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Harty: Too early to write Ferentz off

[ 0 ] September 23, 2012 |

Now that Iowa fans have had time to step back from the ledge or wherever their disgust and disbelief took them after Saturday’s 32-31 loss to Central Michigan, it’s time for a reality check.

First of all, it’s way premature to even suggest that Kirk Ferentz should be fired as the Iowa coach. It’s hard to even use the word fired in the same sentence with Ferentz because he deserves better than that.

He’s won too many games to just be written off, especially when you factor in all the other things like his class, his loyalty to the University of Iowa and his reputation for doing things the right way.

Ferentz has coached at Iowa longer than his legendary predecessor Hayden Fry when you factor in the nine seasons Ferentz spent as Fry’s offensive line coach from 1981-89.

It’s not just about treating a good person the right way, though.

It’s also about doing business the right way.

To relieve Ferentz of his duties after this season, which has been a growing sentiment on message boards and talk radio since Saturday’s loss, would cost the Iowa athletic department around $35 million if you combined the money that would be owed to Ferentz, which is approximately $25 million, with the money that it would take to hire a new coach with any credibility.

So it’s not even worth discussing heading into Saturday’s Big Ten opener against Minnesota.

What is worth discussing, though, is the amount of job security that was bestowed on Ferentz when he signed his latest contract extension that guarantees him nearly $4 million annually through the 2020 season.

The contract extension was announced in early September 2010, which was approximately 10 years before it would expire.

Nothing against Ferentz, but why should any college coach have a 10-year guaranteed contract? Nobody should have that much leverage in any business arrangement or that much guaranteed security because staleness almost certainly will set in.

Most fans and members of the media probably didn’t give it much thought when Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta announced Ferentz’s contract extension.

“I’ve said publicly and privately to Kirk, that it would be my goal to have him retire at Iowa,” Barta said in the statement announcing Ferentz’s extension. “This contract is a statement supporting that commitment.”

Barta made that statement just two days before Iowa opened the 2010 season. There still was a buzz from the 2009 season, which was capped by Iowa defeating Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl to complete an 11-2 season.

Iowa had won 20 of its last 26 games, including two January bowl games, when Ferentz’s contract extension was announced.

The buzz has since been killed with Iowa losing 13 games since the start of the 2010 season. Saturday’s loss to the Chippewas also lowered Iowa’s record to 10-11 over the last 21 games, marked the 10th time since 2006 that Iowa lost a game despite being favored by double-digits and marked the third time under Ferentz that Iowa has lost to a directional school from Michigan.

And then, of course, there is a loss of confidence to consider.

It’s hard to imagine a worse circumstance to enter Big Ten Conference play than coming off a loss to a team that’s being picked to finish at or near the bottom of the Mid-American Conference standings.

Iowa (2-2) will face Minnesota on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. The Gophers, who improved to 4-0 by defeating Syracuse on Saturday in Minneapolis, are responsible for two of Iowa’s 13 losses since the start of the 2010 season.

Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg didn’t dismiss it when asked after Saturday’s game if he was worried about the team’s confidence.

“Yeah, there are a lot of guys (on our team),” Vandenberg said. “I think tough times like this really show peoples’ character. And I feel like I know a lot of the guys on this team pretty well and I have full faith that we’re going to respond.”

Having full faith would help, but Vandenberg also could also use a few more playmakers on offense. And he needs to play better, especially as a fifth-year senior who was being counted on to help bring the offense along under new coordinator Greg Davis. The need for more playmakers is heightened by Vandenberg not being a daul-threat quarterback because when the play breaks down he usually breaks down instead of improvising with his legs.

Vandenberg had his best game of the season Saturday, but he was average at best, which says something about his other three games.

Iowa also needs more playmakers on defense, namely a big, nasty defensive lineman or two who can wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

However, that comes with recruiting and that’s probably been the biggest shortcoming for the Iowa staff.

Ferentz had it going for a while by developing hidden talent like defensive back Bob Sanders and dual-threat quarterback Brad Banks, but also by landing big fish like defensive end Matt Roth and tight end Tony Moeaki.

Iowa hadn’t climbed over the hump when Roth signed his letter of intent in 2001, but things were moving in the right direction. There was freshness and excitement within the program and it was considered fun to be a Hawkeye.

But now it seems nobody is having fun anymore. It makes you wonder if losing is the cause or the result of that.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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