clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Updated: Breaking down Kirk Ferentz’s new contract and context within its announcement

Kirk Ferentz was extended before the Citrus Bowl and things have only gotten weirder since

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

1/17/2022, ~8:00p CST: The timeline below has been updated to include a letter to Hawkeye football parents, first reported by Chad Leistikow, and David Porter’s interview with KCJJ.

I’m going to preface this by saying that I got into blogging for the fun of it and the recent developments around Kirk Ferentz’s new contract and the dissolution of the advisory committee do not spark joy. Yes, that’s a years old Marie Kondo reference and yes, I would prefer not to write about this stuff. But all of it is newsworthy and, thus, worthy of a spot on our page.

We’ll start with the chronology of how things were announced, the first of which was the announcement of Kirk’s extension on Friday afternoon. Classic Friday newsdump, especially considering the signing of the extension occurred before Iowa’s bowl loss to Kentucky.

The relevant numbers are $56 million over 8 seasons, through 2029. The buyout guaranteed at $6 million per year remaining if a firing is not for-cause. As Chad Leistikow wrote, it’s not out of line within both a national and regional context. He’s the 11th highest paid coach alongside Brent Venebles, who has not been head coach for a single college football game. He’s fourth in the conference. His results speak for themselves, even if the means with which they occur are less than entertaining. He’s a top 10-15 coach and should probably be paid like one, even if Iowa is bidding against no one.

It also included increased assistant pay & a reshuffling of bonuses. RIP eight-win bonus and hello rankings bonus tiers.

  • $250k for top 25 finish (up from $125k)
  • $275k for top 20
  • $300k for top 15
  • $375k for top 10
  • $475k for top 5
  • $625k for 2nd
  • $1.625M for national championship

The $7m is a > $1m raise over his all-in salary/bonuses from this year: $5.925M. It had to be done because college coaches can’t have four or less years on their contract to prevent against negative recruiting. Whether it makes sense to have it as a rolling four-to-five year deal or line in the sand at 2029, probably up for debate, but it’s a difference without a distinction barring Iowa football producing way under the high floor they’ve set the last five seasons.

The Gazette (Vanessa Miller & John Steppe) then reported on Sunday, two days after Iowa announced Kirk’s extension and two-plus weeks after it was signed, the alumni advisory committee was no more. Again, newsworthy since David Porter - the previous chair of the committee - went down swinging. From the report:

David Porter, former Hawkeye offensive lineman, suggested to the group in a chain of text message Jan. 2 that it’s time to “bring in a new head football coach, football staff, and athletic director.”

In the chain of messages, Porter said Ferentz is “loyal to a fault” and will “fall on the sword for his son and his staff because he thinks it’s the right thing to do. I disagree.”

“The only way I see to save his legacy, protect the program, help those kids, and continue to move forward at the same time is for Kirk to retire,” he wrote.

The Athletic’s Scott Dochterman provided additional color to it this morning, which detailed the ups and downs with the committee from its founding. It all ultimately came to a head in an October meeting - Monday after Iowa’s loss to Purdue - when the staff came unprepared for the 30-minute Zoom session which extended over two hours. A timeline of events looks something like this:

June 2020: The alumni advisory committee was created. Dochterman recalls a Kirk Ferentz quote where he said it was to help “hold his feet to the fire.”

Sept 20, 2021: Porter sent Kirk Ferentz an email requesting staff come prepared to the October 19th meeting with an answer to: “What is your role in creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) environment and what have you done to help foster that environment?” Ferentz pushed to delay - meetings with the committee had already gone from a weekly cadence to monthly - until December.

October 8, 2021: A judge delayed the previously planned October 19 & 20 depositions of Kirk & Brian Ferentz to after the season.

October 18, 2021: The Zoom meeting moved forward as planned. Many coaches showed up with little preparation, according to The Gazette’s reporting: “Non-responses ranged from coaches suggesting they let someone else deal with it to rebuffing the need to address the issue because, ‘We’re all white,’ Porter said.”

It should be noted, there was no disputing this quote in Dochterman’s write-up.

