Big Ten teleconference: Kirk Ferentz

Iowa football coach discussed Barry Alvarez, Bret Bielema and more

Audio file 1 (6:17)

Opening statement:

"It was a tough ballgame for us this past weekend. You've got to give Northwestern a world of credit. We knew coming into the game after watching them this season that they are a 60-minute ball club and very capable of the quick strike. And to their credit they just did a great job in the last couple minutes of the game and scored two touchdowns. It's a tough loss for our football team and now our challenge is to get back on our feet because we've got another great challenge going on the road again playing an excellent Wisconsin team."

Could you comment on Brett Basanez's statement about Chad Greenway being a head hunter and Iowa grabbing facemasks, hitting guys late, hitting guys in the head?

"I'd really rather not get into a public discussion on those kinds of things. I just think, you're a journalist, look up the records, in terms of penalties, personal fouls, that type of nature. I think the record speaks for itself. Brett's an excellent football player. We've got a world of respect for him and outside of that I don't have much comment on him. His play spoke for itself."

What are some of the things that you remember about coaching with Barry?

"Barry's a great person first-and-foremost. We had such a great staff of guys here in the ‘80s. Barry was actually the first guy that I met when I came here to interview. He picked me up at the airport. We've had a lot of fun together coaching together. And then it's been fun to watch what he's done at Wisconsin. I left Iowa the same year that Barry went to Wisconsin. He had been at Notre Dame two years prior to that.

"Just like I keep track of all the guys that I've worked with in terms of what they've done professionally. When Barry went to Wisconsin they were really in need of some new life and Barry just did a magnificent job with that program. It looks like he's intent on doing it all the way to the end because they're having a great season."

Coach, have you talked to your kids about the atmosphere they will be facing at Camp Randall with Coach Alvarez's last home game?

"I don't know what you do to counteract it. Any time you go to Camp Randall, whether it's Barry's last game or first game — well, maybe not the first game. I wasn't there in '90, I imagine there was some work to be done. But once that team started playing the way they did under Barry's leadership, Camp Randall's just been a tough place. It was a tough place in the early ‘80s. It fell off in the late ‘80s it has been extremely difficult to go up there any time they got it going and they certainly have got it going now. It would be tough to top what they had in '99 when we were up there. But my guess is this will come real close on the Richter scale or be right there with it."

(Northwestern has) probably been running the spread as long as anyone in the league, or close. What is it about their offense that's so hard to defend?

"They made a dramatic shift after the '99 season. It's paid great dividends for them. It gets back to two things I think. First of all, they've got a good scheme that's coached. They coach it extremely well. They know it and they coach it. They know the adjustments to make. And the most important ingredients with anything that you do is having the right people. When you have a quarterback like Basanez… I don't know if magician is the right word, but the guy just, he does a great job. Our defensive coordinator last week compared him to (Antwaan) Randle El. Obviously different kind of player, different offense, but if you look at what Randle El did for Indiana when he was there and how dangerous he made their football team at all times, I think you can say the same thing about Brett Basanez. He's a great quarterback and a tremendous competitor."

Going through what you went through last week, how difficult is it to take a barometer on your team in terms of the mental toughness and getting the emotion back up to where it has to be?

"We've actually had back-to-back very tough losses. One in overtime on the last play of the game and then last week basically the last play of the game as well. We've had two tough ones but I guess I would suggest that with every situation come challenges in coaching and playing. There are problems that come with prosperity. There are problems that come with disappointing losses. There are problems that come with blowout losses. The bottom line I think is if everybody that's involved is competitive and has pride you work on doing what you can do about the next one. That's really the attitude you take I think whether you are winning or losing. At the end of the year you can assess where you are at. But there really isn't much time to worry about the periphery stuff."

Audio file 2 (4:22)

What were your initial impressions of Barry?

"He was a great guy. We both grew up in the same part of the country, Western Pennsylvania. When I came here, like everybody, you are without your family for a while. At that time it was just my wife and I. Barry and Cindy were great. Had me over for meals and fellowship, that type of thing. We had a lot of fun. Barry's a delightful guy. Excellent football coach. It was a big decision for him to leave here when he chose to go to Notre Dame. And I think if Bill Brazier and Coach Frye weren't so close in age I think he may have stayed here.

"But I think he was looking down the road a little bit and felt like it would be fun to be a coordinator at some point. And that worked for him at Notre Dame and the rest is history. I just can't say enough about the job he did. Because when we left here. '89 was my last year here. At that time Wisconsin was right there at the bottom. They were really a team you didn't even have to practice for. I think the rest is history.

"The other thing you've got to tip your hat to the longevity of his tenure. In this day-and-age that's tricky. It just speaks volumes about the kind of person Barry is, his commitment to Wisconsin and the great job that he's done there."

Did you ever envision yourself becoming an A.D. one day and leaving the same way he's leaving?

"(Laughs) Are you talking about me?.... I said to Barry, ‘I thought you were smarter than that.' Two jobs you'll never see me involved in. Usually you never say never: A.D. and university president. I have no idea what those folks do for fun. At least we get to go to practice. To answer that question: never."

What qualities does (Bret Bielema) possess as person and as a coach that you think are going to help him out as he gets ready for that head coaching job next season?

"I think you go back to his career here. He came here as an unheralded walk-on and ended up being a captain. I think that probably gives you a good indication of the kind of person he is, his work ethic, leadership qualities, those types of things. That was as a player. He was a young player when I left here. When I got back here in '99 I found a guy that was an excellent football coach and very professionally inquisitive. Just a guy that really worked at it and I think he'll do a wonderful job. It's a great selection."

Looking at film and stuff, what were some of things Penn State was able to do to beat Wisconsin and what can you take out of that?

"I think the biggest thing we'd like to do is borrow their defensive line if Coach Paterno wouldn't mind. They do have an off week this week. Or the whole defense for that matter.

"And here I don't mean to slight anybody else but their defensive football team was excellent a year ago. They're playing great defense again. That's pretty hard to simulate. They're playing great. I know a lot of people were barking about their program. In 2003 those guys were all young. In 2004 they grew up. And then they are just playing even better now. I think the other big thing — two big things to me when I see Penn State: they are veteran in their offensive line, which they were young there. That's taken care of itself. And then certainly the quarterback Robinson is just having a great year. And the receivers, and the backs. Everybody's playing, they're playing great team football. They've got it going and that's what you expect to see from the team that's on top the conference race."


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