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THE MORNING AFTER — NORTHERN ILLINOIS

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Kirk Ferentz is Iowa’s all-time winningest coach

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Iowa
Congrats, coach.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Kirk Ferentz will someday get a statue.

It’ll likely be bronze, certainly will be placed in Iowa City and he won’t be smiling. It’ll be something of a neutral expression, maybe a little sour. The face he gives when Iowa has to punt after the Hawkeyes are stopped short on a 3rd and 2.

It’ll probably be outside Kinnick somewhere, but personally I think it would be better off outside the Children’s Hospital, a place with deep, deep significance to Ferentz.

Because if there’s one thing Kirk Ferentz has always cared about as a coach, it’s the people around him. His family, his coaches, his players and his community. This is a man that’s always tried to do the right thing but doesn’t seek credit when he does.

You don’t get awful scandals with Kirk, nor do you get unnecessary drama. He’s kind in person, willing to talk to people and doesn’t hold himself aloof. He’s not fake or a phony or a clown.

He’s not cruel or rude nor willing to slip around rules and he’s always taken accountability for anything that’s ever happened. He’s not someone that dances around things (unless you include a couple position battles and injuries over the years, but I think that’s fair).

Kirk Ferentz also happens to be a pretty damn good football coach. In case you live under Patrick’s rock, he won his 144th game at Iowa on Saturday afternoon as the Hawkeyes topped Northern Illinois 33-7.

That win eclipsed Hayden Fry’s record of 143 wins, making Ferentz the all-time leader in football victories at the University of Iowa. To put that in perspective, that’s over 22 percent of all the wins in Iowa history (643) and if you combine that with Fry’s, it’s right near 45 percent of all the wins Iowa’s had since 1889.

That’s one helluva an achievement. I just wish Fry could’ve been in Iowa City on Saturday to see it in person.

He probably would have come down at some point during the game, to be on the field when one of his many pupils finally surpassed him. I’m sure he was watching this game and I’m sure there was a smile on the face when the clock ticked to zero on the biggest of his three TVs in his Nevada man cave.

It wasn’t a particularly pretty contest. It came in one of the most classical Ferentz-type victories — they rushed more than they passed, they took care of the ball, played tremendous defense, dominated possession time, won the field position battle and, of course, punted the ball extremely well.

Iowa led just 3-0 at halftime, once again making things a little uncomfortable against a MAC opponent, before opening the game up in the final 30 minutes. It was, honestly, the perfect way to win number 144.

Things are rarely easy for the Iowa football program, but I think on a deep sense that’s kind of what they want. Nothing was easy for Hayden Fry and nothing has been easy for Kirk Ferentz either.

But, together, they built something. Fry first setting up the framework that would become modern Iowa football and then Ferentz continuing to build on it. The phrase ‘two coaches in 40 years’ gets thrown around a lot — but think, for a second what that really means.

There’s such a strong culture around the program and from the donors and the fans that we’ve been happy with a good, solid person running the most important sports program in the state for the past four decades. No, it’s not flashy. It’s not always beautiful and is sometimes hard to watch. It can be infuriating, it can be disappointing and certainly is imperfect.

But it’s good. It’s good in the sense that when people leave the program I think a lot of them are changed forever. Iowa will always mean something to the hundreds and thousands of players that have come through the program under Fry and Ferentz.

This is the place they’ll still come to. Why? Because it’s special, because there are good memories here and people who weren’t trying to get them out the door as soon as possible. Because they were developed and shaped into better young people. Because their coaches cared and made them not only into better football players but better citizens of this world.

This isn’t always the norm in college football. It’s just not. There’s so many slimy, awful people who get by simply because they win games.

Kirk Ferentz isn’t like that. His stated number one goal has always been success of his program, but what’s always mattered more is that he wants to have success doing things the right way. And he has — it’s not simply lip service.

So whenever they decide on where to put the statue, I hope one thing is made clear: this man didn’t contribute to Iowa by just being a good college football coach, he contributed by being a good human being.