““Seems like if you win, everything works out pretty well.” - Mary Ferentz, ~40 years ago”
-Kirk Ferentz, 8/29/2023
In this week’s press conference, Kirk Ferentz referenced the words of his “wise” wife. If we assume the timeline to be mostly correct, the year was 1983. Kirk Ferentz was in his third season as offensive line coach in Iowa City and the Hawkeyes would have five more 8-plus win seasons, good for seven straight between 1979-1985.
The last time Iowa had an 8-win season was Forest Evashevski’s final one as head coach, 1960.
While the difficulty of clearing that 8-win bar has long been up for debate around these parts, it is undeniably “success” considering Iowa has done it time and time and time again with modestly ranked recruiting classes. So yes, if you win, everything works out.
Mary Ferentz hasn’t had to pack up her family and move.
In the same timeframe that Iowa has had two head coaches, the state has had five senators and five governors. Only senators John Culver, 1981, and Roger Jepsen, 1985 lost re-election. Chet Culver (son of John, lol), 2011, was the only governor to pursue re-election and lose. The last time Iowa voted for a winning Presidential candidate but voted against their re-election bid was Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940.
This isn’t to get political by any stretch but I believe it highlights the fact that Iowans are predisposed to keeping someone in power provide the results stay in line with their expectations.
**Editor’s Note: Please refrain from political commentary in the comment section. While the story references political figures, there is no political commentary involved and the expectation is the same will hold true in the comments.**
Chief among those expectations are constituent services.
Kirk Ferentz has performed those well enough. As Patrick Vint of the halcyon BHGP days summarized in his return to blogging, Kirk “protects the bag.” When Iowa fans get restless, Kirk gets even. (and then gets paid)
2008-into-2009. 2015. Summer 2020. If Ferentz doesn’t thread the needle on any one of them, he’s probably not the head coach of Iowa Football right now. He’s always pulled out enough results to garner re-election.
Looking at the results of the last six years, fans would be almost universally pleased with them if someone named Brian Budmayr had been Iowa’s offensive coordinator over that time period:
68.9%69% (nice) winning percentage;
- 1 Big Ten West crown;
- 4-1 in bowls;
- 17-6 record in trophy games;
- Dozens playing in the NFL (not that this helps Iowa wins on Saturdays);
- players staying, on balance, out of trouble
That isn’t enough when the lowest performer, and perceived weight on higher results, is the coach’s son. “Perceived weight” is putting it lightly, too, as many of the losses over the same timeframe have featured notably bad, if not absent, offense. (to say nothing of the wins featuring moribund offense)
Because of the familial dynamic, it calls into question whether Kirk is out to achieve the greatest team success available* or merely the most success Iowa can have while advancing his son’s career. I think if Wisconsin performed to the standards they set in the early 2010s and Nebraska maintained some element of relevance, the single Big Ten West title since Brian Ferentz took over would feel way more like an intersection of the two. As it stands, Northwestern has more entries into the title game than Iowa in Brian’s tenure.
*I constantly reference this 1992 video where Hayden Fry says he’s still chasing the mountaintop of a national title...I’ve never felt that was Kirk
With Iowa’s Charmin-like annual games going away with a divisionless conference on the horizon, the urgency for Iowa to capitalize one last time goes beyond just keeping fans happy or realizing the potential of Brian as a coordinator. It feels existential. Like this is the last time Iowa has a chance of either 1) winning the Big Ten and/or 2) making the semifinals of the college football playoff without feeling totally delusional or requiring a total alignment of stars.
Shortly after Kirk referenced Mary, he said, “Sometimes people don’t like how we win.” My guess is that a lot of those people are like me, someone who rarely goes to games.
The event-driven economy tells a different story: Iowa Football is King of the Corridor as Kirk Ferentz has kept fans happy enough to sell out Kinnick Stadium for a second straight season. Plenty of people like how Iowa win.
Until that stops, why expect the results to?