An outside reading on that lack of preparation shows little introspection for an otherwise easy question to answer, considering 9 of 10 assistant coaches have been at Iowa since June 2020. They are either doing stuff differently than they were 18 months ago, or they aren’t.

November 2021: A “decision to evolve the committee was made in November and communicated in January.” per Kirk Ferentz’s email to The Gazette & The Athletic.

Again, an outside reading is that after the committee held Iowa’s feet to the fire, they decided it was time to evolve it into a more amicable group.

December 31, 2021: Kirk Ferentz signs contract extension.

January 1, 2022: Iowa loses to Kentucky in Citrus Bowl, 20-17.

January 2, 2022: Porter’s message is sent and included current staff. It was met with disagreement, most publicly from Jordan Lomax.

January 11, 2022: Kirk sends an email dissolving the committee.

January 14, 2022:

January 16, 2022: The dissolution of the alumni advisory committee is reported.

UPDATE - January 17, 2022: David Porter appeared on KCJJ with Pat Harty while this article was being written. He did not acquit himself well. A summary:

Later, Chad Leistikow received the email sent to parents:

In it, Kirk Ferentz says the reporting on the dissolution is incorrect. Adding:

Several members indicated their interest in stepping away from the committee in December, as they felt their work had made a real impact and the time was right to transition to a new group of voices.

It should be noted that this is at odds with the reporting of both The Gazette & The Athletic, who received an email from Steve Roe, which wrote “the decision to evolve the Advisory Committee was made in November.”

The timeline is classic Gary Barta, with Iowa holding onto information that 1) Kirk Ferentz will be extended and 2) the committee will be dissolved for at least two weeks. The timing of it all looks like PR to show, and not demonstrate, that progress is being made within the organization. Considering how Porter recounted the contentious meeting, there’s a case that progress is not being made by those on staff.

UPDATE: Just to reiterate...Iowa had the information they were going to evolve it and could have used language to clarify The Gazette’s initial reporting on “dissolution” versus “evolving.” The way it had been reported up until the email to parents very much indicated it was more dissolution - Dochterman had a source say it was “going down in flames” - than an evolution, where Kirk could have indicated to The Gazette what he did to parents: “I am in the process of inviting new members to join the group.” Even “restructure” is not a total catch-all for it being an evolution - plenty of corporate restructures lead to departments no longer existing.

A different perspective, though, is that the committee was set up to fail. By virtue of being volunteer, there is only so much which can be accomplished, especially if Iowa’s administration does not put proper rigor behind it. Clearly, they didn’t, or else there wouldn’t have been non-answers for that meeting.

I certainly understand Kirk wanting to postpone the meeting but for a program like Iowa, coming out of racial strife like they did, there are some things more important than winning. Staff putting thought into their improvement over the last 18 months is one of those areas.

There’s also the two themes which have been a part of this whole ordeal: 1) Kirk wanting to delay critiques of his program and 2) a disdain for criticism operating outside of the hierarchy.

In 2019, Kirk was supposed to reconvene a cultural committee after the Holiday Bowl. He decided to cancel it, considering the culture was fine because Iowa was winning. A desire to move the Zoom is a similar concept.

Additionally, Kirk wrote about Porter’s comments: “Dave Porter did not share his sentiments with me directly. I was surprised and disappointed by his comment and wish him the best moving forward. His comment had no influence on the decision regarding the advisory committee.” This is reminiscent of what Kirk said about James Daniels’ initial comments. You’ll remember Daniels did try to go through the hierarchy by virtue of meeting with Gary Barta, but did not see change until the public route was endeavored.

Going forward, the most public of Porter’s detractors had this to say on Twitter:

By those metrics, Iowa is in pretty solid standing. They have had just 5 transfers in the aftermath of this season, one of the lowest in the conference. While Iowa’s 2021 leadership committee was a step down in diversity from 2020, it was still much more representative than groups from 2015-2019.

Honestly, that might be all that matters.

As has seemed to be the case since the initial surge of information 18 months ago, the cultural issues remain the scab that gets picked right before we see it fully heal. With Kirk Ferentz & Brian Ferentz set to be deposed in the upcoming weeks, that figures to still be the case going forward.