We're going to have a lot to discuss over the next few weeks about Iowa's next offensive coordinator. Obviously, a lot of us are salivating/masturbating over the prospect of a spread guru so that all quarters can be like the 2011 Pitt fourth quarter (because that's totally how it works), but the reality is that Ken O'Keefe's departure was hardly Kirk Ferentz's decision to make, so the notion that Ferentz would go in a decidedly different direction from a tactical standpoint probably needs a little more logical footing before it's something to seriously entertain.
Marc Morehouse over at the Gazette ran down the list of possible replacements from within, and there was this nugget about Erik Campbell buried in Lester Erb's blurb (A "Lester blerb," if you will) that I hadn't been aware of:
He's been the journeyman of Ferentz's staff, starting with receivers in 2000, adding co-special teams and then moving to running backs and co-special teams.
If the hire comes from within, it's hard to say where he'd rank. Campbell has been offered a job nearly every year he's been at Iowa (Michigan came knocking when Brady Hoke took over).
Emphasis ours. So, this poses an interesting question about Campbell's desirability from outside, and one that has at least two plausible answers. And the question is this: Does Erik Campbell's status as a coveted assistant coach make him more likely to be promoted to Iowa's offensive coordinator?
Possible answer 1: Yes, because he's a successful coach. Despite the long-term status of coaches like KOK, Norm Parker, and Lester Erb, the strata in which collegiate assistants exist (FBS positional coach, FBS coordinator/assistant head coach) are hardly static; look at Joe Philbin's ascension to NFL head coach from Iowa offensive line coach in the matter of a decade. Assistants usually come and go, and it's almost a little troubling when they don't; football coaching job status usually follows the military "up or out" model -- though hardly to the same rigid extent, since we're talking about hundreds of different directly competing employers in Division I alone.
Still, considering the competitive nature of coaching, coaches are almost always loath to turn down possibilities for career advancement, and the odds of Erik Campbell getting a coordinating job -- even at a non-BCS or even FCS school -- over the next few years are probably pretty significant. And most importantly, this is a rare opportunity for Kirk Ferentz to lock up Campbell long-term without having to ditch a sitting assistant beforehand. Ferentz isn't the firing type (if I were a head coach, I wouldn't be either, for whatever it's worth), so it's now or never to give Campbell the raise/promotion that'll keep him in Iowa City long-term, and Ferentz has to be aware of that.
Possible answer 2: No, because it's not a move that Ferentz has to make if he doesn't think it's perfect. Contra the earlier points, the fact is that Erik Campbell has never been a coordinator in his entire coaching career, Yes, he was Lloyd Carr's assistant head coach at Michigan for five years, and that is absolutely worth something, but the fact is that Campbell has never run an offense before, and Kirk Ferentz could hardly be blamed for wanting a coordinator with a resume of running an offense that Ferentz is familiar with. The wide receivers coach is hardly calling any plays in a Kirk Ferentz program, after all.
Moreover, even though Michigan came calling before last season to reinstall Campbell at WR coach, Campbell turned them down, and he didn't even need a promotion at Iowa to sweeten the deal. He's still not an assistant head coach, like he was under Carr. As Morehouse notes, Campbell now has an established history of turning down job offers to stay at Iowa. You know who else has an established history of turning down job offers to stay at Iowa? Kirk Ferentz himself.
Last, Ferentz has a history of letting assistants walk instead of promoting them. Obviously, that's because the coordinator position has never been open, but in 2000, Ferentz had a future NFL head coach (Philbin) and a future 2-time (so far) Rose Bowl coach on his coaching roster (Bret Bielema) -- not to mention future Arizona Cardinals DL coach Ron Aiken and future horrible SDSU head coach Chuck Long -- and none of them received significant promotions, opting instead to pursue better opportunities elsewhere. Hey, that's how coaching works. Up or out.
So if Ferentz doesn't feel like Campbell is the best man for the offensive coordinator job right now, he clearly has no qualms about letting them go off somewhere else, and that's okay! It's the nature of the industry. The college football world is full of full of positional coaches and coordinators who have their own ideas about offenses, and the vast majority of them at FCS and above would at listen to Ferentz.
So what do you think?