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It’s time for those Ferentz-to-PSU rumors

[ 2 ] November 10, 2011 |

They pick names from hats and throw coaching-candidate arrows toward dartboards.

They make lists.

When the top college football positions open — like right now, at Penn State — they assume potential candidates.

Viable replacements or not — that doesn’t matter, because it’s what people talk about.

No one knows that better than veteran Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz, who has been listed as a possible candidate at Michigan, Penn State, various NFL teams — and now Penn State — during 12-plus seasons with the Hawkeyes.

On Saturday, the only answers Ferentz is likely to offer will be related to Iowa’s 11 a.m. game against 13th-ranked Michigan State at Kinnick Stadium.

The stock response from Ferentz, to which Iowans have grown well accustomed: “I have a great job.”

Less than 24 hours after Penn State’s board of trustees fired Paterno in response to a sex-related scandal involving a former assistant coach, USA Today’s list of potential heir’s to the throne included former Florida coach Urban Meyer, Temple coach Al Golden, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, Nittany Lions interim coach Tom Bradley …

And, of course, Ferentz.

“I understand the reason his name is mentioned, but from what I’ve seen, there’s not been much support for (Ferentz) being a legitimate candidate,” said Sean Fitz, editor of Lions247.com, a message board that follows Penn State athletics.

“Penn State fans respect him for what he’s done on the field, especially when it comes to playing Penn State, but I don’t think the interest will be there on (Ferentz’s) part, and I’m not sure if it will be there on (Penn State’s) part.”

Unsubstantiated reports about Ferentz landing here, and Ferentz sightings there are part of Iowa athletic director DNA.

Ask Bob Bowlsby, the athletic director who hired Ferentz after Hayden Fry’s retirement.

“Any time people are doing a good job, there will be other folks coming after them,” said Bowlsby, who now is the athletic director at Stanford. “Kirk came in making $550,000 a year from his NFL job in Baltimore.

“We retained him by giving him security and additional compensation, yet we had apprehension that he still might take a look someplace else.

“I never thought we’d lose him to another college job, but if there was one, knowing him as I do, I always thought Penn State would be tempting. He would be an extraordinary choice for them, but having said that, I’m not sure how tempted he would be.”

Lists often are based on ties to the area or program. Ferentz was raised in western Pennsylvania.

“A connection to Penn State is one that people have used for a number of years, for obvious reasons,” said Tom Dienhart, senior writer for BTN.com, the website for the Big Ten Network. “If ever there’s a job rumor that may have validity to it, you’d think it would be Penn State — not just because of the obvious (Pennsylvania) connection, but because it’s a great job.”

WHY A CANDIDATE?

Roots: “Being from that part of the country, I had first-hand exposure to coach Paterno in the newspaper every day and on TV,” Ferentz said in 2003. “I had the same thing with (former Steelers coach) Chuck Noll. “How lucky was I to be growing up in (this) part of the country during that time period?”

Good vs. better: “Iowa is a good job,” Dienhart said. “Penn State, I think, is a better job. (Ferentz) probably has just one move left in him.”

Resources: According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau report, 12.7 million people live in Pennsylvania, compared to 3.1 million in Iowa. The Nittany Lions play home games in 107,000-seat Beaver Stadium, the second-largest college stadium in the country. The program owns two national championships since 1982 — compared to Iowa’s none.

AND WHY NOT?

Family ties: His son, James Ferentz, is a junior starting center for Iowa. Another son, Steven, is a senior at Iowa City High who also could end up playing football for the Hawkeyes.

Security, money: Ferentz receives $3.7 million annually until Jan. 31, 2020, according to terms of a contract signed last year. Penn State won’t release Paterno’s salary, but media reports consistently outline it as more than $1 million annually.

He’s an Iowan: “I grew up (in Pennsylvania), I wasn’t born there,” Ferentz said last month. “My parents have passed, so the connection isn’t near what it was. I used to go back there frequently, and now it’s occasional, only because my wife’s parents are there and my brother is there, but I am an Iowan now.

“Sorry about that, you are stuck with me.”

HANSEN’S TAKE

We asked Register sports columnist Marc Hansen for his quick-hit thoughts on Ferentz as a potential candidate to coach Penn State.

Just a hunch, but Kirk Ferentz will not be the next Penn State coach.

For one, his ego doesn’t need the boost. Ferentz doesn’t seem like the sort who needs to climb the highest career mountain to feel professionally fulfilled.

As you can see by his coaching style, he isn’t the kind of guy always looking for the next big adventure.

He’s comfortable with who he is and where he is; he works for an institution that’s comfortable with him. In case you haven’t heard, he already makes good money. More than Joe Paterno.

With all the success he’s had, amid all the speculation over the years about where he’s headed next, Ferentz has looked seriously into one other job that we know of— the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

His starting center happens to be his son. Is he willing to disrupt James Ferentz’s final season at Iowa? A lot of coaches wouldn’t think twice. Ferentz would think twice.

It would be tempting, if offered. Imagine the recruiting advantages. Imagine, for once, not having to turn three-star prospects into five-star players. If he can finish in the Top 10 four times at Iowa and share two Big Ten titles, imagine what he could do at one of the most successful college football programs ever.

But I don’t see it. Does he really want to walk into the mess at Penn State?

These professional upgrades don’t always work as planned in the best situations. Following a legend — even a tainted legend — isn’t easy. The guy who took over for Woody Hayes? Fired. The guy who took over for Bo Schembechler? Fired.

And more importantly, does Penn State want Ferentz? He isn’t on one of those hot streaks he rides now and then. He’s also had to deal with a few off-the-field problems himself that might be a deterrent in the highly charged climate at Penn State.

If the talk is true about Urban Meyer, who won two national championships at Florida before over-working himself into the emergency room, Penn State might be going for a bigger fish in a bigger pond.

Ferentz to Penn State? Not this time.

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Randy Peterson: Randy Peterson covers college football, college basketball and the Iowa Cubs for the Des Moines Register. Randy can be reached at randypeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter via @RandyPete View author profile.

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