Kirk Ferentz’s longevity gives the Iowa Hawkeyes a sense of stability that is missing from most major college programs.
(C+P) — In a world where coaches are cycled through faster than a kid goes through clean clothes, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has been one of the exceptions as he is now entering his 16th season at the university.
Ferentz’s 16 seasons at the helm leads the Big Ten by a wide margin. Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald is next with nine seasons. Out of the Big Ten’s 12 head coaches, ten of them began leading their teams in 2011 or later. That means that only one-fourth of the coaches in the Big Ten have coached their teams for more than four years.
That statistic is one of the reasons why the Big Ten has been down lately. When a program constantly changes head coaches, it can really screw up their team. The players may be suited for a completely different style of football compared to the new head coach’s. The program then fires their coach too early because they have too high expectations and they are back at square one. It is the same rut that programs like Illinois, Indiana, and Purdue have found themselves in recently. In some cases the coaches just weren’t good, but in other instances the university probably gave up too early.
Unless the program is one of the true blue-bloods like Ohio State, it is hard to avoid the vicious cycle. Even when the program is amongst the top tier, sometimes a new hire can ruin the program (I’m looking at you Michigan.)
When a program has stability, the players buy into it easier. They know that the coach will be there for longer so they are more comfortable there. They build a good connection with the staff and they have more time to learn the system. That has been at the root of Ferentz’s success.
Ferentz had the same offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator from 1999-2011 before they both left, one retired and the other pursued a different job. That stability helped turn Iowa into the pro factory it is today. His offense was typically middling, carried by a dominating run game and relying on the play action pass to move the sticks. The offense was good enough to score just enough points to win games. His defense was the definition of bend but don’t break as they gave up the short play but not letting any big plays by. Under former defensive coordinator Norm Parker they were consistently a top 20 defense.
In those years Ferentz’s record was stable. In between 2001 and 2011, Iowa averaged a little more than eight wins per season. Their lowest total of wins during those 11 seasons was six, which happened twice.
Then, in 2012 Iowa lost both of their coordinators, as well as some positional coaches. With two new coordinators, Iowa dropped to a 4-8 record, the worst in Ferentz’s tenure since 2000 and 1999. That record wasn’t just because of the different coordinators (a lot was attrition from past recruiting classes), but having new coordinators didn’t help at all. If they were playing in the same system, the one they were used to and comfortable in, they would have performed better. Last year with the same coordinators, they improved on both sides of the ball. The offense was still shaky, but the defense was tremendous. Perhaps another year in the new offensive system will help the offense some more. The defense will keep on getting better after getting used to the slight tweaks implemented by the new defensive coordinator Phil Parker.
A lot of Coaches Ferentz’s recent hires look to be here for a long time. This could be a new era of football under Ferentz. The team may look slightly different, the coordinators will call the plays differently, but the team will be stable, and it looks like the wins will come pouring in soon.