Be Wary of Ferentz-Michigan Reports

Wouldn't it be great if coaching searches were an open book and we all could read it? We'd know who is being interviewed and who might be the top candidates. Well, that's a pipe dream of course. These things are tight. As a result, they become a haven for misinformation. Columnist Rob Howe looks at the process and attempts to put this Ferentz-to-Michigan talk in perspective.

Let's get something out of the way at the top.

If you're reading this to get inside information on Michigan's football coaching search or how it involves Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, you came to the wrong place. I've heard much the same as everybody else.

The people I've spoken with in and around the Hawkeye athletics department I have heard things but like most of the media, bloggers and fans, offer little concrete knowledge of what might be happening behind closed doors.

I've had the fortune, or perhaps misfortune, of being through three important football and men's basketball hires at Iowa – Ferentz, Steve Alford and Todd Lickliter. The first two occurred almost a decade ago, and let me tell you, times have changed.

I remember speaking with a Bobby Stoops relative in Ohio when Iowa was looking to replace Hayden Fry. I talked with friends and family of other candidates. People were open.

Boy, those sources for reporters have all but dried up. These days, athletic directors hire well-compensated search firms to keep the process under wraps. In many instances, the meeting of school reps and prospective coaches has come after much of the inner dealings have been done between these head hunters and coaches' agents.

The three-way network of the search firms, school reps and coaching reps have each others' backs. Nobody wants to leak anything.

The search firms are paid for confidentiality. The ADs want to keep things hush-hush so as to, 1. Make it seem like they're getting their No. 1 guy no matter what, and 2. keep the AD-AD bond in tact in case the shoe is on the other foot down the road. The coaches don't want their names out there for fear of hurting recruiting or appearing disloyal to their current fan base and players if they stay put.

Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta was quoted on Monday saying he has not spoken with Ferentz about other coaching opportunities. I wouldn't put much stock in that one way or the other.

So, those expecting to get solid, confirmed information on Michigan's quest to replace Lloyd Carr are probably barking up the wrong tree until there's a hire. Yes, usually there is a leak or two within the ranks, but attempting to sift through the accurate and inaccurate can be mind numbing.

I asked a current AD once how he handled overly chatty employees who might release information not intended for public consumption via internet or other means. He told me about a time when he thought their might be a leak, so he carefully passed along some non-factual stories and sure enough found the parrot.

This new way of conducting business has frustrated the heck out of news outlets. The rush these days to be first on a story leaves even the most reputable ones susceptible to being careless and reporting inaccurate information.

Some of these have occurred right in our backyard here in Iowa. There were "reports" that Alford had been offered and accepted jobs at Indiana and Missouri the year prior to jetting to New Mexico. When he did leave, Lickliter's name was one of the last to surface as a replacement. It was Tom Crean and Kevin Stallings and Chris Lowery.

After Iowa State fired Dan McCarney after the 2006 season, it was "reported" by ESPN that Brian Kelly was his replacement. The day after the report ran , Gene Chizik was hired.

With the Ferentz-to-Michigan rumors, again, we have some less-than-Woodward-and-Bernstein reporting taking place. Much of it centers around a blog written by a Wolverines fan.

Now, I'm not trying to discredit the blogger. I've been told by several people that he's "connected". He may very well have been given great information that Ferentz is Michgan's top choice and has been offered the job. He may also have received the dummy info that my AD friend spoke of above.

And really, what does the blogger have to lose if he's wrong. It's not like he's putting a New York Times reputation on the line.

The problem comes when "mainstream" media starts reporting on "rumors," such as WHO-TV in Des Moines. Some fans take what they see on TV or read as gospel. Then, national outlets like ESPN jump in with little fear of being inaccurate because in the big scheme it's a footnote for them.

The warning here is to avoid putting too much stock into the reports that have surfaced to this point. Sure, you can worry. There could be fire with this smoke and the majority of us want Ferentz to remain at Iowa.

That said, I certainly would understand his leaving. It's a great job (yes, better than Iowa's) and its great timing for him and his family. Shoot, maybe he could find a spot for his son Brian on the Wolverines staff and also have his son James as a true freshman lineman next year.

If Ferentz were to leave, I would wish him well. He's largely responsible for some great facility upgrades at Iowa and has done his job with grace and dignity. He owes nothing to the Hawkeye program in my book.

I still think we seem him retire from Iowa. I just sense that he and his family are comfortable here. By the way, that's a feeling not fact. Take it for what it's worth.

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