Schwartz: Kirk Ferentz’s Contract Gets Better With Each Passing Month

April 8, 2018

Written by David Schwartz

The raise given to and earned by Ohio State coach Urban Meyer on Friday further strengthens Dan Matheson’s 2016 explanation about why Kirk Ferentz’s contract isn’t as obscene as some have made it out to be.

At the beginning of Ferentz’s contract, sure, the amount of money felt excessive. But give it time, Matheson wrote. As Big Ten programs and other schools across the country hired new coaches or gave extensions to existing coaches, Ferentz’s long-term deal would gradually move from overreach to going rate to a contract well in Iowa’s favor.

We’ve reached that middle point.

As of January 2017, Ferentz’s contract was the 10th highest among NCAA football coaches. By November, Ferentz’s contract was down to 13th. Just a month later – December 2017 – Ferentz was 16th. By February of this year he was 17th.

Ferentz is locked up through the middle of next decade. Some incentives and other moneys will kick in before then, but if he sticks around to the end of the deal, it’s a good bet he won’t even be in the top 30.

And what about the buyout clause?

Well, that I can’t rationalize. But the base figure of his contract looks better and better with each passing year.

***

Let’s follow this coaching-salary thread a little while longer.

There are two separate issues in this argument. The first is whether coach so-and-so deserves $X millions dollars a year. This debate is best waged on a coach-by-coach, comparison-type basis.

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The second issue that fans will argue – and should argue – is whether college coaches are overpaid en masse.

The “of course they are!” argument often lacks historical understanding. As of a year ago, according to USA Today, the highest-paid state employee in 80 percent of the states was a college coach.

That’s a breathtaking statistic. Surely, it would seem, an innovative university researcher working to cure cancer or an enterprising budget officer striving to eliminate excess spending deserves a higher salary than someone whose performance review hinges on how well he can teach zone blocking. It’s counterintuitive to think otherwise.

Unless, of course, one remembers that in America we as a collective society repeatedly show that we value the dollar over all else: over government, over God, over health, over education.

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At the turn of the 20th century, Penn State University – the beneficiary of a massive land grant – struggled to build its community. There were years it barely could get students on campus.

Then came football. Between growing interest in football and a push to keep up with modern agricultural (and other) technologies, Penn State became Penn State. It’s a little more complex than that, but you catch my drift. College football didn’t latch on to America’s universities to grow like a parasite. College football and America’s universities needed each other to grow into what we see today.

The City of Coralville, Iowa City’s neighbor, has opened at least six new hotels the last two years, largely to accommodate Hawkeye fans who will attend the seven home football games their team plays each season.

Seven games.

That’s a lot of hotels for seven games.

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But that’s the power of college football.

With cash flow, rather than morality, as our metric, then no: college football coaches are most certainly not overpaid. The good ones are worth every million.

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One shameless plug: KGYM’s interview Friday with Fran McCaffery is a must-listen for Hawkeye fans.

He covers a lot of ground. I’m not sure how much better you’ll feel about the next Hawkeye men’s college basketball season after listening to it, but it’s worth a shot.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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