Howe: Lighten Up

With the team failing to live up to some expectations, predictably, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz has come under fire. While some of it comes with the territory, so should respect for a body of work and admirable career.

Iowa CITY, Iowa - He doesn't need defending and wouldn't ask for sympathy. Chances are good that Kirk Ferentz thinks very little about outside criticism.

Please don't take it as arrogance. He cares. He wants to win as much as any Iowa football fan.

Ferentz is successful, in part, because of prioritization and strong time management (off of the field). He's not going to worry about fan discontent at the expense of things higher on his list, such as his players, staff, friends and family.

The veteran coach hasn't lost his focus or edge. He hasn't forgotten how to do his job.

Ferentz is guilty of living in a time where people identify with their sports teams more than they ever have in the past. They also can express feelings publicly more readily now in the growing age of social media.


So, for the sake of sanity, let's pin it on the time in which we live. It's too tough to accept that it's all of us as sports fans. They're games, after all. It has to be the vocal minority wanting to dump on Ferentz .

There's evidence of it being the case. The Hawkeye backers pile into Kinnick Stadium for every home game. Bowls welcome them with open arms (and cash registers to take their money). You most certainly could give tickets away.

It's just a few numbskulls calling into Ferentz's radio show (and others) acting the fool, right? The "chat rooms", as the Head Hawk likes to call them, have to be populated by extremists so we know the world of athletics is separate from the disconnection-to-perspective, societal trend.

This space could be filled with the good things accomplished by Ferentz at Iowa, in and out of competition. He loves the state, his school and his program. That's why he gets emotional in public. That's real.

It can be mind-numbing to hear when things are going poorly, but he really does approach failure with harder work. While he looks good for 57, you can see him age through the months of the season.

In most of his almost 14 completed seasons at the helm here, players take on their coach's persona. There's not much wasted time or effort when things are going the best at the Jacobson Building.

Their really can't be. The margin for error is too thin.

People scoff at the suggestion that recruiting rankings matter. It's true that not all do. It's still one of the most tangible methods to predict future success in college football. Here's a solid analysis from the folks at

Now, things become more cloudy here. There's no doubt it's Ferentz's responsibility to recruit and develop players to win football games, among other things. The question is if Ferentz is doing that to the best of his ability and could someone else do it better? It's a guess unless it actually happens.

If you're among those that would like to see a change based on that, people telling you are wrong, well, are wrong. To say Ferentz's way is the only way would be pretty close-minded.

The program identity is solid. To think switching to something else guarantees better results would be equally foolish (please see the men's basketball program for an example).

So, what's the point? Well, let's take a page out of Ferentz's book. Start by not assuming you have the answer. He doesn't and it's his profession

Let's get back to perspective. Since 2001, Iowa has been below .500 in one season. A short list of schools around the country can claim as much consistency .

Nobody is happy about the results for the last two and two third seasons, but it is not dire. Iowa knows much darker days.

Again, it seems the majority of Iowa fans understand. A lot of black and gold was present at Northwestern on Saturday. And most of them stayed to game's end despite their team falling behind by 25 points in an eventual 28-17 loss.

Iowa's last two games in Kinnick will sell out or be close to it. There's a great learning center and brand new indoor practice facility. The bottom line is fine and Ferentz played a big role in getting it there.

The Dean of Big Ten coaches has earned the right to turn things around. Beyond that, he certainly should receive the respect earned during his time here.

Don't make it personal. Iowa fans are better than that.

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