Howe: Ferentz Not Obligated

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was prepared for questions regarding Penn State scandal at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. He handled it well but chances are good they won't go away.

Iowa CITY, Iowa - Kirk Ferentz knew the question was coming. The Iowa coach long has expressed his admiration for the Penn State football program and its legendary coach Joe Paterno. Many Iowa fans have wondered throughout Ferentz's 13 years at their school if he would eventually leave to take over the Nittany Lions from an idol.

With the scandal surrounding Paterno and Penn State, it was bound to come up in Ferentz's weekly meeting with the media on Tuesday. He was prepared.

Ferentz brings notes with him to the press conference each week. They carry his bullet points.

The yellow sticky note this week displayed his response for questions regarding the Penn State situation. He looked down on paper as the first inquiry was asked of him on Tuesday .

"The only thing I can really say is what can anyone say right now," Ferentz said with furrowed brow and feeling.

With that well-thought out statement, the questions turned to football and this week's battle for first place with Michigan State. Tough to ask a follow up.

Ferentz isn't the only one who grew up idolizing Penn State and Paterno. There are plenty of them struggling to come to terms with for this horrific development on a Big Ten campus.

This also hits very close to home for Ferentz.

Ferentz's wife, Mary, has a brother, Kevin Hart, who was a linebacker who lettered for the Nittany Lions in 1976. Ferentz's father-in-law, Gerry Hart, played football with Joe Paterno at Brooklyn Prep, and a nephew, quarterback Mike Hart, played for the Nittany Lions recently.

The Iowa coach was asked again later in his press conference to comment on the Penn State case.

Q: Ten years down the road when you are asked about Paterno, what will you say?

Ferentz: Come see me in 10 years.

Q: If they ask you now?

Ferentz: I am just thinking about Michigan State. I don't know what anyone can say right at this moment.

Q: What is his legacy?

Ferentz: Right now I don't know what anyone can say.

Ferentz's stance makes sense. As he said, he has a responsibility to his players to prepare them for Michigan State. He wanted to keep the focus around his program on an important game.

Who knows how much attention Ferentz has payed to this story? Maybe he had not yet developed his scattered thoughts into a coherent opinion with his busy schedule at this time of year.

Reporters were within their rights to ask him about it on Tuesday. Ferentz has spoken on many occasions about this Penn State roots. He wanted to play there.

Ferentz shouldn't, in any way, be obligated to publicly speak on the mess in State College, however. It's not his cross to bear.

It is unlikely Ferentz has heard the Penn State questions for the last time. If published reports hold true, Paterno is on his way out as Nittany Lions coach.

Ferentz's name surely will be thrown out as a possible Paterno replacement. He's the type of high character person for which Penn State should search.

Whether or not he's interested in them or vice versa, Ferentz will be a candidate in the minds of college football journalists and fans, particularly at PSU and Iowa. He'll need to continue to do his best PR work if he wants to keep it from being a distraction for his football team.


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