Every time Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz visits Penn State outside of football season, the rumor mill kicks into high gear. A Pennsylvania native, some view Ferentz as a possible successor to legendary Nittany Lion head coach Joe Paterno.
So when Ferentz brought his daughter to Happy Valley a few years ago, so she could check out campus while making her college decision, speculation about him being there for other reasons ran rampant.
But she went elsewhere and he obviously remained as head coach of the Hawkeyes. His current contract at Iowa runs through the 2012 season and features a hefty buyout for any school that might try to lure him away.
Yet if that's the case, what is Ferentz doing back at Penn State this week, actually touring the Nittany Lions' football facilities and being spotted with PSU athletic director Tim Curley?
And what of the timing of this trip, with Paterno now in the final year of his contract, and neither the university nor the coach appearing to be in a rush to sign an extension?
According to sources close to the Penn State program, Ferentz and Iowa athletic director Gary Barta are visiting Happy Valley to get a close look at the Penn State football facilities, particularly Holuba Hall and Lasch Building.
The Hawkeyes intend to upgrade their indoor practice facility in the near future, and apparently liked what they saw when given an opportunity to practice in Holuba Hall before the PSU-Iowa game last fall. Currently, Iowa uses a 23-year-old bubble style indoor practice facility.
They are also upgrading the Jacobson Athletic Complex, where the Iowa football offices, locker room and weight-training facilities are housed.
Other programs receiving tours of the PSU facilities is common. Last year, according to a source, the staff from Cal visited campus.
Ferentz was once a Penn State fan favorite to replace Paterno. But as the Hawkeyes have struggled a bit in recent years, his popularity among Nittany Lion backers has slipped. In an online poll conducted in December, only 2.64 percent of the respondents said they would want Ferentz to replace Paterno.
That was behind Tom Bradley (44.22 percent), Greg Schiano (31.5), Larry Johnson (5.63), Al Golden (5.09), Jim Caldwell (4.92) and Jay Paterno (2.94).