The following are quotes from today's press conferences with Kirk Ferentz, Bob Bowlsby and Capital One representative Anthony Azama.
Question to Bowlsby: Are you amazed at how Iowa fans travel so well every year?
I don't know if I can say that I am amazed, because the Hawk fans never really surprise me. It's always a source of pride to see how Hawkeye fans follow their team. I think that comes from being in a state where there are not any major professional sport franchises, it adds to an extra amount of partisanship for the major college programs in the state.
Hawkeye fans for many, many years have exemplified all the best in sportsmanship and all the best in partisanship, and that includes traveling. Just as we averaged more than 50,000 fans per game during two decades of non-winning seasons; I think that is amazing in a lot of ways: The deep loyalty that Hawkeye fans have for all of our programs, especially our football program.
It is always very gratifying, and I am not sure if there is ever a more fun event than a Hawkeye Huddle at the bowl game. When 10,000 to 12,000 Hawkeye fans get in a room and whoop it up, it's a pretty special environment and then that leads in to the ball game. Hawk fans are the best; I am not surprised that there are already 3,500 tickets sold for this game, and I think our sales are about the same at this point.
Azama to Bowlsby: I need to make sure that I write that down, the Hawkeye Huddle? I need to go to that.
Bowlsby: You want to make sure to come to that.
Ferentz: I always leave by midnight. I never stay after that.
To Bowlsby: How long have you been working on this contract?
We have been working on a contract extension with Coach since we finished the bowl game last year. As he always is, Kirk has been terrific to work with on the elements of this, but these are not easy processes. They have a lot of moving parts, it's important for Kirk and his family, and it's important for our university. There was a lot of back and forth and a lot of cooperation. And as is usual, there are a few abrasions from time to time, but the fact of the matter is that we extended the contract.
I couldn't be any more pleased with it. I think the man sitting next to me exemplifies everything that is good about college athletics. He is not only a terrific mentor and a terrific teacher of the young people in our program, but he has the universal respect of everyone that works with him in the University. Our football program is on a very solid base. Our student athletes have a model that is second to none in college athletics, and he does it with integrity and good humor, and all of the best educational principals. He is also a terrific football coach. I am very pleased that we were able to make this extension. We are paying a lot of money, and I consider it a terrific bargain for our University.
To Ferentz: How does it feel to be wanted like this?
It feels good, quite obviously. As I said in the release, I just feel quite fortunate. I learned back in 1981 that this is a pretty special place. My family and I have invested 15 years here now. We know a lot better now than we did in that first year. I have had so much fun coaching the last few years. It boils down to a couple of things.
First and foremost, I am around tremendous people everyday, which I enjoy and appreciate. No matter where you look, the people on this campus, the student athletes, the fans that we have; I have been extremely fortunate.
I am excited about the building that has been done in the program, and that started five-plus years ago. The guys that came through here in 1999; our record wasn't very pretty, but the train was on the track. We improved during the course of that season and really played our best game of the year at the end of that season. To me, that has set the stage for everything since that time.
Everyone that has been involved has made it very special.
I can't tell you how many phone calls I have had in the last four weeks. From Gallery, Kaeding, Sanders, Fred Russell coming out to practice, guys on the most recent teams and right on down through. Bernie Wyatt calls yesterday, John Niland on the sidelines the other day, Ronnie Harmon; that is what makes it so enjoyable. So many people that have a great interest and that are involved in our program. I feel very, very lucky.
To Ferentz: You credit your coaching staff; how important is it to keep them together for the long haul?
That was a part of what we have been working on. I wanted to make sure that all of our assistants have the opportunity to stay here for a long time, and I think they all feel that way. I have said this many times, football is such a team sport. No one person makes things happen in football, and we have such a great staff. Not only the coaching staff, but we have such a great support staff; our secretaries are fiercely loyal. It's unbelievable the effort they have made and the investment they have in the team.
I think this is a great environment to be an assistant coach in. I learned that first hand in 1981 and was here for nine years as an assistant. That being said, nothing will be fool proof; if a guy has a better opportunity, and we have had four guys leave now, which is the nature of the business. But we wanted to make it so they have to think twice, and I think that all of our guys feel great about being here.
To Ferentz: Can you talk about hours of work that they put in?
