The Iowa Hawkeyes clearly have not continued their perfect record from the 2015 season into 2016. With three straight home losses, the fans of the Hawks are starting to call for head coach Kirk Ferentz’s job. With the school just having extended Kirk Ferentz’s contract to 2022, making it the longest extension contract in school history, fans are enraged. You can see it on almost any sports website, but I pose the question as to why they are calling for his job? Coach Ferentz is NOT the only coach that has had difficulties after a series of amazing seasons. Hayden Fry did too, yet not a single person called for his job in 1989 when he went 5-6 after winning the Big Ten Title and going to the Rose Bowl in 1988.
Fry’s career at Iowa didn’t start out all that great. He walked into a 17-year consecutive losing streak for the Hawkeye football program. Many thought after the seasons of ’79 and ’80 that Fry would continue to walk the path that previous coaches had. But in ’81 they started winning. And in 1985 no one could believe where Iowa’s football program was at.
In 1985 the Hawkeye football program was ranked #1 in AP Polls for five weeks. We clenched final moment wins over both Michigan and Michigan State, won a Big Ten Title, and went to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl. 10-1 that season, and it was amazing. At the time it felt like the undefeated season that Iowa had in 2015. The fans couldn’t believe it, and they loved their program more than ever before.
However, things started to slip. In 1989 the Iowa Hawkeyes went 5-6. A fate that many of us Hawkeye fans can see coming up in this season. Could history be repeating itself? But there is a difference. People weren’t calling for Fry’s job, yet you are calling for Ferentz’s. In 1990 Iowa proved itself once again, winning the Big Ten Title, and making another trip to Pasadena. In ’91 we went 10-1, and that one loss cost us a shot at the title, and our trip to Pasadena.
In Fry’s 20 years at Iowa, he went 143-89-6, winning three Big Ten Titles, and took us to Pasadena three different times. Hayden Fry established our winning tradition at Iowa, and he went down in history. Hayden Fry Way, that leads from Mormon Trek to Coralville. You will see his statue, and people praising his legacy. My cousin is even named after him. There is no doubt that Hayden Fry deserved his place in Hawkeye history, but Kirk Ferentz has done similar things.
Ferentz’s first three seasons at Iowa were similar to the start of Fry’s career, which wasn’t all that surprising. But in 2002, just three seasons after Ferentz arrived, we went 11-1, only losing to Iowa State in triple overtime. In ’03 we went 9-3, defeating Florida in the Outback Bowl. And who could forget the year we clenched out 11th Big Ten Title AND beat Nick Saban at LSU 30-25 in our bowl game. (In case you forgot, it was 2004.)
’05-’07 could be seen as off years. In ’05 we went 7-4, and then were defeated by Florida in the Outback Bowl. ’06 we went 6-7, losing to Texas in the Alamo Bowl. And the seven-year bowl game streak ended in ’07 when we went 6-6. Here I remember hearing people question Ferentz. We questioned whether or not we should keep in. Then ’08-’10 happened.
’08, we went 8-4 and defeated South Carolina in the Outback. ’09 10-2 defeating Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Orange Bowl. And in ’10 when we were 8-4, sneaking by Missouri in the Insight Bowl. 2011 was a good year, going 7-6 but losing to Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl. But the season that followed was a year that no one talks about. 2012.
The 2012 season left many of us heartbroken with our 4-8 record. In fact, I watched several hundred fans walk away from the Iowa team when we failed to meet their expectations. To this day I don’t like to talk about that season. It breaks my heart to think that it even happened to a team like Iowa who has the heart and compassion that we have. But in 2013 my hopes were brought back to life we went 8-5, but fell to LSU in the bowl game. 2014 came, and the Hawks went 7-6, falling again in the bowl game to Tennessee. But the season that followed was one that went down in school history.
The season of 2015 the Iowa Hawkeyes went 12-0 in the regular season. Not even Hayden Fry reached that milestone. We lost to Michigan State in the title game, and got crushed by Stanford in Pasadena. We went 12-2 last year. And after the Rose Bowl I started hearing the grumbles. The “fire Ferentz” talk had begun, and the start of the 2016 season hasn’t helped matters any.
A lot of what I hear has to do with how much Kirk makes. $4.05 million a year is a lot of cash, but how much does he turn around and give to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital every year? You know, that new wing on Melrose Avenue with the top floor looking out over the stadium so the kids can watch the game? Kirk sincerely cares for the Hawkeye program. He takes care of the players both athletically and academically. If you can find me a coach that does that better than Ferentz, only then will I call for his job.
You see, Ferentz and Fry have followed a similar pattern in their coaching careers at Iowa. The only difference? You want to fire Ferentz the second things start going wrong. I wonder, perhaps, would you be calling for Steve Spurrier’s job if he had taken over after Fry and had Ferentz’s record? So what if Ferentz wasn’t your first choice for head coach. Ferentz actually wanted to be at Iowa. And to me, that makes him the man for the job.
Take what I’ve said, or leave it. But know that this isn’t the first time a coach has struggled after being successful for so long. Know that Hayden Fry faced similar barriers and similar records, yet you still supported him. If you aren’t going to support a coach in the bad years, don’t do it in the good years either.