Coach Ferentz: On The Side 11-23

In the two years that we've been doing our "OTS" with Coach Ferentz, it's our belief that Tuesday's edition might be the best one to date. The Big Ten Coach of the year discusses, in depth, recruiting, his contract extension, why he's not interested in the NFL, when he thinks players should leave early for the pros, and much, much more in this premium Quote Package.

It was important for you in this new contract to get the assistants in there. Does that differ from the way other schools do it?

I don't either. And it's just a thought that occured to me during this process. It was really important from my vantage point. And both Bob and President Skorton agreed. We're all on the same page in terms of what we're trying to get done.

Both Bob and David value the guys on our staff. They value the contributions they make; what they stand for. I don't mean to sound cliche, but football really is different. It's so much about everyone. If you have 130 players and one coach, you can't coach 130 guys. It's impossible.

As Bob also alluded to, we had such a great staff and stability here in the '80s. That's one thing that I recognized as an assistant. We all knew each other's moves. We didn't have to waste time discussing trivial things because we all knew how to function with each other and we were all on the same page.

And at a place like Iowa, to have the kind of success we want to have, it's critical.

Having said that, do you expect anything to change this year with your assistants?

It could very well happen. We had one of our guys last year turn down a very nice offer from an SEC team to become a coordinator down there. It was a two-year contract; more money. That would reflect the fact that it goes beyond money for all of us.

None of us are turning it down. Don't get me wrong. But we're not driven by that. The environment that's been created is important.

All that being said, who could argue with Joe Philbin when he left out of here? If a guy has a great opportunity that he thinks is best for him, I'll totally support him. I've left job. I understand what that's about. I tell recruits the same thing, I'll never pretend I know what's best for you.

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Do you ever watch these NFL pregame shows where guys like Terry Bradshaw are saying that you're leading for jobs?

I haven't had time to watch them. I will the next couple of weeks, though. (laughs) I'll get caught up on what the heck is going on.

I can just say this, if that's what I wanted to do, I wouldn't be here right today. I've had my opportunities, more than several, to do it, if it was all about money, and that's the No. 1 attraction of the NFL, then that's where I'd be right now.

I've been exposed to some opportunities, and I know more will come. It's not even a part of my thought process. To me, it's more about lifestyle. I really enjoy the lifestyle I have right now as a college football coach. At this point, that's pretty much where it's at.

Does that surprise you? Was there a time that you weren't sure that this was where you wanted to be?

Uh, I've got to think about that for a little bit. (pause)

You know, probably as much as anything when I did sit down with the guy from Jacksonville, Mr. Weaver, who's an excellent person, that was a real healthy thing. What it did, and I think I told you this back at the time, Mary and I were together at that time out at the (coaches) convention and then we ended up going to Arizona to the Robinson Dinner so I could watch Coach Tressel get the coach of the year award. I kind of followed him around that year as he got it awards.

But anyway, it gave us 28 hours as a adults to talk as adults without kids in the back seat. It really gave us a chance to talk about where we're at; what our thought process is. And that's part of life. You're always re-examining what you're thinking and where you're at.

We came out of those two days really feeling pretty certain about what we like and what we enjoy. I've got the best of both worlds right now. I've got a great professional opportunity where I've never enjoyed coaching as much as I have the last several year. Plus, I've got a great situation on the personal side.

In life, those are the two things that you try to balance. The personal side has to come first and foremost if you're a spouse or if you have kids.

Those are kind of my two guiding principles. On a professional end, my goal is never having to work with people I don't like. (laughs) That's my goal. I hope I can respect them. I have to respect the people that I work for or else it isn't going to work. On top of it, if I can like those people as well, that's an extra bonus. Fortunately here I've got both. It's a pretty good deal.

Do you remember how much your first contract was at Iowa in 1981?

My first contract? Sure. Twenty eight thousand dollars. I had a silver Malibu with 32,000 miles on it. But I thought that was in heaven.

Were you married at the time?

Oh yeah. I had to marry Mary to get some assets. She had a car, a TV, furniture. I had none of the above. I had a '72 Catalina with I don't know how many miles on it burning oil.

But I remember that day. I thought I'd landed in heaven.

You've come quite a ways.

All that being said, and I know this has been a long process to get this contract done, but I never worried about it. That first year, when everybody was worried, I really wasn't. I've never worried about those things. The nice thing about having a contract is that you don't have to worry. You can do what you're supposed to do and not be guided by your job security and all of that stuff. I like the ability to do what I like doing.

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How many times are you going to mention this contract to recruits?

We've already told on the QT that hey, don't worry about it. And I'm sure we'll take some of news articles and get those out there. But, I've gotten the sense that's really become less of an issue now over the last 12 months.

Again, if I was going to jet out of here I think it would have been last winter. There were some things that came along that probably would have been attractive if that's what you wanted to do.

But my sense is that this is kind of becoming old news with our recruits. The more success we have as a program, the more they see we're all invested.

People still were using it, though, right?

Oh yeah. We bring it up. We're very proactive in terms of discussing it. It's on our list of items that have to be covered.

Again, we address that. We can't change it or the weather.

Is it flattering or annoying?

It's probably neither right now. I'm oblivious to it.

Again, I've said it many times, it's probably a good thing because it means that we're having some success. That's probably a good thing.

Is it the natural inclination to believe that the NFL is a step up what's driving the rumors?