I have not been to the head coach's school, and I am only six years into this. I remember what it was like to be an assistant, and that is why I have such a great appreciation for our guys.
I am not big on punching clocks, and I don't like keeping track of that and I sure don't like talking about it, because there are so many people in this state that work hard; our coaches are no different. What ever it takes to get it done, and that is what they do; and usually they do something on top of that. I don't worry or check offices, because we are all committed to the same things. I feel blessed to work with a great group of guys. There are no egos on our staff. We have our disagreements and discussions, and that is a healthy thing. But when it is time to go, everybody is on the same page and I think everybody does a great job in presenting a united front to our football team.
All of us take great pride in the teamwork that our team exhibits out there on the field. We have our differences off the field, too. We have a few skirmishes at practice; we had a few last week that were pretty interesting…good sign. When it comes time to play, our guys are together. That starts with the coaches.
To Ferentz: Does this extension put off your rumors to the NFL for a while?
As I said the other night, this isn't a bad place. I am not the smartest guy in the world, but I did figure that out a while back.
As I have said, it is presumptuous for people on the outside to think they know what is best for myself. I don't pretend to know what is best for our assistants, but I think I have a pretty good idea what they are thinking about.
I would hope so, for at least a week or two.
Was it Mike (Hlas) who asked about when the Canadian Football league opened last year? That was the best question of the year last year. That was a classic.
We are all extremely proud of what happens. I give credit to the guys from 1999 on. Everyone had a hand in this thing. What is going on here the last three years, to go to three straight January 1 bowls, that is significant. To win 30 games now in three years, I think we are 22-4 in the last 26 Big Ten games and what we have done in Kinnick; that is not bad.
To do that with three different quarterbacks…you want to talk about the coaching going on with our staff? I know Ken has taken his share of abuse out there on the street, or I have heard that at least. I don't know if anyone has done that; three different quarterbacks and 30 wins. That tells you some coaching is going on.
We are excited about what is ahead of us.
To Bowlsby: Did you have this contract done earlier in the year?
We had gotten to the point where we had it done, but neither of us wanted for it to be a disruption or any distraction to his staff or his players. We agreed about three weeks ago to shoot for yesterday or today to make the announcement. Things have gone well during that time, but it would not have made any difference to me one way or the other. I love what our team and coaches have done, but the commitment that Kirk has made and the work that he has done over the last six years really transcends wins and losses.
He is the right guy for Iowa, whether our team is 6-5 or whether we are 9-2. We decide to put it off until a time when he had the time and there was no risk of distraction.
Ferentz: 6-5, that was a distinct possibility a few weeks ago, by the way. Not that it every entered my mind. I was just trying to figure out how we were going to win six.
To Ferentz: When you were out in Maine, did you think you would be in this spot one day?
Which spot is that? No, no and no. All of the spots I am in right now, no. Three straight bowls like this…I will say this, that Alamo Bowl was every bit as precious as that given point. If we were going there right now, we would be excited about that, too. I can assure you. Everything that has happened has been fantastic. I have been so fortunate. The people that I have been able to work with and have been able to associate with, I just feel very, very lucky right now.
That nine hour bus ride back from Rutgers, is that what you are talking about? I had a lot of time to think then. I was not thinking about this, no.
To Bowlsby: The old contract was incentive based, yet there are more guarantees now.
That is exactly right. This contract is intended to reflect the fact that Kirk and his staff have demonstrated over and over and over, what they stand for. While the total number of dollar is probably 10 to 15 percent higher altogether in terms of base, it is guaranteed instead of the bundled academic and athletic performance, because I think they have already demonstrated what they stand for.
They have done a terrific job in taking care of the citizenship elements of the program, taking care of the academic elements and taking care of the developmental elements. What they do is second to none in the business of college athletics, and this contract is reflective of that.
Having said that, the incentives that are in there, they provide guaranteed annual increases and they have benchmarks that bundle athletic and academic performance.
That is something that we believe in. There are continued incentives on an annual basis on academic performance. Of course, there are incentives that deal with achievement of the team, finishes in the top 25, top 15, top 10 and the like. And coach of the year, that is one of the ones that is in there, so Kirk got some good news on a variety of fronts this morning.
To Bowlsby: Is there a buyout?
There is not. None of his contracts have had a buyout clause.
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