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1. Ferentz deal good for Ferentz and Barta believes it’s good for Iowa
Let’s wrap this in a popular culture reference that ... well, let’s see if you think it works for things you simply have zero control over.
In “Goodfellas.” the Joe Pesci character, Tommy DeVito, meets an untimely end when he gets whacked in a basement by John Gotti’s family. It was retribution for killing made man Billy Batts. Tommy thought he was going to be “made.”
The next scene is Robert De Niro’s character, Jimmy Conway, hearing news of his friend’s death while in a phone booth. Feeling helpless and defeated, De Niro tears apart the booth. Booths never do well in mob movies.
“He’s gone and that’s it.”
OK, OK, this is hardly that. When something like this happens with Iowa football, good and bad or however you perceive it, I become a filter for a certain percentage of fans that is unsatisfied or frustrated or, really I think, searching for a deeper explanation.
My point here is the result is the result. Kirk Ferentz’s new contract is signed and that’s it. There’s nothing I can write or say on the radio that will keep you from smashing the phone booth. That is if you’re among those who are dissatisfied with this, with the main complaint being the buyout.
The buyout in the newest deal is a Byzantine snarl that basically boils down to this: If Ferentz and Iowa win seven or more games, the buyout stays at 100 percent of what’s owed on the contract, which, more or less, will pay Ferentz $5 million a year through the 2025 season.
I say it all the time. Seven wins is Iowa’s historical “medium” season. With the way the non-conference schedule is now set up, this pretty much means Iowa has to go 5-5 over its last 10 games and the standard in the contract is met. If the seven number gets you, I can see that. I would’ve asked for nine and bargained down to eight. Seven is the number and that’s it.
There’s no disputing this is a great deal for Ferentz. It includes 35 hours of time on a private jet that the UI has to have ready within eight hours of receiving the request. This isn’t Ferentz’s “no brown M & M’s in the bowl” rider clause made famous by Van Halen. This is de rigueur in college football, so “He’s gets time on a plane and that’s it.”
With a rivalry game right in front of him, Ferentz politely took a few questions on the topic this week, but he was staring through the wall and into the mountain of work that needed to be done in the offices behind the great room in the Hansen Performance Center.
Iowa athletics director Gary Barta answered the questions on this. He seemed more thrilled to have it done than Ferentz.
After listening to Barta, we can conclude a few things:
— Last year was a “contract year” for Ferentz. Yes, he had four years left on his deal, but that’s not going to work in college football. That number was used against Iowa on the recruiting trail. Iowa had come off a bitterly disappointing 7-6 season in 2014 that ended with a brutal defeat at the hands of Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
At that point, Ferentz’s buyout was $13.3 million. Barta said Tuesday Iowa could’ve footed that bill, but he chose to stick with Ferentz.
“My decision to stay the course with Kirk was based on all of the values and all of the past experiences and not based on the buyout,” Barta said. “The buyout is something that we could’ve done financially, but I chose to stay with it because of who he is and what he had done.”
You know what happened in 2015. Ferentz crushed it in his “contract year.” He smashed the phone booth (and a couple of traveling trophy cases).
— Ferentz is Barta’s guy. If major college football coaches worked on an at-will basis and had to perform at a high level on a yearly basis, I get the feeling that Ferentz would be Barta’s guy 10 out of 10 times.
We can play “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” with Barta’s motto “Win, Graduate, Do it Right.” The bottom line is Barta will never break that down by percentage. I know I wouldn’t. Why paint yourself into that corner?
“I’ve been in college athletics for almost 30 (years), I was a student-athlete who played football,” Barta said. “Of all the coaches I’ve been around, of all the coaches I’ve watched, certainly winning is critical, but beyond that, our mantra ‘Win, Graduate, Do it Right,’ I’ve not worked with or have been around a coach who’s as skilled and as passionate about all three areas. He’s proven himself over and over in all three categories.”
For text message translation, that’s smiley face with hearts in the eyes, the blowing the kiss and the cat with the heart eyes.
— What if it goes splat? The high point of the five years leading up to 2015 was an 8-5 and Outback Bowl in 2013. In my opinion, that’s the standard, or should be. The other four years in this span were below standard.
So yeah, that seven wins number should grind you. Of course, the other side of that is it would grind Ferentz and staff just as much. If you believe Ferentz is the kind of guy who’ll kick up his feet at seven wins and start hunting wild boars on his private island on a Wednesday of game week, have you been paying attention?
Ferentz is 61, so retirement is a factor here. Ferentz said he didn’t want to look at 2025 as a cap to this. That’s a healthy outlook. At Big Ten media days, he didn’t use the word “retirement,” instead calling it the “R word.”
“Occasionally, but not deeply at this point,” Ferentz said when asked about retirement. “Whenever that time comes, we’ll deal with it. That’s way down the road, hopefully.”
So, if it goes splat, retirement is an element. You heard Barta say Iowa could’ve afforded the buyout after 2014. That number will be in the $30 million range with this deal, but Barta said he’s firm in his belief that it won’t come to a buyout.
Barta clearly is at peace with this deal. He signed it. UI president Bruce Harreld was along for the ride. Ferentz will keep grinding.
We will continue to worry about the things we can’t control and that’s it.
2. Remember Tyler Sash
It was a year ago this week former Iowa safety Tyler Sash passed away. Sash died at age 27 last September from an accidental overdose after mixing two powerful pain medications. In January, we learned that Sash was diagnosed posthumously with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated trauma that has been found in dozens of former NFL players.
Doctors grade CTE on a severity scale from 0 to 4. Sash was at Stage 2, according to a New York Times report.
Barney Sash, Tyler’s mom, and Josh Sash, his brother, have been all over media trying to bring awareness to the unseen villain in this. They want the world to know that, yes, Tyler’s behavior was erratic at the end of his life because of CTE and that, yes, there was great pain in not being able to pinpoint what was wrong. CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously, just making it all the more cruel.
I met Tyler off the field through my friend, Eric Heneghan, who befriended Tyler during his Hawkeye years. Eric is a really smart guy and, I think, perfectly articulated thoughts a year after Sash’s death in a Facebook post.
“Seems longer than a year — definitely left a void. We’ve since learned that he was suffering from one of the worst cases of CTE seen in a young player. He’d be proud of the work his mom is doing in educating the public so that something positive comes out of it. Miss you, buddy.”
3. The Big Ten Love Tester ...
Let’s go through the good ones first: Illinois finishes a home-and-home with North Carolina at Champaign this weekend. It didn’t go great for the Illini last year at UNC. Let’s see how this one goes. I don’t think it gets too tricky, but Wyoming won’t go quietly into the good, uh, morning. Purdue plays host to Cincinnati and will find out more about itself.
Don’t ask why Penn State and Pitt haven’t played in 16 years. Enjoy the fact that this bitter deal is reigniting this weekend at Pittsburgh.
Throw back these two:
Howard (0-1) at Rutgers (0-1) (11 a.m. Big Ten Network) — You remember Howard from last week’s debacle at Maryland. If you only watch a quarter, it counts. Then again, Iowa is traveling to Rutgers on Sept. 24. Maybe do some homework.
Ball State (1-0) at Indiana (1-0) (11 a.m. ESPN News) — OK, this might not be such a lover tester. Ball State is just 4-51 against Power 5/BCS programs in its history. Three of those victories have come against Indiana.
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