Is Kirk Ferentz Really One of College Football’s Worst Coaches?


Nov 10, 2012; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz watches his team warm up prior to game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports

There’s nothing I enjoy more than laying it on the Iowa Hawkeyes when I’m able to. It’s all apart of being a fan, and it’s something that ALL of us can relate to that’s cheered for the Iowa State Cyclones. As much as I’ve talked about Kirk Ferentz being overrated for what he’s done in his tenure with the program, there’s no question in my mind that he should not be on a list of the worst five coaches in college football.

Even if I’m lucky enough to make it in the sports industry, I don’t care whether Bob or George from Iowa City won’t listen to me because “I’m a biased Cyclone fan.” I’m not going to be like local sports reporters and keep saying that I’m not biased toward one team even though I give that inclination toward said team.

As long as statements are backed with facts, there’s a way to maintain a bias yet give fair analysis. No one should care as much as they do with what people say on Twitter. I’m not going to let anybody on social media tell me how much I suck at my job when said people are also giving us 140 characters of wisdom on a trending topic like #AintThatAmerica.

But when it comes to giving Ferentz an evaluation on his recent tenure with the Hawkeyes, I don’t think Stewart Mandel gives a fair analysis on why he selected him on his list of the five worst college football coaches right now:

"The 2009 Orange Bowl proved an aberration in Ferentz’s otherwise unimpressive recent tenure. Take away that one 11-2 season and the Hawkeyes are 47-41 since 2005 under their $3.6 million-per-year coach."

Let’s take a look at the response first. From looking at the comments, and as expected with most Hawkeye fans I run into, they absolutely fumed when reading this and started giving Mandel the Iowa coach’s resume and explaining how journalism has gone to hell.

This isn’t a big deal, kids. It’s a best/worst list made by sports writer in July because it’s July. This is one of the most dead months in sports, and if you’re not a fan of baseball or a Chicago Cubs fan it’s absolutely atrocious. Any “best” or “worst” lists are made just to get views and spark conversation, but generally 90 percent of comments are of people that took it as an insult; it’s like the author told them their child is ugly.

November 17, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz and Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Travis Perry (39) during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Now, of course I don’t believe Ferentz is one of the worst coaches in NCAA football. Hell, Mandel has Tim Beckman from Illinois in there who’s only coached a year. I’d start looking at nailing Gene Chizik on that list before I even look at these two. Ferentz proved everyone wrong when his team dominated Georgia Tech’s style of play in their BCS victory. But if Iowa fans want their team to reach those lofty expectations of a national championship, it may be time to look elsewhere.

A reason why the Hawkeyes’ football program has been near the top of preseason lists is because they always exceeded what the nation thought of them. Instead, Iowa fans took that as being nationally respected. They never have been, they’ve never been on the same levels as the Texases, Oklahomas, Notre Dames, and as of recently the Southeastern Conference schools. Now that things have soured overall since missing two bowl games since 2007, the Hawkeyes are nowhere to be found.

Texas IS a team with national recognition. Case and point: even after a disastrous season last year, they’re still ranked 14th in these preseason rankings and in multiple other outlets. Speaking of the Longhorns, perhaps Mack Brown would be in the conversation of the five worst. Let’s just take out that “outlier” of a national championship.

There’s no question the team took a step back by hiring Greg Davis as offensive coordinator as pointed out in the Iowa lookahead, but perhaps he can right the ship. Still, there’s too many other factors that get in the way. A dream of being perfect won’t happen with Ferentz when he loses nearly all of his non-conference road games, struggle with the directional Michigans, and lose to Minnesota and Northwestern. He’s had players getting in trouble off the field, including his own son back in 2009.

Outside of owning Penn State and defeating SEC teams that don’t even want to be in the Outback and Capital One Bowl games, there’s simply not enough evidence to point to and say that Ferentz is the right guy to stay at Iowa and get them a championship. But to label him as one of the worst coaches in the nation, alongside Charlie Weis and Lane Kiffin? Ferentz may not be able to exceed expectations consistently, but he completely recovered the Hawkeyes’ football program and they’ve gone 3-1 in those bowl games they made since 2008.

And at least Ferentz never backed down like this.