Last week, Iowa announced a contract extension with Kirk Ferentz that will keep him as the Hawkeyes’ head coach through the 2029 season.

Unless Ferentz catches the retirement bug before then, come 2029 the Hawks will have had just 2 head coaches in exactly 50 years. Hayden Fry took over the program in 1979 before handing the reins to Ferentz in 1999.

This feels like an unheard-of amount of stability in modern college football. And it is. For that matter, Iowa’s coaching stability is also pretty much unheard of in the pre-modern era, too.

We took a look at the coaching turnover at other Big Ten programs since 1979. With the exception of Luke Fickell’s full season as an interim coach at Ohio State and Jim Hilles’ interim full season at Wisconsin, interim coaches were not included in our count.

As expected, the contrasts between the Hawkeyes and everybody else are stark.

Gold-standard stability


Number of coaches (since 1979): 2

Longest tenure: Kirk Ferentz, 23 seasons

Shortest tenure: Hayden Fry, 20 seasons

Average coaching tenure: 22 seasons

We took the liberty of rounding up on the average tenure since Ferentz is coming back for Season 24. Both Fry and Ferentz coached at Iowa long enough to have players on their roster who weren’t born at the start of their tenures.

Penn State

Number of coaches: 3

Longest tenure: Joe Paterno, 33 seasons*

Shortest tenure: Bill O’Brien, 2 seasons

Average coaching tenure: 15 seasons

Remember, our clock for this exercise begins in ’79, which lops 13 seasons off of Paterno’s actual career total. And the 33 seasons which do count skew the average tenure a great deal — James Franklin has put in 8 seasons and he’s only halfway to “average” in this case.

With Franklin recently signing a 10-year contract extension, it’s clear that the Nittany Lions aspire for a similar level of stability as Iowa.

Rock-solid stability

Ohio State

Number of coaches: 6*

Longest tenure: John Cooper, 13 seasons

Shortest tenure: Luke Fickell, 1 season*

Average coaching tenure: 7 seasons

We’ve gamed the numbers a bit here.

In reality, Ohio State has had 5 coaches since 1979. Fickell was thrown into the fire as the Buckeyes’ interim head coach when Jim Tressel resigned his position on May 30, 2011.

But Fickell’s 6-7 record in 2011 counts toward his career coaching record, so we feel compelled to say it counts here, too. And had he gone, say, 10-2 during that firestorm, he probably would have kept the job permanently and continued Ohio State’s stability.

Ryan Day’s current 3-year tenure is the shortest for a Buckeyes coach outside of Fickell’s interim stint.


Number of coaches: 6

Longest tenure: Tom Osborne, 19 seasons*

Shortest tenure: Mike Riley, 3 seasons

Average coaching tenure: 7 seasons

Now it becomes a bit more understandable that Scott Frost was granted a fifth year at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers strive for stability more than most.

Osborne was at Nebraska even longer than Ferentz has been at Iowa, clocking in 26 total seasons before retiring after the ’97 campaign.

That longevity also skews our average as it did with Penn State. Bo Pelini is the only one of Osborne’s successors to actually get there with exactly 7 seasons as Nebraska’s coach.

It also goes to show how well Ferentz has performed at Iowa. Fry retired only a year after Osborne, but Nebraska has had 5 coaches in the time Ferentz has coached the Hawkeyes.


Number of coaches: 6

Longest tenure: Pat Fitzgerald, 16 seasons

Shortest tenure: Rick Venturi, 2 seasons*

Average coaching tenure: 7 seasons

Fitzgerald is the next-longest tenured active Big Ten head coach behind Ferentz, which greatly helps Northwestern’s overall stability index.

Venturi was in the second of his 3 years as Northwestern’s coach when our timeline begins. Either way you look at it, he’s the shortest-tenured Wildcats coach of the era. Which makes sense, because he won 1 game in those 3 seasons.

It is also worth noting that Randy Walker likely would have put in far more than his 7 seasons in Evanston if not for his untimely death of a heart attack in 2006.


Number of coaches: 6

Longest tenure: Lloyd Carr, 13 seasons

Shortest tenure: Rich Rodriguez, 3 seasons

Average coaching tenure: 6 seasons

Bo Schembechler manned the Michigan sidelines for the first 11 seasons of our timeline, and led the Wolverines for 10 years prior to that.

When Rich Rodriguez replaced Carr in 2008, this was still what you would consider an unusually stable program — there had only been 3 coaches in just a shade under 40 seasons.

That has obviously changed since. Jim Harbaugh has reinjected some stability in the past 7 seasons, though his potential NFL departure could change all that.

Reasonable stability


Number of coaches: 7*

Longest tenure: Barry Alvarez, 16 seasons

Shortest tenure: Jim Hilles, 1 season*

Averaging coaching tenure: 6 seasons

A couple of short tenures skew a program that’s otherwise among the Big Ten’s most stable.

First is Hilles. He was named the program’s interim head coach when he predecessor died — in this case Dave McClain.

Hilles went 3-9 in 1986 and didn’t retain the job.

But the bizarre Gary Andersen experiment is what really knocks Wisconsin from a higher tier. Andersen bolted Wisconsin for Oregon State after just 2 seasons in 2014. Andersen is already at his fourth job since leaving Madison.


