(This written rant is a response to Sportsball Ep. 6 and Tyler Coe’s borderline Colin Cowherd level disorder of willfully ignoring facts when rendering judgment on certain topics, topics like the University of Iowa and head coach Kirk Ferentz. But for real, I mostly wrote it while bored at work and am not actually super pissed or anything. It’s sports, not the end of the world. So, if sports are your thing, enjoy the rant.)
Too often, we confuse good with great. Kirk Ferentz and the debate over his overrated status is almost always one of those instances. Sure, want to make the argument he’s overpaid? I can see the argument, even though he’s not even a Top 20 paid coach right now, and will continue to fall down that ranking as new contracts come up while his runs through 2026 (though yeah, wasn’t a huge fan of an extension going for THAT long either). But to say he’s not a good coach? Absolutely bat-shit crazy. Here’s why.
Ferentz has been awarded 4 Big Ten Coach of the Year Awards, tied with Bo Schembechler, THE Bo Schembechler, for most in conference history. Oh, and he’s got two national coach of the year awards. They clearly just hand those two awards out to coaches who should be shown the door.
Then there’s the 5 AP Top 10 finishes, more than Michigan, Nebraska, Tennessee, Florida State, Washington, Stanford, Notre Dame, Miami, Clemson, and West Virginia in his 19 full seasons. Coincidentally, that’s the same number of Top 10s as Penn State and Wisconsin over that span as well. Aside from those Top 10 finishes, Iowa also finished in the Top 25 eight other times. That’s 13 out of 19 seasons if you’re keeping track.
Clearly, Ferentz just isn’t up to snuff.
Iowa is ranked 15th in players drafted to the NFL (33) since 2010 with 36 players currently on a NFL roster as of this writing (8/21/2018) according to ESPN. Admittedly, this number will drop as the pre-season wraps up, but Iowa had 26 guys on an opening day roster in the 2017 NFL season per NCAA.com. I’d except something like that latter number here in a couple weeks. Along with recruiting rankings in the 50s, 40s and low 30s (trending up the last few seasons) this shows that Ferentz, his coordinators, and the strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, develop the hell out of their players, better than a whole host of other schools.
Next up is the 15 bowl game appearances, with a 1-1 record in the Orange Bowl, a Rose Bowl appearance (and admitted shellacking by Stanford and the should-have-won-the-Heisman Christian McCaffrey Show), a Capital One Bowl and two Outback Bowls along with 9 other bowl games throughout his tenure. All wins? No. But the sheer number over his 19 full seasons show a level of consistency not seen in the vast majority of programs below Iowa on the college football ladder. Hell, Michigan has the same number of losing season as Iowa over Ferentz’s 19 seasons. That stability, whether or not competing for a conference championship, has exponentially increased in value as average college coaching tenures have grown smaller each season, now hovering around 5 years.
Want to talk recent history? He’s 4-1 in the last 5 home games against Top 5 opponents, against Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State. The lone loss was a last second touchdown pass by Penn State this past season. On the flip side, and talk about my biggest gripe with Coach Ferentz, he has lost plenty of games he should win, see Purdue last year. Highly frustrating, but to me that doesn’t outweigh all the other good Ferentz has and is doing for the program.
Only the upper echelon of college programs would look at that whole picture as anything but solidly good. And speaking of that echelon, Iowa just isn’t quite on that level. Iowa is a top 20-30 school year over year, a damn far cry from the wreck of a program he inherited in 1999. For nearly all of his run at Iowa, they’ve been close to the blue bloods, can compete with them, like going 4-1 against the Top 5 opponents as previously mention, but not fully on that level. And that’s the exact expectation that Iowa has for itself, from the AD’s office on down. There’s no “Championship or bust” buzz from anyone but the most diehard fans, by far a minority of the fanbase.
Want to complain that Ferentz is paid to be better than that? Sure, go ahead. You’ll have supporters on that argument. A couple years ago I might have been one of those backing that point, but with the moderate increases in his contract year over year compared with the massive surges at contracts in other schools, the overpaid arguments, which usually ignore that the program can more than afford his salary, hold less and less water each season, and will until 2026, assuming Kirk doesn’t retire early as he’ll be 70 when the contract is up. People not looking at Iowa with more than a passing glance, like Tyler Coe, may suggest Iowa should have higher expectations than they currently do, but the fact remains that those lofty and grand expectations literally don’t exist from within the organization, the organization paying for Ferentz’s salary. You judge a coach on expectations and whether or not he meets them, not salary. If anything, that’d be how you rank the coach’s agent.
So yeah, Kirk Ferentz is not a great coach nationally. He may yet go down as an all-time great in the Big Ten, I don’t know, and he’s already the all-time best at his own school for all that’s worth. (For real Hayden Fry, Kirk’s direct predecessor, was a legend in his own right in the Big Ten) But to say that Kirk Ferentz is not a good coach? Fucking looney tunes.