Is Kirk Ferentz the most overrated coach in college football? Pt. 2

August 20, 2010

Overpaid? Who, me?

The first part of this Iowa news series received such a warm reception by Hawkeye Nation, hopefully part two promises more of the same. Apparently, Hawkeye football in Iowa is more popular than corn subsidies. Iowans from Sioux City to Waterloo either left comments or shot-off emails, sticking up for their head coach, with some using a few choice words to do so.  Nonetheless, I would not expect any different from any true college football fan in coming to the aid and defense of their coach. With the season quickly approaching, fans are becoming more anxious and anticipation for the season is near a fever pitch. With that said, let’s not let fantasy taint reality.

Fans lambasted the first article, with many pointing to the fact that the Hawkeyes went 11-2 last season and enjoyed an Orange Bowl victory. They also were quick to point out that had starting QB Ricky Stanzi not been sidelined with injury, they would have been facing off against Alabama in Pasadena for the BCS National Championship game this past January. That’s funny, because I seem to remember an Iowa team living on borrowed time, hanging on life support throughout the season, even when Stanzi was healthy. Many fans seemed to conveniently forget the fact that Iowa barely escaped several match-ups last season and could have easily finished the season with 4 or 5 losses. In case you need a refresher, let’s point to Iowa’s week 1 narrow escape victory against Northern Iowa. NORTHERN IOWA. The Hawkeyes needed two time-expiring blocked field goals to avoid humiliation and a historical loss. If that isn’t enough to jog the memory, maybe Arkansas State can. Not Arkansas, but Arkansas State. The Hawkeyes barely beat Ark. State by a score of 24-21. Let’s also not forget the 30-28 victory that Iowa enjoyed, much to the dismay of the lowly Michigan Wolverines, a team that went 5-7 last season. Not to be outdone by the Wolverines, Michigan State also took Iowa down to the wire, losing 15-13 in East Lansing.

The basis of the argument about Kirk Ferentz boils down to two things. First, the absurd amount of money that he brings in yearly to do what he does. As mentioned in “Myoptic Twit v Kirk Ferentz” part 1, Ferentz is the 8th highest paid college coach. Further, in 2009, college football had only six three million dollar head coaches: Alabama’s Nick Saban ($3.9M), Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($3.8M), LSU’s Les Miles ($3.8M), Ohio State’s Jim Tressel ($3.5M), Florida’s Urban Meyer ($3.4M), and yours truly, Kirk Ferentz ($3M). Other than Ferentz, all of the aforementioned coaches have won a BCS National Championship game, with Florida’s Meyer winning two. A little compare and contrast here would serve well to this point. Conference foe, Jim Tressel, assumed head coaching duties in 2001, two years after Ferentz, yet the Buckeyes have played three national championship games, winning one, and have appeared in seven BCS bowl games. However, Ferentz is still paid nearly as much as Tressel. While it is the Iowa athletic department, and Hawkeye boosters’ prerogative as to what they want to pay their coaches, their must be some accountability when talking about millions of dollars. According to the Des Moines Register, Ferentz is the highest paid state employee.

Second, the uninformed opinion that Iowa simply cannot attract the big name high school recruits due to their lack of prominence at the national level is tired and old. This in fact, could not be farther from the truth. Iowa Hawkeye football experimented unprecedented success in both the Big Ten, and nationally, under former experienced unprecedented success in both the Big Ten and nationally under former head coach Hayden Fry. In 1979, Fry took a dismal Iowa program that had suffered 17 consecutive  non-winning seasons and made them into winners. In just two seasons with the Hawkeyes, Fry led his team to a Big Ten title, and a trip to Pasadena to represent the conference in the Rose Bowl. Before retiring after the 1998 season, the Hawkeyes played in six bowl games from 1990-1998. Fry’s coaching tree at Iowa includes names such as Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, former Wisconsin coach Barry AlvarezNebraska’s Bo Pelini, and former South Florida coach Jim Leavitt. To say that Iowa was rescued from the depths of the college football cellar by Ferentz is ignorant to say the least. With the national publicity and successes that Iowa shared during Fry’s tenure, it would take a coach with the competency ofIllinios’ Ron Zook to fail there. Iowa is not Boise State or TCU. Heck, it’s not even Iowa State; at least they have an excuse. They are stuck in the Big XII and have to compete for recruits with the likes of Oklahoma, TexasTexas A&M, Nebraska, and Kansas. Iowa fans need to get over their inferiority complex, stop making excuses for almost could/should have been seasons, and start demanding that Ferentz start producing a better, more consistent product on the football field.

Iowa will more than likely go 8-4 this season, and receive a bid to Tampa for the Outback Bowl. If that’s what Iowa fans want and are pleased with, so be it. What’s as near to an absolute that you can get is the fact that if Tressel, Saban, Meyer, Stoops, or any other $3M coach goes 8-4, and does not reach a BCS bowl, he’ll be placed on the hot seat and fans will rightly demand more for their buck. Enjoy your season Hawkeyes.

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