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Harty: Will Ferentz’s 2nd act be better than Fry’s?

[ 7 ] February 8, 2012 |

Similar to what happened under Hayden Fry in the late 1980s, the Iowa football coaching staff is going through another major overhaul and Kirk Ferentz has been a part of both.

Ferentz was among three Iowa assistants that left Fry’s program after the 1989 season, with Dan McCarney and Bernie Wyatt the other two.

Their departures came a year after Bill Snyder had resigned as Fry’s offensive coordinator to accept the daunting task of rebuilding the Kansas State program, which he has since done twice.

“They brought great guys in and it worked fine,” Ferentz said. “So this happens in coaching all the time. It just hasn’t happened here a lot. But with it comes new opportunity.”

It’s true that Fry handled the staff shuffling well at first, leading Iowa to a share of the Big Ten title in 1990 and to a 10-win season in 1991.

But you could argue that his second decade as the Iowa head coach – his reign lasted from 1979 to 1998 – wasn’t as successful as the first 10 years. You could also argue that the 1990 and 1991 teams were greatly influenced by the assistants that had recently left the program.

Two of the three Rose Bowls that Iowa played in under Fry also came during his first decade as head coach, as did two of Iowa’s three 10-win seasons under Fry.

Iowa had its share of star players under Fry in the 1990s, names such as Sedrick Shaw, Tim Dwight and Tavian Banks. But it paled in comparison to the 1980s when guys like Andre Tippett, Mark Bortz, Chuck Long, Larry Station, Ronnie Harmon, Mike Haight, Chuck Hartlieb and Marv Cook helped lift Iowa to elite status.

Fry was loyal to his assistant coaches and often showed it by promoting from within.

Ferentz also stresses loyalty and he just showed it by promoting Phil Parker to defensive coordinator. Parker is the only defensive backs coach that Ferentz has had in 13 seasons at Iowa.

The decision to promote Parker has divided some Iowa fans. On one side are those that believe in rewarding loyalty and believe that Ferentz knows what’s best for the program in the long term. On the other side are those that are bored with the status quo and believe that with Iowa coming off a 7-6 season that Ferentz is simply rearranging the deck of a ship that’s taking on water.

Ferentz said Wednesday while addressing the media that Parker wasn’t always his top choice during the search process.

The folks on the Internet message boards will probably say that’s because Mike Stoops was the front-runner throughout December and that former Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley was the front-runner in early January and that current New York Giants linebackers coach and former Michigan defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann was the front-runner in late January.

There was so much wishful thinking that Ferentz would land a big fish from outside the program that some fans started to believe it and then couldn’t resist sharing their lack of information.

The same thing is now happening with the two coaching vacancies on offense, including the coordinator position. I’ve already read somewhere that hiring former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell, who played defensive back at Iowa in the 1970s, to replace Ken O’Keefe as the new offensive coordinator was all but a done deal.

My guess is you can probably stack that done deal next to the done deals involving Stoops, Bradley and Herrmann.

My other guess is that Ferentz will continue to promote from within, with receivers coach Erik Campbell and running backs coach Lester Erb as likely candidates for the offensive coordinator position.

And with Reese Morgan switching from coaching the offensive line to the defensive line, the pieces are now in place for Ferentz’s son, Brian Ferentz, to return to his alma mater to coach the offensive line. That’s assuming Brian is willing to give up his position as tight ends coach for the Super Bowl runner-up New England Patriots.

“You know we’re open to anything right now,” Kirk Ferentz said when asked about the possibility of Brian joining his staff. “He’s got a pretty good job right now.”

Brian Ferentz also has more experience than his father had when he joined Fry’s staff in 1981 as the offensive line coach. And look how that decision has turned out.

“I’m really confident we’re going to get a good guy or we wouldn’t have moved Reese,” Ferentz said.

As for rounding out his staff, UI administrative assistant LeVar Woods still seems the most logical choice to coach the linebackers. He played that position at Iowa from 1998-2000 and for several seasons in the NFL.

And don’t be surprised if Ferentz finds a spot on his staff for graduate assistant and former Iowa walk-on quarterback David Raih. Ferentz said Wednesday that he might hire a quarterbacks coach and have it be separate from the offensive coordinator position.

O’Keefe handled both of those responsibilities at Iowa. But now he’s gone and the future is uncertain without him.

Fry survived his coaching staff overhaul, but some will say his program was never the same after it occurred.

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or pharty@press-citizen.com

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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