For two decades, one of the great tragedies in college football has been the lack of national recognition for Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker. Parker, who took over as DC 12 years ago from the legendary and unrelated Norm Parker, has been one of the top coaches in the country for at least that long.
In the 25 years that Kirk Ferentz has been at the helm, the term complementary football has become ubiquitous with the identity of the program. Playing complementary football is dependent on having a defense that can make stops and get off the field. Like Norm Parker before him, Phil Parker has never failed to deliver.
As has become the norm during his decade-plus tenure, Iowa’s defense was among the best in the nation again this season. The Hawkeyes ranked 5th nationally in total defense, giving up just 274.8 yards per game. They were 4th in scoring defense at 13.2 points per game allowed and finished 2nd nationally in yards per play allowed at just 3.99 yards.
That marks the second straight year Iowa has allowed fewer than 4 yards per play for an entire season. They’re one of only two teams to do so since 2012 with the other being Penn State this season at 3.91 yards per play. Iowa leads the nation with only 18 plays allowed of 20+ yards on the season. The Hawkeye D played 896 snaps on the year, the fourth-most of any defense in FBS college football. Iowa gave up one touchdown or less in 10 of 13 games.
Put simply, Phil Parker’s defense was dominant.
More nuanced, however, they were the reason Iowa finished where they did. The Hawkeye offense was infamously bad, finishing dead last in the nation in total offense by a wide margin and near there in scoring. Yet Iowa won 10 games in the regular season and won the Big Ten West for the second time in three years.
Without a single point scored in the Big Ten Championship Game, Parker’s defense held the Michigan Wolverines to the lowest scoring output of the season (and again, that would have been meaningfully lower if not for two short fields given up by the offense and special teams). More impressive, they held Michigan to just 213 yards of total offense - the lowest mark in nearly a decade.
Finally, as a result of that dominance, we saw Parker’s greatness acknowledged nationally as he was named the 2023 Broyles Award recipient as the nation’s top assistant coach on Tuesday.
Parker becomes just the third Iowa assistant coach to win the award, joining the aforementioned Norm Parker who won it in 2011, as well as Ron Aiken who was the award in 2002. This was the second straight year Phil was named a finalist for the Broyles, coming up short in 2022.
Among the other finalists for the award this year were Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, LSU offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock, Oregon offensive coordinator Will Stein and Michigan offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore. While Moore was favored by some for the award given his role as interim head coach for four games this season due to two separate suspensions for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, that dominating performance by Parker’s defense over Moore’s offense in the Big Ten title game may have been enough to make the difference.
Here’s what Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz had to say about Parker.
“Phil Parker is an incredible football coach, and I am extremely pleased that he has been recognized for his career success by the Broyles Committee. We simply would not have achieved the success we have as a program without Phil’s dedication and leadership. Since 1999, we have benefited from Phil’s expertise and tenacity.
Phil is an exceptional coach and teacher. He has helped develop hundreds of student athletes into better football players on the field and prepared them to be better men off the field. He is one of a kind, and I am so happy that he has been by my side in this program throughout the past 25 years.”
Parker is in his 25th season in Iowa City, all under the direction of Ferentz. Prior to his 12 year stint as defensive coordinator, Parker served as defensive backs coach for 13 seasons.
Prior to joining Ferentz’s staff at Iowa, Parker was the defensive backfield coach at Toledo for 11 seasons. He served as a graduate assistant for one year at his alma mater, Michigan State in 1987 when MSU won the Big Ten title and defeated Southern California in the 1988 Rose Bowl. Parker played defensive back for the Spartans, earning first team all-Big Ten honors in 1983, 1984 and 1985.
Congratulations, finally, to defensive coordinator Phil Parker!