On Saturday, Iowa lost to Nebraska. Kirk Ferentz lost to Bo Pelini for the third time in four meetings. Pelini secured his ninth win for the seventh straight season, a mark Ferentz hasn't reached once in his last five seasons.
On Sunday, Nebraska fired Pelini anyway.
Nebraska fired Pelini because four losses a year is evidently below its expectations, and merely beating Iowa in a game where the Huskers dorked around for three quarters isn't enough to salvage a 9-3 season. At Iowa, 9-3 sounds pretty nice right about now.
I'm sorry if this is sounding like the Hot Takes Express, but man, it sucks to be in this position right now. It's not fun to watch a program be handed every opportunity to have a big season, then just sleepwalk its way to a mediocre record and be lucky to get into a bowl at all. You know, just like 2005. Or 2007. Or 2010.
As it stands right now, Iowa is firmly in the middle of the pack in a weak-and-getting-weaker Big Ten. That's not a snap judgment, but a well-documented conclusion. In 2005, the Big Ten was the nation's best conference in the Sagarin ratings. It's been above fourth place exactly once since then (2011, third place). Meanwhile, in those 10 years Iowa has gone 41-39 in Big Ten play, including a 19-21 mark in the last five years. Yes, Kirk Ferentz won an Orange Bowl in 2009, but as Jay-Z might say, "that's a one hot season every ten year average."
As for the particulars of the game I'm not sure I have much more to say than what Patrick Vint laid out in the immediate aftermath on Saturday. Matt Millen (who despite being awful as a coach is pretty damn smart about football) spent the day crushing Jake Rudock for his indecisiveness, and that was before Rudock had a wide-open Kevonte Martin-Manley on a play-action post—the one deep pass play Ferentz's offenses have always run well—and Rudock looked him off and threw a terrible, incomplete swing pass instead. I don't know how a quarterback gets to that place mentally where he won't take a touchdown the secondary is handing him, but I do know that's flatly unacceptable play. Maybe it's coaching. Maybe it's just who he is. Either way it was brutal.
I'm not suggesting Nebraska firing Pelini was the right move (it wasn't) or that Iowa fire Ferentz (it won't). There's a harsh truth trying to stare the Huskers in the face, but the nice thing about having your head up your own ass is the confrontations you can avoid.
Conversely, this is one of the lousiest times in the last 30+ years to be an Iowa fan (only the transition period was demonstrably worse), but that's because we've had it awfully nice. Since Bob Bowlsby hired Ferentz in 1999, every single current member of the Big Ten has suffered a greater indignity to its football program than what Iowa's gone through over the last few seasons, including several major NCAA violations and many more winless seasons, and every single current member of the Big Ten (except for Wisconsin!) has had to push at least one coach out the door* in that time. And if you look at the coaches who've been fired or had their resignations gleefully accepted in that time, the only ones you could for sure say were better than Ferentz were Pelini and Jim Tressel. If you want to argue Paterno, be our guest, but Ferentz was 8-3 against him.
*Northwestern's in solely on a technicality, as the Gary Barnett fiasco happened mere weeks after Ferentz was hired, but neither Randy Walker nor Pat Fitzgerald have ever held a winning record in Big Ten play. We'll notch that as a greater indignity than Ferentz's mediocre Big Ten mark all day long.
On top of that, Iowa hasn't had so much as a sniff from the NCAA in terms of bending any rules, and the ugliness surrounding the botched handling of the sexual assault investigation of 2007 lay at the doorstep of Sally Mason and her staff more than Ferentz or Gary Barta. The Ferentz family has been remarkably generous in its gifts back to the University, and those gifts understandably come with a level of political capital that insulates Ferentz from any real pressure for his job. Oh, and on top of that there's the legendary buyout. His buyout won't even dip below $10 million until the spring of 2016 (at which point it's way, way too late to begin courting a football coach for the season)
So no, Ferentz is not going anywhere except on his own accord. That's a privilege he has most certainly earned in his tenure at Iowa. It's just that he knows that, and he's coaching—and flicking away questions about his coaching—like a guy who knows that.
One would at least hope and assume, then, that while Ferentz isn't getting fired, he's also not getting another extension unless and until Iowa makes a resurgence into January 1 bowl contention. Ferentz is currently under contract through January 2020, when he'll be 64 years old. Coaches rarely last that long in power conference play anymore, and unlike Steve Spurrier or Frank Beamer, it's not like Ferentz has ever played for a national championship.
Again: this sucks. That's the biggest takeaway from this week's game and you're lying if you're arguing anything different. Iowa has migrated away from the Top 25, and in an era where the power is increasingly consolidated in said Top 25, a prolonged absence puts Iowa more in the same boat as a Kansas, Wake Forest, or (gulp) Iowa State than anyone you'd expect to be Iowa's peer.
This is no fun for us. Saying Iowa's no good at college football doesn't help us get college football readers no matter how we dress it up. We get nothing out of the pessimism. When we say less-than-supportive things, they are sincere, because they have to be. And here's our thing right now: this sucks and it isn't fun and it's hard to see a good program do poorly.
it's basketball season now, I guess. So that's what we'll start with from here on out.