Bigger Than Football

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz mixed it up with the media for the second press conference in a row. In doing so, he helped take the focus off of football and put it on something bigger.

Iowa CITY, Iowa - Cool Hand Kirk is cracking.

The mild mannered Iowa Coach on Tuesday bumped up against the media for a second straight press conference. Kirk Ferentz is not having fun .

Saturday's episode resulted from a commutative effect of questions he was tired of answering. Tuesday, he directed his frustration at one reporter and line of questioning.

One could probably count Ferentz's rubs with the press on one hand, maybe two. That's in almost 14 seasons.

Maybe he's just getting old and crusty. Look at the gray hair. Clinton hasn't aged that much.

More likely, he's just tired and pissed off. He's passionate and hard working like his fans.

Saturday was a case of him being asked to say his team his heading in the wrong direction. He's never liked to evaluate seasons until they've been completed and he was asked if his team was getting worse. Four-game losing streaks are more rare than diamonds in little old Iowa City.

While the edge and bad humor did appear at times during Tuesday's main press conference (he said his wife still is talking to him and that everyone likes to ride in a victory parade), sparks flew On The Side where Ferentz clearly did not wish to be asked about Peter Gray. Period.

The longest-tenured coach in the Big Ten objected to the way the question was asked. He did that because he lives in a cocoon known as the football complex. He probably doesn't know who won the election.

The reporter asked about Gray, public enemy No. 1 to the university at present. That was enough to set off Ferentz.

While living in cocoon (probably with an eight-track tape player), Ferentz probably was not aware that two of his former players talked about Gray through social media in recent days. He was made aware of it during the press conference and kept after the reporter. I've chalked that up to him feeling fired up from being asked about Gray in any way.

The reporter knew about the players on Facebook and Twitter and a KCJJ reports saying Ferentz told his players not to having anything to do with Gray once made aware of the allegations. The coach was attempting to distance himself from this story and wanted no part of it on Tuesday with his team needing to beat Michigan and Nebraska to reach a bowl game. He said his players had worked with Gray, but "it's been awhile; significant while."

Iowa's coach also was not dismissing the nature of the allegations. He might not be doing his job the best right now, but he's a damn good human, which is magnified in this age when that's not as much the norm as it once was in sports.

Ferentz drinks a lot of coffee. He does it because he works harder when his team struggles. It's what he asks of his players. It's his way.

The reporter's question was legit knowing what he knew. He can't know Ferentz didn't have that information.

It happens. It's no one's fault.

Ferentz did succeed in at least a few areas. He got reporters and fans to talk about something other than football, which was not his intention, rest assured. Who wouldn't rather talk about a game instead of the hard news even if it's in a Big House?

Most people in the state and beyond who care and had not heard of Gray, have now. Nobody at the university wanted that, least of all president Sally Mason, who released her first public statement on the investigation a bit after Ferentz's press conference.

Knowingly or unknowingly, Ferentz performed a service that should reflect well on him. He brought attention to a story that deserves it.

Innocent until proven guilty has some loopholes, but it applies here. That said, there's enough smoke to warrant looking for the fire. In the very least, who the heck at the school hired him back? Why would the former football players and other athletes at Iowa comment on it through social media?

No, it certainly wasn't a normal day at this weekly gathering. Reporters and the coach usually just show up with blinders on and do their jobs.

Bigger picture is that things are not good at the beloved university, on or off of the field.

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