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College Football

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Ex-Hawkeye arrested

Loftin accused of trying to blackmail coach Ferentz

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Posted: Sunday August 29, 1999 03:25 PM


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- A former Iowa football player whose departure from the team was followed by his allegations of NCAA rules violations has been charged with trying to blackmail the school into giving him back his scholarship.

Ryan Loftin -- a 6-foot-5, 240-pound linebacker who started all 11 games last season but had been moved to the second team this year -- was arrested and charged Saturday with felony extortion and misdemeanor fifth-degree theft.

The Des Moines Sunday Register reported that first-year coach Kirk Ferentz received a letter, signed with the name Ryan Loftin, that threatened a media smear campaign against the coach, allegations of NCAA violations and the sharing of Hawkeye secrets with opponents.

"Loftin did threaten to expose classified information that would harm the professional reputation and business of the victim," court records said. "Loftin expected to force the victim to continue to provide continued support through scholarship funds."

The theft charge involves notebooks, believed to be Iowa playbooks taken from Ferentz's office.

Loftin, 22, who has received his undergraduate degree but had one year of eligibility remaining, quit the team Aug. 17. He said he was concerned that his knee would not hold up.

Three days later, he called reporters saying he did not leave voluntarily and that Ferentz violated NCAA rules regarding off-season workouts.

Contacted at his Iowa City apartment, Loftin told the Register that he had no comment.

"There is nothing I can say," he said.

Among the threats in the letter to Ferentz:

  • Enlisting other disgruntled former players in a campaign to generate negative coverage of Ferentz and his program as well as force an NCAA investigation into the program. University officials last week said they concluded there were no violations in regard to the summer conditioning sessions.

  • Giving inside information to opponents, including Iowa's Saturday opponent, Nebraska. The letter said someone would drive "on I-80 all the way to Lincoln to share with them the information ... about defense and special teams."

  • Making the Hawkeyes lose so that there would be a reassessment of Ferentz, who was hired to replace Hayden Fry.

    The letter included a conclusion in which it was suggested that if Ferentz should reject the deal, "may God have mercy on our souls."

    Ferentz said he was saddened by the entire episode.

    "It is a very disappointing thing to have this happen," he said. "I thought we treated Ryan fairly, but he didn't agree. My concern is now about Ryan and his future."

    Loftin faces a Sept. 9 preliminary hearing. Extortion carries a maximum prison term of up to five years and up to a $7,500 fine. Conviction on the theft charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $100 fine.

    Loftin turned himself in early Saturday morning at the University of Iowa Department of Public Safety. He was taken to the Johnson County Jail around 4 a.m. Saturday and released on his own recognizance about five hours later.

    "We're plainly disappointed the athletic department, the university and Ryan weren't able to settle this as a family matter," Loftin's attorney, Leon Spies of Iowa City, said.

    Loftin, who is from the Des Moines suburb of Waukee, walked-on to the Iowa football team in 1995 but was withheld until the 1996 season, when he saw limited action as second-team defensive end and earned a scholarship.

    Last year, he made 20 solo tackles, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble.

    Loftin's father, Chris, who lives in Waukee, said Saturday he had talked with his son, but that an attorney had advised him not to comment.

    "Ryan had a love affair with the University of Iowa Hawkeye football team," Chris Loftin said. "I'm afraid he reacted much like a jilted lover."

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