ASK CFN: Is Kirk Ferentz A Legendary Head Coach?
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has been around for a long time, but is he really legendary?
– Questions, comments, love? … @PeteFiutak
Q: Is Kirk Ferentz really a legendary head coach?
I didn’t really think much about it.
In the fog of offseason preview writing, opining on the coaching situation in the 2017 Big Ten Preview, a blurb started off …
“There’s a fantastic mix of coaching talent ranging from the legendary (Urban, Harbaugh, Ferentz) … “
Which prompted …
Honestly, I just assumed that Ferentz belonged in the category – at least as much as Harbaugh, who has yet to really accomplish anything as a college football head coach – and didn’t give it more than a half-second worth of thought as I wrote it.
After all, now with Bob Stoops retiring, outside of Bill Snyder – who started coaching at Kansas State in 1989, but was gone for three years from 2006-2008 – Ferentz is the most tenured head coach at one spot.
Ferentz started coaching at Iowa in 1999. Gary Patterson began his career at TCU in 2000. No other current head football coach – again, Snyder aside – started at their gig before 2005.
In his era, Ferentz won the 2002 and 2004 Big Ten championships, came within a defensive stop of pulling off another in 2015 – and going to the College Football Playoff.
He has won an Orange Bowl, a few Outbacks and an Alamo, and while the result wasn’t pretty, he got the Hawkeyes to a Rose.
And that’s sort of the problem. The bowls …
He has a point.
Ferentz might be a four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year with a few national coach of the year honors, too, but the last Iowa bowl win? The 2010 Insight over Missouri.
Since then, the post-season has been brutal – BRUTAL – for the Hawkeyes going 0-5, marred mostly by blowout losses over the last two years to Florida in the Outback and Stanford in the Rose by a combined score of 75-19.
As good as Iowa has been, and as strong as the coaching might be, the teams looked horribly overmatched lately on the big bowl stages against rested teams with time to prepare.
That 2010 Orange Bowl win over Georgia Tech seems like a million years ago now.
But while Ferentz might not have the top of the line resumé to be put in the same “legendary” category of Nick Saban or Urban Meyer, by sheer longevity, he’s starting to put up some amazing numbers when it comes being considered one of the greatest coaches in Big Ten history.
With 147 career wins, Ferentz – who’ll turn 62 in August – isn’t going to catch Hayden Fry’s 230 all-time wins. However, Ferentz is just eight wins behind Fry (143-135) as a Big Ten head coach – Fry won a ton at SMU and North Texas before getting the Iowa gig.
Amos Alonzo Stagg at the University of Chicago seems sort of strange to include in a discussion of Greatest Big Ten Coaches, but he’s on top of the heap by a mile in terms of wins. After Stagg, only Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Joe Paterno and Fry have more wins than Ferentz as a Big Ten head coach.
Ferentz has more wins as a Big Ten head man than Barry Alvarez, Jim Tressel, Lloyd Carr, and even Fielding Yost, if you want to get really old school about it.
And yeah, while the run of bowl victories has come to a dead stop, only Paterno and Alvarez have more bowl victories as a B1G head coach than Ferentz. With one more bowl win, Ferentz will hold the No. 3 all-time spot on his own.
But again, does longevity equal greatness? He has just four double-digit win campaigns, five top ten finishes, and six ranked finishes in his 18 years in Iowa. That’s really, really good, but legendary?
He’s a survivor. Just when it occasionally seems like his era is about to fizzle out – or gets stuck in the mud of mediocrity – his teams tend to pull out something special.
And then there’s the respect factor. Talk to any Big Ten head coach about Ferentz – and I have – and there’s nothing other than pure admiration coming from each and every one of them.
A true teacher of the game, and known for being a legitimately good guy in an industry of phonies and jerkweeds, Ferentz stands out from the pack as an example of everything you’d want to lead your program.
But it’s about about what a coach does on the field. Is he a legend? He’ll end up in the College Football Hall of Fame, and he’ll close out his career as the all-time winningest head coach in Iowa history and in the top five in wins and bowl victories among all-time coaches during their time in the Big Ten.
If that doesn’t make him legendary, it at least makes him one of the most accomplished coaches in the history of the most legendary conference in college football.
Fire over a question or comment to … @PeteFiutak