32-31. Tell any Iowa fan that score this week and they'll fly into a blind rage, and it's easy to understand why—that was the score by which lowly Central Michigan beat the Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, sending Iowa to its first two-loss non-conference slate since 2007.
The offense is a complete mess under new offensive coordinator Greg Davis, the defense is just good enough to keep the Hawkeyes in the game against the likes of Northern Illinois, Iowa State and Central Michigan (I can't believe I just typed that), but most jarringly, the special teams is and has been an undisciplined disaster.
The kicking and punting are both fine. Mike Meyer is a reliable kicker and Iowa has always been able to find guys who can send the ball 40 yards on punts with regularity. It's just the act of actually getting and keeping the ball has been a challenge for Iowa.
Central Michigan used an onside kick that two Hawkeyes neglected to try to recover to stage its miracle comeback with under a minute to go. Minnesota kicked an onside kick last season that Iowa was painfully unprepared for as it made a heroic second-half comeback. The Gophers also pulled that in 2010 against Iowa to great effect en route to victory. And Iowa's conference title hopes were dashed in 2010 when Wisconsin used a fake punt to keep the ball on its winning drive in a 31-30 victory.
Between all this and the 15-11 record Iowa has managed in the two years prior, it's high time for Hawkeye fans to at least start wondering when the Kirk Ferentz era might start drawing to a close.
And the answer to that is pretty simple: Kirk Ferentz's time at Iowa is going to end whenever he wants it to end, because his contract makes firing him virtually impossible for the next six years, minimum. And considering the return on investment and financial obligation it puts on Iowa, it is without a doubt the worst contract in college football.
Here's a link to the Kirk Ferentz contract, via HawkCentral.com. It's pretty standard, as gigantic contracts go, and overall it's for 10 years and roughly $39 million, once all the incentives and bonuses are added up. And yes, $39 million is a lot to commit the University of Iowa to paying, especially considering the nature of the buyout. More on that in a second.
Overall, the Kirk Ferentz contract makes him the sixth-highest paid coach in college football. Here's a full yet slightly outdated list from Phil Steele—you can add Urban Meyer at $4.4 million per year (per Cleveland.com), right between Nick Saban and Bob Stoops at No. 3, pushing Ferentz to No. 6.
That contract came after the 2009 season drew to a close, one that saw Iowa return to glory and win the Orange Bowl against Georgia Tech. So Ferentz is in Year 3 of his contract, and he's got a 17-13 record to show for it—and a Big Ten schedule awaiting him. And let's be honest: A 2-6 Big Ten record is totally in play with a team this bad, and that would push his post-contract record to an even 19-19.
It should probably go without saying, but $3.875 million a year has got to buy more than a .500 record.
The real killer for Iowa, however, is the buyout, which is set at 75% of his remaining salary, paid monthly. So if Iowa wants to go another route for its head coach, that's fine. It'll just owe Ferentz about a quarter-million dollars a month.
Until January of 2020.
So unless Iowa wants to pay the equivalent of a $3 million annual penalty for firing Ferentz for the rest of the decade (and this is a pretty young decade), Ferentz is there to stay in Iowa City.
Hawkeye fans had better hope he at least keeps his record above .500 in that time. Sure, their expectations can and should be higher, but Ferentz needs to worry about .500 before even talking about a return to glory first. And if Central Michigan can come into town and leave with a 32-31 win that wasn't flukish until the final minute, .500 sounds a lot more like a reasonable aspiration than going bowling in January for the foreseeable future.
Sounds great for the sixth-highest paid coach in the nation, doesn't it?