IOWA CITY, Iowa - For the last 11 seasons, Norm Parker has developed Iowa's defense into one of the best in the nation. The Hawkeyes 12-0 shutout of rival Minnesota on Saturday was added to an impressive archive.
Parker coached the last four games of the season from the press box after complications from diabetes hospitalized him for a second time during a season. He underwent surgery on his foot at the beginning of 2004.
"It's been tough," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said after Saturday's game. "There were two weeks there where the progress with his foot was more important than what was going on with football. Again, next man in, the defensive (coaches) all jumped in and grabbed a rope.
"The next thing you know, Norm is back in there, he's back in the office and we're trying to hold him back and all of that stuff; but what a guy, what a football coach."
Iowa ranks 10th nationally in total defense (286.67 YPG) and 11th in scoring defense (15.5 PPG).
Parker's illness has caused some Hawkeye fans to wonder if he might be approaching retirement. It will be on his terms as the head coach has no plans on facilitating such a move.
"I've been at the point that if Norm is just around to talk to our players and watching that film…I hope he coaches until he's 80," Ferentz said. "I'm being selfish there, but it's just good for them to hear his voice."
A rumor floated around the Parker may have left his hospital bed and headed to the practice field in his gown.
"That might be stretching it a little bit," Ferentz said. "He might have had those scrubs on. But he came out and barked at everybody for a while and then we sent him back into the penalty box."
Dace's Future: Dace Richardson came across the Kinnick Stadium field in a golf cart for senior day ceremonies on Saturday. He missed the last four games with a broken leg.
Throughout the season, fans have wondered if Richardson would seek a sixth year of eligibility. It would be based on him missing most of two seasons prior to this year.
"We haven't had that discussion," Ferentz said. "That's his choice. I know enough, I think, to say he's a slam dunk (for a sixth year), but we'll go down that road when he gets back."
Richardson recently had his cast removed and is in a walking boot. Ferentz said he expected the big offensive lineman to be back for the bowl in January.
"At least I'm working under that assumption," Ferentz said. "That would be nice."
The decision likely will come down to whether or not Richardson wants to put himself through another season of college ball if there's a chance to start making money for his efforts in the NFL.
"It's his choice," Ferentz said. "It's easy to be tough with somebody else's body."
Painful Side: Ferentz cleared up some rumors regarding the injury being dealt with by freshman running back Brandon Wegher. It has been said that he might have a broken rib.
"He's sore," the coach said. "It's hard to get caught up. He never had cracked ribs. He's got something worse, intercostals (muscle injury). It's awful. I had that. It's awful.
"You're better off having cracked ribs. The X-rays have all been negative and you're better off, from my experience, with a broken rib."
Those muscles help people breathe.
Proud Papa: Ferentz said that he's received a lot of correspondence this season with people complimenting him for his team's effort. He even heard some of that praise from Ohio State fans after Iowa lost 27-24 to the conference champions last week in Columbus.
"I've heard a lot of positive remarks from a lot of people I don't know," Ferentz said. "I get these emails and stuff, a lot of Ohio State fans last week about just how our team played.
"It's a little bit like being a father. You're proud of it being an exemplary thing."