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Kirk Ferentz

Kirk Ferentz looks on during a NCAA Big Ten Conference football game against Nebraska, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

Kirk Ferentz is an institution not just in Iowa City, but in college football.

No active head coach has been at their current school longer than Ferentz has been with the Hawkeyes. The 2023 campaign will be his 25th year at the helm of the program. In an era of college football increasingly marked by movement and destabilization, Ferentz has, in many ways, been a pillar of stability at the base of one of the Big Ten’s most consistent teams.

Though not without warts.

With Iowa’s win at Minnesota in late November 2022, Ferentz tied Amos Alonzo Stagg for third all-time in Big Ten league wins with 115. In 24 years with the Hawkeyes, Ferentz has a 186-115 record, putting him fourth all-time in wins among Big Ten coaches. He and Bo Schembechler (Michigan) are the only B1G coaches to claim Coach of the Year honors from the league more than 3 times.

Ferentz holds 10 bowl victories. Every other Iowa coach combined has 8 such wins.

The Hawkeyes have missed a bowl game only twice since 2001, and they’ve reached 8 wins in 8 of the last 9 full seasons played. (Iowa only played 8 total in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, going 6-2.)

And Ferentz has done it all without the benefit of blue-chippers flocking to town. Instead, it has been a program that preaches development. Defense and hard-nosed football win the day. In most years, Iowa looks exactly how you’d expect Iowa to look.

The Hawkeyes have only had 2 top-25 recruiting classes under Ferentz. And yet the leading man has coached 14 consensus All-Americans and seen 87 of his players drafted into the NFL — 13 of them first-rounders. Brett Ciancia, owner and publisher of Pick Six Previews, charts win conversion (recruiting rankings vs. wins) and player development (recruiting rankings vs. draft picks) every year for his preview magazine. Iowa ranked No. 2 and No. 1, respectively, among Power 5 programs heading into the 2022 season. It ranked No. 1 in both categories heading into the 2021 season. (Spoiler: there’s a theme there.)

Iowa appeared in the Rose Bowl in 2015 after a program-record 12 wins. Ferentz won the Eddie Robinson, Dodd Trophy, and Woody Hayes National Coach of the Year awards for it.

Since, cracks have started to form in the foundation.

Offensive coordinator Greg Davis retired following the 2016 season and was replaced with Ferentz’s son, Brian, who was coaching the offensive line at the time. Brian Ferentz fared well early on as the team’s offensive coordinator, but the 2021 and 2022 seasons saw the Hawkeyes slip to depths untouched throughout the earlier parts of the Ferentz era.

In back-to-back years, Iowa paired top-15 scoring defenses with offenses that ranked 99th and 123rd nationally in scoring. The 2022 Hawkeyes yielded only 13.3 points a game, the second-best mark in the country, but produced only 17.7 points themselves. And the defense scored 6 of the 25 total touchdowns.

It marked the first time since 2012 that an Iowa team failed to score at least 20 a game. Brian Ferentz’s contract was amended in the offseason to include a clause that would terminate his deal on June 30, 2024, if Iowa didn’t average at least 25 points per game during the 2023 season. Despite calls to replace his son, Kirk Ferentz broadcast faith that Iowa would show improvement.

On June 6, 2020, Ferentz placed the program’s strength coach, Chris Doyle, on paid administrative leave after multiple former players identified Doyle and Brian Ferentz as having contributed to a culture marked by “racial disparity.” On June 15, Iowa parted ways with Doyle after 21 years. ESPN later published a report citing instances of racial inequities levied against black players throughout Ferentz’s tenure as a head coach.

In March 2023, Iowa reached a settlement with several of the former players in a racial discrimination lawsuit brought against the program. The settlement was for a reported $4.175 million. The Iowa athletic department paid $2.175 million and the state’s Appeal Board voted 2-1 to approve the use of taxpayer funds to cover the remainder.

The board member who objected did so while saying athletic director Gary Barta should be fired for a series of lawsuits ending in settlements under his watch. Ferentz said in a statement he was “greatly disappointed” in how the matter was resolved, adding that he believed the case would have been dismissed with prejudice before trial and that the settlement did not signal an admission of wrongdoing by Iowa’s coaching staff.



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