“We won 10 games last year. I don’t know if you’re aware of that”
It was with this casual, lazy deflection that Kirk Ferentz brushed aside legitimate questions regarding his son’s ability to do his job as offensive coordinator. Yes, the Hawkeyes won ten games last year, largely on the back of one of the greatest defenses college football has ever seen. They also pissed away a chance to be Big Ten champions, Citrus Bowl champions, and possibly even a playoff appearance by refusing to acknowledge or make adjustments to the 121st ranked offense in the county.
There is not another program in all of college football where the offensive coordinator would be allowed to remain in his position after the last two and a half seasons that Brian Ferentz has put together. Iowa is currently dead last (out of 131 teams) in the country in total offense. They are last in first downs per game. Second in total punts. 127th in rush yards per game.
(If you want to get a good idea of exactly how historically bad the offense is, our friends at Go Iowa Awesome have done a deep dive into the statistics)
Kirk Ferentz has been given millions of dollars and the nearly unconditional support and admiration of his community in exchange for being the steward of the football program, but if his judgement is so far gone that he’ll sacrifice the program’s success for his own son’s career, then it is my belief that he is no longer capable of running the football program.
His son’s tenure as offensive coordinator has been so disastrous that he’s more or less unemployable at this point, short of maybe calling in another favor to Bill Belichick the next time he needs a position coach. Hiring Brian in the first place was an incredibly selfish act, and everything that’s happened since then has been downright shameful.
What’s happening to this program is embarrassing, and it’s unfair to the players, the fans, and every coach who isn’t a Ferentz. Brian Ferentz has been a complete failure, even considering the low standards for how Iowa measures success on offense. If Kirk is unwilling to replace Brian then he is no longer capable of leading a Big Ten football program.
So where do we go from here? Kirk Ferentz’s buyout is so large ($6 million per year remaining, total of $42 million) that he’s functionally unfireable, and therefore has no incentive to actually do the right thing and make some changes that he doesn’t feel like doing. You can add “making Kirk Ferentz an unaccountable god-emperor” to athletic director Gary Barta’s already shamefully long list of fireable offenses, so as far as I’m concerned his job should be on the chopping block too.
Kirk Ferentz has been coach at Iowa so long that there is an entire generation of fans that knows nothing else. When things are bad, our reaction is “damn, that sucks for us” because we’ve been conditioned to believe that nothing will change. My greatest fear is that we’ve grown too complacent as fans. The kind of nepotism at play here is not normal, and it shouldn’t be acceptable anywhere. Riots have started over less.
We should be picketing outside Gary Barta’s office and flooding him with emails and phone calls. We need to stop going to the games, stop I-Club donations, and whatever other tools we have at our disposal. We were able to put up enough public pressure to get rid of Chris Doyle, arguably the most powerful assistant coach within the program (who, coincidentally, Brian was implicated alongside and somehow escaped unscathed). I don’t know whether we can actually do enough to actually budge an immovable object, but I know for certain that nothing is going to change on its own.
It was not easy for me to write any of this. I grew up in the twilight years of the Hayden Fry era, so Kirk Ferentz is more or less all I’ve ever known as a fan. I’m thankful for the things he accomplished and all great memories he’s given me over the years, but by compromising the program and his integrity to give his stunningly unqualified son a high paying job he couldn’t get anywhere else he’s signaling that he’s lost his ability to be an effective leader.
This isn’t like making your son the sales manager of the family mattress store. This football program doesn’t belong to him. He might be the most powerful person there, but it belongs to the university, the community, and to the fans. The football program is bigger than Kirk Ferentz and the ambitions he has for his son. We’ve given him everything he could have asked for, and he’s repaid us with selfishness and disdain.