJK doesn’t have any truths to tell. It just means most will consider the source, and find that source lacking credibility.
Somewhere Ferentz is wondering if Johnson-Koulianos will ever stop being a thorn in his side.