Kirk Ferentz could be 65 years old before it’s all said and done.
Already one of the longest-tenured coaches in the nation, Ferentz recently signed a contract extension with the University of Iowa that will enable him to remain the coach of the Hawkeyes through the 2020 season.
And that was on top of the minted seven-year deal that was drawn up prior to the 2009 season.
From the look of things, the 55-year-old Ferentz—who has guided Iowa to 88 wins, two Big Ten titles, and nine bowl appearances, including two BCS games, during his 12 seasons—is being perceived as a smart long-term investment.
But does that necessarily mean his long-term future, though emotionally and financially rooted in Iowa City, will be with the Hawkeyes?
There is nothing to suggest that it won’t. There never has been, and there certainly isn’t now, even as Ferentz’s program continues to lick the wounds left by a tumultuous month.
Seeing that job security in professional sports nowadays is non-existent, Ferentz has got it made in the shade. It’s expensively obvious that Iowa wants Ferentz, who is currently the Big Ten’s highest-paid coach at more than $3.6 million per year.
And Ferentz has given every indication that he’ll reciprocate, having been with the institution for 21 years overall. Plus, if he exhausts the length of his current contract, Ferentz will join his predecessor, the legendary Hayden Fry, as the only coach in school history to have served for more than two decades.
But sentimental value is of little concern to the poachers in big-time college football and the NFL, who have consistently tried to whisk Ferentz away from small-town Middle America.
Before hiring Eric Mangini, the Cleveland Browns tried to package Ferentz together with then-New England personnel director Scott Pioli, a former Browns staffer with whom Ferentz served as an offensive line coach in Cleveland under Bill Belichick.
Ferentz didn’t bite, while Pioli soon became the general manager for the Kansas City Chiefs, where Ferentz was rumored to be a candidate for the head coaching vacancy before the hiring of Todd Haley.
Prior to that, in late 2007, rumors ran rampant that the University of Michigan was doggedly pursuing Ferentz, a native of nearby Royal Oaks, Mich., to succeed Lloyd Carr. Unnamed sources were cited as saying Ferentz was offered the position and that a deal was forthcoming.
We all know how that turned out.
Ferentz is to be commended for his loyalty, particularly during times of strife within his program, which have dotted his tenure and essentially torn apart his roster just in time for Tuesday evening’s Insight Bowl.
Ferentz still refers to 2001, his third season at Iowa, as his program’s “worst conduct year.” But several double-digit-win seasons and each of Ferentz’s two conference titles soothed things over until 2008, when the coach and several other school officials were blamed for mishandling allegations made by a female student-athlete who said she had been raped by two football players.
And then came this month, during which Ferentz has lost his two top running backs and leading receiver, all within days. On Dec. 15, Iowa confirmed reports that leading rusher Adam Robinson—who has since been arrested on marijuana charges—would not be allowed to play in the Hawkeyes’ bowl game for failing to adhere to team policies, and that his backup, Jewel Hampton, would seek a transfer.
Days prior, Ferentz permanently suspended Derrell Johnson-Koulianos after the receiver was arrested on seven drug-related charges, including running a drug house.
The rapid-fire turmoil has not shaken Ferentz, who has played his part in alleviating concerns that his program is spinning wildly out of control, including projecting transparency with other school administrators when it came to admitting flaws contained within the school’s drug-testing procedures.
Ferentz seems invested in Iowa, equally if not more so than the school is in him. Which is quite a bit. Another 10 years and some $40 million, to be exact.
By that time, Ferentz will have been qualified to receive Social Security benefits for three years.
And no doubt will have spurned his fair share of job offers.
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