Kirk Ferentz Loves His Job At Iowa

IOWA CITY, IA - Many around the nation are quickly jumping on the bandwagon of the Iowa Hawkeyes and Head Coach Kirk Ferenntz. However, what if an NFL team comes calling? Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz says, "I'm extremely happy. I have a fantastic job."

Unless he's kidding us,and I don't think he'd try to do that, Kirk Ferentz is going to be Iowa's football coach for a while.

Now that Ferentz has set himself up to be the obvious Big Ten coach of the year and my choice to be national coach of the year, he'll obviously get some questions about whether he might be interested in a National Football League job.

"Why would I want to leave here?'' he asked today while reviewing a 2002 regular season that saw the Hawkeyes go 8-0 in the Big Ten and 11-1 overall. "This is a great place to be."

Ferentz knows he'll have to repeat those comments many times between now and when the Hawkeyes play their New Year's Day game, which likely will be against Washington State in the Rose Bowl.

Why? Because there are going to be some suitors out there. There are NFL owners and general managers, and probably a university athletic director or two, who will call the 319 area code wondering if Ferentz might be interested in changing addresses.

"I'll never say never, but we addressed that last year," he said. "We won seven games, and I got linked to a couple of jobs. Common sense would say that, now that we've won 11, it's going to happen again. I anticipate that.

"But I have a great job. It can't get any better than that. My family is happy, and I have a kid on the team. [His son, Brian, a 275 pound redshirt freshman who is now injured,is a potential starting center].

"I don't know what it would take to get me out of here. The NFL? If you pinned me down, maybe the NFL when I'm 58. If you get your butt shot off when you're 58, who cares? You'll be 60 soon. I'm not going to worry about it then. I know this: players last an average of 3.3 years in the NFL, and head coaches are probably under that."

Ferentz went on to say that "maybe there are sexier jobs out there. I know a lot of people think big is best. But I drive a Chevrolet, and I love my Chevrolet."

Take that to mean he isn't all that interested in moving up to a Cadillac or Lincoln coaching world. "My car dealer is the best guy in the world. He's a great friend," Ferentz said. "I'm extremely happy."

Hey, I've been around long enough to know that Chevies, Cadillacs and car dealers don't determine where a guy coaches, but I've seen enough of Ferentz this season to come away with the feeling that he's a class guy who has more to do than try to impress people with employment offers.

"I have a fantastic job," he said. "I come to work knowing that if we screw this up, it basically falls into my lap. There are no sharks in the water here. (Athletic Director) Bob Bowlsby is my boss, and President (Sandy) Boyd is my real boss.

"We have every reason to be successful here. We have everything we need except great weather."

Baylor? Hayden Fry Is Too Smart for That

Speaking of employment opportunities, Ferentz was asked what he thought about the rumor that Hayden Fry, who preceded him as Iowa's coach, might be interested in becoming Baylor's next coach.

"He's way too smart to go back," Ferentz said. "I enjoyed his comments, but I know Coach Fry is way too smart to go back."

Don't forget, Fry is 73. And they've already named buildings after him in Iowa City.

‘What Else Can Happen?'

All of us know that not every one of Ferentz's regular seasons ended with an 11-1 record.

We remember the 1-10 season in 1999, the 3-9 season in 2000.

Ferentz certainly remembers.

"There was a brief moment in our second year (2000) when things were a little bit tough," he explained. "We had a home game coming up with Ohio State. It looked like we were making some progress, then we had a guy go down with a pretty severe injury on Wednesday.

"I went into the tank a little bit that evening. I wondered, ‘What else can happen to us?' I thought we'd made good progress with our line that season, then came that devastating blow.

"But, as so often happens in sports, things began working out. Ohio State put it on us pretty good (38-10 at Kinnick Stadium), but we dug in the next week and forged ahead."

The injured player was Sam Aiello, whom Ferentz said has been the victim of "so many freakish things" as an Iowa player.

By the way, I sat in the east stands at that 2000 Iowa-Ohio State game. The Buckeyes, then coached by John Cooper, were an undisciplined team. They knew they had Iowa outclassed, and the players were joking with Hawkeye fans behind the Ohio State bench during much of the game.

They must have tied the all-time record for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

Now, look how things have changed.

Cooper has been fired, Ferentz has already clinched at least a share of the Big Ten championship and Ohio State still must play Michigan.

Did I hear someone say, "Go, Wolverines?"

Ruffling the Head Hawk's Feathers

A guy wondered if many things have ruffled Ferentz in his four seasons as Iowa's coach.

"I can say this: over the four years I've been back here (he was an Iowa assistant coach from 1981-1989), I've said this is a such a great place to be. I've always believed that in my heart," he said.

"I had that one day I mentioned (when Aiello was injured prior to the Ohio State game in 2000), but we rebounded from that. The first two years were less than glamorous for our team. I guess there was criticism out there.

"I don't go on the Internet (where there is sometimes criticism from fans on the chat lines when the record isn't so good). I keep my sanity that way. A lot of that comes with the territory, and I've never had any problem with that. That's part of coaching."

Ferentz then showed that he has a long memory.

"Only two things stick out," he explained. "There was what I thought a very unfair article written early in my tenure," he said. "It was an article that was attacking, well, ‘attacking' isn't the right word, questioning the staff we put together.

"I thought it went over the line a little bit. I got a response from the author and basically, I thought it was a well written response. He said he hoped that in time he'd be proven wrong. I hope that's been verified.

"Then there was a disappointing comment made sometime in the last 12 months by someone from the ‘Iowa community' that was put out to, I assume, a lot of people that the best we'd ever be at Iowa when I'm here would be a 7 or 8 win team because I'm a pro mentality coach.

"I was disappointed. I really was. I would hope that person would maybe come forth and maybe address that. To me, it showed a misunderstanding of what pro sports are all about. I'm not a great fan of pro sports. I've been there, done that. That comment was a statement of ignorance."

Ron Maly
Vol. 2, No. 101
Nov. 18, 2002
[Ron Maly's e-mail address is ]

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