The world of college football, coaching is a tenuous career. You have to appeal to the athletes, their parents, boosters, the school, and fans. In order to keep your job you have to deliver winning seasons, conference titles, bowl wins and, depending which conference you reside in, College Football Playoff berths.
So why in the world is Kirk Ferentz still the head coach at Iowa?
Every team in the Big Ten has had at least two coaches since 1999 when the Hawkeyes hired him away from his position of the offensive line coach for the Baltimore Ravens. Michigan State has had three, Ohio State has had two not including interims, Wisconsin has had three and Michigan have had four. Those are some of the winningest programs in the conference and each of them has hired at least one more Iowa.
So what makes Kirk Ferentz so special?
It’s got to be all those national championships, right? Well… Kirk Ferentz has never led Iowa to a national championship. The Hawkeyes have never even played for a national championship. So it’s definitely not all those championship trophies that are on display.
But national championships aren’t the only championships. What about conference championships? He’s surely got a couple of those.
Iowa has won two Big Ten titles under Kirk Ferentz but the most recent of which was way back in 2004. This will be the 13th straight season without a Big Ten Championship although Ferentz did take the Hawkeyes to their only division title in 2015 before falling to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game. It’s clearly not championships that are keeping Kirk Ferentz employed as a head coach.
Bowl games! It’s got to be a stellar record in the postseason!
Well… this can’t be right. Kirk Ferentz has not won a bowl game since the 2010 Insight Bowl. Ok, so he hasn’t won in a while. Has Iowa even been there? Yup, sure have. Iowa has only missed out on a bowl game twice since the 1999 season. The problem is that Kirk Ferentz is 6-8 in those games. I almost want to say that it’s an achievement to make that many games but come on. All it takes is a .500 record to make a bowl game these days. It’s more embarrassing that they missed out in 2012.
In fact, Kirk Ferentz and Iowa have a penchant for losing games they shouldn’t.
In 2016, the Hawkeyes lost to North Dakota State of the FCS. In 2014, it was a loss to in-state rival Iowa State which has happened more than a few times. Let’s also not forget losses to Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, and pre-PJ Fleck Western Michigan.
Now, the Hawkeyes have produced four first-round NFL draft picks and seven other picks for the second and third round since 2010. But that’s not enough to keep someone employed.
There’s clearly talent being brought into Iowa for the most part but imagine a top-tier coach. The Hawkeyes are paying Kirk Ferentz like a top-tier coach but he’s not producing like one. Ferentz was paid more in 2016 than Dabo Swinney of Clemson who won the National Championship. He makes the same as James Franklin of Penn State who won the Big Ten.
So what gives?
It’s not some magical formula that Kirk Ferentz has or that he has some kind of blackmail leverage over the Iowa administration. It’s that Iowa has their expectations set too low. The Hawkeyes are willing to settle for “pretty good” or “just ok” because that’s all that Ferentz has produced.
This isn’t on Ferentz who has found a comfy gig and is working it for all its worth. You can’t tell me that other coaches wouldn’t kill for expectations like that. There’s no pressure to win! Maybe the fans get restless but clearly not the administration. They gave Ferentz an extension and raise after producing one 12-win season in 2015. One! It was the first double-digit win season since 2009. Most programs are firing those kinds of coaches.
So I’m changing my call. I don’t want Kirk Ferentz to be fired anymore. I want the Iowa administration to be fired and to bring in someone who cares about winning. Then they can fire Kirk Ferentz.