No matter how many e-mails I open, I still can’t believe it when I see Hawkeye fans calling for Kirk Ferentz fired.
This is the same Ferentz many of those same fans panicked about losing just three years ago. It’s gone from the former Iowa AD (Bowlsbly) opening up the bank vault to keep Kirk, to the current one (Barta) giving Ferentz a vote of confidence.
I understand both sides. Ferentz defenders—and I’m one—realize just how hard it is to win at Iowa. You are in a low population state fighting another D1 school for Iowa recruits and trying to steal an occasional guy from the surrounding states, all of which have their own Big Ten or Big 12 schools. Furthermore, Iowa needs the overlooked “diamonds in the rough” (e.g. Bob Sanders) and overlooked walk-ons with chips on their shoulders (e.g. Dallas Clark). Sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle where everything comes together, including good fortune, and sometimes it all goes the other way. Welcome to 2007.
Having said that, or more accurately, written it, I do understand fans complaining. It has gotten very expensive to follow the Iowa Hawkeyes. In fact, some families are priced out as donation levels and tickets costs continue to escalate out of control. Those fans see a man making more money in one week then they’ll make in a year. They expect results, not bad football. You’re supposed to get what you pay for. (Although Ferentz makes millions because of what he’s already done, including paving a gold road for Kinnick renovation.)
My unsolicited advice: more patience. Ferentz led Iowa to four January bowl games, three top ten finishes, and two co-Big Ten titles. That’s harder than most realize at Iowa, and Hawkeye fans are definitely guilty of often expecting too much. That’s not the case this season—Iowa shouldn’t be this bad—but Kirk deserves time to figure it out and make changes. A few less injuries and suspensions might help too.
The Hawkeye meltdown has been great for Iowa State’s Gene Chizik. It’s overshadowed the fact, to date, the Cyclones are having a dud of a season in Chizik’s first year. Educated football fans didn’t expect a bowl game, but they did expect a better organized and executed effort than Iowa State has shown in all but a few quarters. I’ll say it again, Chizik needs more time and talent, but he also may need to adjust his game plan for the kind of players he’s going to have at Iowa State. You still go after the 4 and 5 star guys, but the reality is, Iowa State isn’t Texas or Auburn, and 99 times out of 100, those blue chippers are going elsewhere—probably to a team Iowa State or Iowa plays on Saturdays.
Chizik’s smarter than me, but I still believe you must run an offense and defense that’s imaginative and daring—one that’s hard to prepare for and gives ISU a puncher’s chance. You’ll probably still lose to Texas and Oklahoma 8 out of 10 times, but that’s better than 10 out of 10, and once in awhile, the whole season could break just right. A realist doesn’t expect the Cyclones to be a perennial power, but a conference championship, or at least a division title, once a decade isn’t asking too much.
Look at all the talent Iowa had when the Hawks went 8-0 in 2002. A lot of those guys are playing on Sundays now. For whatever reason, Iowa has dropped way off that level, and now is in a situation similar to Iowa State’s: not talented enough to beat bigger, better, faster teams with old fashioned football.
Thank God for UNI.