In Kirk We (Used to) Trust
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Let’s go back.
Let’s go back to a time when ‘The Coach’ in this state everybody was afraid of losing was Kirk Ferentz.
It was kind of nice wasn’t it? Knowing that ‘our guy’ was coveted by the next level. I remember interviewing Gary Barta right after he was hired as Athletic Director in August of 2006. In fact, I was the first employee of WHO Radio to get a one on one with Mr. Barta. I was doing a weekend show at the Iowa State Fair in 2006. I got a phone call from my boss, Van Harden, and he said the University was going to be bringing their new Athletic Director to the Crystal Studios at the Fairgrounds for an interview.
I was ready. In fact, this was going to be easy! There was ONE thing to ask Gary Barta, one thing EVERY Hawkeye fan wanted to know at the time; “What are you going to do to keep Kirk Ferentz from going to the NFL?”
Kirk Ferentz was HOT. I mean, “2015 Fred Hoiberg-Hot”!
At that time, rumors had been floating about Ferentz possibly taking over the newly opened Pittsburgh Steelers job. Ferentz had led the Hawkeyes to double-digit win totals in three of the previous four years. The 2005 season was also the fourth-straight January Bowl game for the program, and Ferentz was growing his already healthy reputation as one of the best coaches in the country at preparing his players for the NFL.
In reality, I was just a 20-something kid at the time, scared out of my mind, out of my league, pretending to do a radio show.
Gary Barta gave me the prepared answers he had and I walked away knowing I really hadn’t accomplished anything. I remember he said something about all of the sports being as important as football and basketball and blah, blah, blah.
I also remember a reassuring smile (or at least I took it that way) when I told him I was a season ticket holder and how much I hoped to cheer for a Ferentz-led program for a long time.
I got my wish. Ferentz didn’t go the NFL and Gary Barta continued to lock down Ferentz through the 2020 season.
It was a great time to be a Hawkeye fan. It felt like you were playing with house money.
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That was nine years ago. Since then the program has had one season with double-digit wins (11 in ’09). One nine-win season (’08) and two seasons with eight wins. That nine-year cycle also produced a record of 3-4 in bowl games.
There are people who constantly tell me to be happy with that kind of productivity. They tell me it’s unreasonable to expect the Hawkeyes to be any better than that over the long haul. They tell me Kirk Ferentz is the best coach this University could hope for right now.
THEY are not Hawkeye fans.
Hawkeye fans don’t need to be reminded about the NFL talent that’s been turned out. It’s actually become a point of contention. Why are so many NFL players being produced from a program that isn’t performing like the other teams with such talent?
Hawkeye fans don’t need to be reminded that Kirk Ferentz turned this program around from a one-win season in his first year. They don’t need to be reminded he won as many games in his fourth year as he did in his first three years combined. We are eternally grateful for that. We have shown our appreciation. We have forgiven sub-standard performances because of that turnaround.
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In other words: those chip have been played.
As a Hawkeye fan, I sort of feel like I’m even with the house right now.
I sat through the lean years and really enjoyed the ride when it seemed to be flying high and fast. When expectations weren’t met, I stayed. When coaching changes seemed questionable, I stayed. When the playbook didn’t evolve despite coordinator changes, I stayed. This team could go back to a one-win seasons and I’d stay.
This brings us to the 2015 season, and it’s the biggest season for the “Ferentz Legacy”.
I think he knows it. Ferentz has to know what’s at stake. Season ticket sales are down, the schedule is as weak as it will possibly ever be and expectations are more manageable than they’ve been for several years.
There are only three possibilities for the season, as I see it.
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1. Crush All Expectations: Go all “Ferentz performs best when we expect the least” on everybody! Come away with a nine-win season and remind everybody why you’re the best known, best looking, highest paid, most sought after coach in our state (again).
RESULT: What four-win season?
2. Be Mediocre Again: Go all “Ferentz is exactly as boring and predictable as we’ve always known” on everybody. Win seven games. No impressive wins. Lose to Iowa State, AGAIN. Land in a late December bowl game that doesn’t excite the fan base.
RESULT: Season ticket sales drop again. The seat gets warmer, but no calls are made to talk about raising the money for the buyout
3. Crush All Hope: Go all “Ferentz really crapped the bed on his way out” on everybody! Win five games. Lose to Iowa State AGAIN. Fall short of a Bowl game for just the 5th time in 17 years. Release a depth chart in January and promote son to a new position called Offensive Schemes Coordinator.
RESULT: Gary Barta either makes the phone calls to raise the money to fire Kirk Ferentz or Gary Barta sharpens his resume.
Hmm. Now that I think about it, can I get a healthy portion of ‘Possibility #1’ with a dash of the RESULT of ‘Possibility #3’?
No? Thought I’d ask.