Yeah. We're all so trained in our thought process to beleive that big is better. I guess I learned in the '80s that there are a lot of things that are important about what you do. Still the best advice that I've ever been given was that it's all about your day to day. Tom Brezzning (SP?) shared that with me when I went to Maine. He said that it's all about your day to day existence. At the end of the day, that's kind of what I look at.

Professionally and personally, it's all about your day to day. Do you really like the people that you're with? Where are you at philosophically and all of those kinds of things.

And having been in the National Football League, it's probably a lot like...you know Brian wants to be a coach. Bryan Mattison wants to be a coach. Their dads are both coaches. But at least they've seen the good and the bad.

I've been in the National Football League. There's a lot of good. But I've seen the other side of it, too. I've seen some of the challenges that are there.

Who knows? When I'm 60, maybe that's something I'd be intrigued with. I don't know. But right now it's not. It's just not the road that I want to go down.

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Given what the team has done the last couple of years and given what you've achieved as a coach, where do you set your sights now? Is it just about maintaining this level?

Yeah. Our sights have never changed, I don't think, from after the '99 season adn every season there on.

First of all, we've got a heck of a challenge next month. And it's going to be a tough one just like it was two years ago because right now everybody is getting a lot of pats on the back. To get our team refocused, it's going to be a challenge.

Once that game is over, then it's just like it's been the last couple of years. We start over again. It's a whole new squad. It's a whole new personality. And I'm sure a whole new set of challenges. We'll try to put the pieces of the puzzle together and do the best we can as coaches to maximize what our football team ends up being a year from now.

That's the great thing. There are always those challenges out there. We'd love to play in another January bowl. Heck yeah. But ultimately, we want to be the conference champs. That's our goal.

This year it looked very unlikely. Next thing you know, we're standing up there on a platform. How did that happen? It's one of those deals. That's the neat thing about what we do. The important thing is just taking each step for what it is and trying to do the best that you can with each step. And not getting caught up with what we want to do over 10 years and all of that stuff.

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Are you guys still looking to sign 18-20 players?

I think we're at least 20. We'll see how things develop here in the next month. We'll have a healthy class.

You have a couple of kids, not JUCO kids but high school kids, that want to come in January. How do you feel about that?

I'm not sure that's an accurate statement right now.

Well, they want to.

You might want to recheck with some of those guys because I'm not sure that's...I think that's strictly up to the recruits.

I can answer it broad based. There are some advantages, maybe, in doing that. But those advantages are overplayed at times.

Young people try to grow up too fast. I worry about that with our kids at home. They try to grow up too fast and miss out on some things. When you look back, your senior year in high school is a pretty special time.

It's just like leaving school early. I'm not a big proponent of guys leaving early. I can't control that either. But there are a lot of neat things about being a senior and going through the whole experience.

Has that come up this year? Have any of your players come up to you talked about leaving early?

No. And I don't mind telling you that I was pleased to read that both linebackers said that they're not even thinking about it. I would have been very surprised if they were.

I mean, even to explore the opportunity?

I'll have a great conversation with those two guys. I don't think we even have anybody else in that boat. But they realize that it's on their best interest to stay right now without researching. I think that is the case. They're smart enough to know that.

What are the determining factors in your mind for that?

If a guy is a slam dunk first rounder and isn't going to jump up a heck of a lot, then I understand it.

In Fred's situation, I don't know what another year...I mean he had put back to back good years together plus he was already a year older. And Dallas was the same way.

When I spoke to Dallas, I think you could have built a heck of an arguement for coming back. I think he would have jumped just like Robert did. But when I sat down with Dallas, he was a fifth year guy. And 10 seconds into the conversation, I had all my numbers laid out, and you could just tell it was time for him. It was time to go. He was at that point because of the maturity and all of that.

Robert had a different agenda. He had some bigger targets. He wanted to be a Top 5 pick. He wanted to be a team leader or a strong team leader. He ended up doing both of those and got a piece of hardware in the process. I'm sure that was on his mind, too.

But everybody's got different ways of approaching it.

What is the recruiting plan the next few weeks and into the month of December?

They'll hit the road next Sunday. Seven coaches will be on the road Sunday. We'll recruit right on out probably through our finals week. Then the Thursday of finals week, we'll get off the road and start preparing for the bowl game. We'll mix them in like we have been.

You have a big slate of kids coming in sometime in the middle of December. Do you have anything special planned for that weekend?

It's the same routine.

It looks like we'll have a chance to have a real good group that weekend. They all kind of feed off of each other and really start to develop relationships there. That's a positive thing.

But it will be the same routine. This year we have a good schedule basketball wise. It seems like it's every other year. Last year was terrible for us, but this year is good. We have basketball every weekend, I think.

There's a basketball game that Friday of your big weekend. Will you bring all of those guys to the basketball game?

Oh yeah. We'll get our guys in front of our fans in that environment over in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. We'll maximize that every chance we get.

A lot of the guys that you guys are still in on are going to wait until that US Army all-American game to announce. Is that good for you or bad for you or does it matter?

We'll see how it goes. I haven't had that much conversation with recruits because we're limited on calls and all of that. But we'll see how things pan out and play out this coming December.

Has the repeated success the last few years starting to play off a little bit?

It is. We've been seeing it each and every year. Right now, there's a little bit of an afterburn from...any time you can win a league title, that gives you a little bit more credibility. That's a very positive thing for us.

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