TAMPA, Fla. – Iowa’s football program is a lot like the Pittsburgh Steelers, which is one reason coach Kirk Ferentz will wrap up his 15th season at the school in Wednesday’s Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.
“We’ve had two football coaches now in 35 years,” Ferentz said at a news conference Sunday. “We’ve had three athletic directors since the early 1970s when Bump Elliott came to Iowa and did a really great job of building that program. I think it’s a little bit telling. I grew up in Pittsburgh. (Iowa’s) a little bit like the Pittsburgh Steelers. They don’t change every time there’s a bump in the road. They address problems instead of panic.”
Iowa was 4-8 last season, the worst record for a Ferentz-coached Hawkeye team since 2000. But Iowa reversed direction by going 8-4 this season to earn its 11th bowl bid in 15 seasons under Ferentz, who was an assistant coach to Hayden Fry at Iowa from 1981-89.
It was Fry who modeled Iowa’s uniforms after the Steelers when Elliott hired him in 1979. And it was Fry who Ferentz, then an NFL assistant with the Baltimore Ravens, replaced as Iowa coach in 1999.
Just two coaches hired at Division I programs in 1999 remain in their current positions — Ferentz and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, who played for the Hawkeyes when Ferentz was an assistant and was also a leading candidate to replace Fry.
“In my case, it’s just a place we enjoy living,” Ferentz said. “My wife (Mary) and I found that out when we moved out there in 1981, not knowing what to expect. We’ve lived there 24 years total now. It’s a great place to live, a great place to raise a family and a great place to coach football. Those are the most important things to me. And it takes a mutual agreement. We found a really good place to be.”
Ferentz’s coaching rival, Les Miles, can also relate to longevity. He’s in his ninth season at LSU.
“First off, it’s a style of program and style of school that allows you to recruit the kind of young men you can put on the field to pursue a degree and play championship football, and do it in a yearly fashion,” Miles said.
When Iowa last played LSU, a 30-25 victory in the 2005 Capital One Bowl, Tigers coach Nick Saban had already agreed to take a job with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Miles, then at Oklahoma State, was hired to succeed Saban at LSU.
Miles likes being at a school where the administration allows athletic programs “to pursue excellence.” He also said that Baton Rouge is good fit for himself and his family.
“There are places that you just don’t need to leave,” Miles said. “Coach Ferentz and Coach Miles have been fortunate that way.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football