Number of coaches: 8*

Longest tenure: Greg Schiano, 11 seasons*

Shortest tenure: Kyle Flood, 4 seasons; Chris Ash, 4 seasons

Average coaching tenure: 5 seasons

Like a modern-day Grover Cleveland, Schiano really mucks up the count with his non-consecutive stints as Rutgers head coach. A total of 7 men have coached the Scarlet Knights since 1979, but in 8 different coaching tenures.

Technically Schiano has put in 13 total seasons. Also technically, his current 2-year stint would make him the shortest-tenured Rutgers coach since 1979.

It’s all quite a headache to calculate.

But any way you slice it, Rutgers is a surprisingly stable football program. Frank Burns, the Scarlet Knights coach in ’79, was in the seventh of his 11 seasons at the helm.

Michigan State

Number of coaches: 8

Longest tenure: Mark Dantonio, 13 seasons

Shortest tenure: Muddy Waters, 3 seasons; Bobby Williams, 3 seasons*

Average coaching tenure: 5 seasons

Michigan State is the most mercurial job in the Big Ten.

You could last there a long time, as George Perles and Mark Dantonio did. Perles put in 12 seasons from 1983-94, and Dantonio topped him with 13 from 2007-19.

You could be a complete disaster, as Waters, Williams and John L. Smith were.

Or you could be Nick Saban and put in your 5 years before leapfrogging to stardom elsewhere.

Technically, Mel Tucker is the shortest-tenured Spartans coach on the list with just 2 seasons, but his new 10-year contract should assure him of getting past Waters and Williams.


Number of coaches: 8

Longest tenure: Joe Tiller, 12 seasons

Shortest tenure: Jim Young, 3 seasons*

Average coaching tenure: 5 seasons

Young is Purdue’s shortest-tenured coach of the era on a technicality — he coached the Boilermakers a total of 5 seasons, but that count began in 1977.

There have been a total of 3 Purdue coaches to last exactly 4 seasons — Fred Akers, Danny Hope and Darrell Hazell. Jeff Brohm just wrapped up his fourth season in West Lafayette, but he looks destined to get closer to Tiller than anybody else has.

With 6 seasons, Jim Colletto is the only other Purdue coach who has even gotten halfway to Tiller’s tenure. Tiller truly saved Purdue from being one of the Big Ten’s revolving doors.

Revolving doors


Number of coaches: 9

Longest tenure: Bill Mallory, 13 seasons

Shortest tenure: Sam Wyche, 1 season

Average coaching tenure: 4 seasons

Mallory is his program’s version of Tiller, but it’s still not enough to save the Hoosiers from the bottom tier of stability.

The weirdest name on the list is Wyche, who was hired by the Cincinnati Bengals after going 3-8 in his only season at IU. Wyche was apparently the original Kliff Kingsbury.

Indiana is also affected by the death of Terry Hoeppner, who clearly had the program moving in the right direction when he died of brain cancer after just 2 seasons. Had Hoeppner survived, it’s very conceivable he would have put in another 10 years before retiring.


Number of coaches: 9

Longest tenure: Glen Mason, 10 seasons

Shortest tenure: Lou Holtz, 2 seasons; Tracy Claeys, 2 seasons*

Average coaching tenure: 4 seasons

For yet another example of how crazy Iowa’s stability is, Minnesota has had more home stadiums since 1979 (3) than the Hawkeyes have had head coaches.

Minnesota, like Indiana, is filled with oddities that affect the overall numbers. Holtz was hired by Notre Dame despite going 11-12 in his 2 seasons with the Gophers. (And like Wyche with the Bengals, somehow that hire worked out.)

Jerry Kill stepped down midway through his fifth season due to recurring epilepsy, giving way to Claeys.

Claeys led Minnesota to a solid 9-4 record in his lone full season, but was fired after supporting a player boycott when 10 members of his team were suspended due to sexual assault allegations.

PJ Fleck, who just signed a contract extension, might finally give this program stability that it really only experienced in Mason’s 1997-2006 tenure.


Number of coaches: 9

Longest tenure: Ralph Friedgen, 10 seasons

Shortest tenure: DJ Durkin, 2 seasons

Average coaching tenure: 4 seasons

Maryland’s been a mess since forcing out Friedgen after the 2010 season — just as it was before hiring Friedgen in 2001.

Durkin, of course, only made it through 2 seasons because a player died in one of his practices. But even if you remove that tragic tenure from the equation, no coach has been very long for College Park. Friedgen is the only Terps coach to make it more than 5 seasons since 1979.

Mike Locksley, who heads into Year 4 in 2022, is obviously trying to reverse that trend.

Trap door


Number of coaches: 10

Longest tenure: Mike White, 8 seasons

Shortest tenure: Bill Cubit, 1 season

Average coaching tenure: 4 seasons

Welcome to the Spinal Tap drummer of Big Ten coaching positions.

Every other Big Ten program has had at least one coach stick around for at least 10 seasons since 1979. The Illini have had no such coach since Ray Eliot retired in 1959.

White, who made it from 1980-87 before being forced out for NCAA recruiting violations, is the only Illinois coach to come close since Eisenhower left the White House.

No coach sums up the instability of this position better than Cubit. He was named interim head coach a week before the start of the 2015 season when Tim Beckman was fired. Cubit did so well considering the circumstances that he was promoted to full-time head coach in November.

The following spring, he was fired in favor of Lovie Smith.