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Iowa-Northwestern 3 and Out: Tenure that's not really tenure

Plus: HawkeyeReport.com has Van Ginkel in Iowa City this weekend

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1. The Burden of Dreams — In a lot of ways, Kirk Ferentz and Pat Fitzgerald are football bros. They are former college linebackers. They have a certain amount of hardheadedness in their approaches to the game. And they have, for all intents and purposes, tenure with their programs.

Yes, something could happen and that could be it, but this is Ferentz’s 18th season at Iowa and he just signed a new deal through the 2025 season. Ferentz is the dean of Big Ten football coaches. Fitzgerald is No. 2 on that list with this being his 11th season in Evanston, Ill. He signed a 10-year contract extension in 2011.

Along with that tenure — but not really tenure more like security — comes a certain amount of familiarity within the fan base. Sometimes, the longer couples are together, the apartment shrinks and you get on each other’s nerves. Unless you go 12-2 and go to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 25 years. Or, in Fitzgerald’s case last season, you go 10-3 and finish second to Iowa in the Big Ten West. Then, it’s all champagne and oysters.

Ferentz and Fitzgerald will walk into Kinnick Stadium on Saturday with varying levels of pressure to win. That goes with the territory. Expectations were high for Iowa and losing to FCS school North Dakota State wasn’t in the fans’ plans (the football team’s, either, by the way). Northwestern is 1-3 also with a loss to an FCS school (Illinois State). The Wildcats’ offense has been dreadful.

And so, what about staff changes? You know how Ferentz has handled the call for that. He hasn’t picked up the phone. It helped that Iowa broke out of a five-year span of mediocrity with last season’s Big Ten West title. Fitzgerald was asked this question after the Cats’ victory over Duke, their only this season. His answer was, basically, nah, nope, no. Ten wins did shroud the fact that NU was a tough watch on offense last season, finishing No. 116 in the nation with 327.1 yards per game.

Kevin Trahan, founder of the InsideNu.com SB Nation site and writer for VICE Sports, hammers the point into middle earth with this post on InsideNU.

From the post:

How can Fitzgerald justify abandoning the spread for a pro-style offense when recruiting against three pro-style teams in his division that have had significantly more success with that style? How can he justify failing to use the entirety of the field, using space as a neutralizer just as past NU teams have, when he has at least a little less overall talent than his division foes?

Ferentz did change after a 7-6 splat in 2014. We’re talking “changes,” not an overhaul. You know what Iowa is going to do on offense, you just might not know how it’s going to do it.

You, Iowa people, ached and it showed up in a 17 percent drop in season ticket sales. Northwestern fans, even with a nice 10-win season still somewhat fresh, ache after four seasons of mediocre to ranked in the 110s offenses.

The apartment is shrinking. Someone left the toilet seat either up or down, whichever way makes everyone mad. Fitzgerald has tenure, and he also has a 1-3 team with an offense that’s not performing. If the Wildcats can’t pull out of it, will Fitzgerald have the leverage with NU athletics director Jim Phillips to stave off change? He’s not going anywhere, but should Phillips be able to demand improvement and some sort of change with the offense?

Leverage is slippery, just like tenure for college football coaches isn’t really tenure.

2. Recruiting minute with HawkeyeReport.com — I thought everyone could use some recruiting news, so I asked HawkeyeReport.com publisher Tom Kakert for an update:

With the Hawkeyes back home this weekend, Iowa will play host to several visitors on campus.

Early kickoffs can be a challenge for out-of-state prospects because of travel. This weekend, Iowa will host one official visitor in Andrew Van Ginkel. He’s a 6-4 and 240-pound defensive end who has taken a bit of a journey to get where he is today.

The Iowa native played last year at the University of South Dakota and had a standout season. That led him to transfer to junior college powerhouse, Iowa Western Community College, this season. The goal was to play at the highest level and he’s going to have that opportunity with offers from Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa State and many others. Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nebraska are generally considered to be in his top three, and the Hawkeyes are the first to get an official visit with Iowa Western on a bye this weekend.

An interesting name making an unofficial visit this weekend is Jaxson Hayes from Ohio. He’s a 2018 wide receiver and he also happens to be the son of former Hawkeye Jonathon Hayes. Jaxson Hayes is already 6-6 and 185 pounds as a junior.

A big offensive linemen in town this weekend is Andrew Todd from Cedar Rapids Washington. He stands 6-4 and tips the scales at 265 pounds and already holds an offer from Iowa State. The 2018 offensive lineman continues to hear from Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Michigan State.

A wide receiver name to watch in-state in the Class of 2018 is Jaivonn Willis. The 6-3 and 185-pounder from Washington, Iowa, has 23 catches for 388 yards and 8 scores in five games this year. He will be in Iowa City on Saturday for an unofficial visit.

2017 Iowa commits Levi Duwa, Tristian Wirfs, Jacob Coons, Mark Kallenberger and Coy Kirkpatrick also will be in Iowa City this weekend.

One commit not in Iowa City will be 4-star cornerback Chevin Calloway. The standout cornerback from Texas is planning to make an official visit to Nebraska on Saturday. He still remains verbally committed to Iowa, but has indicated in recent weeks that he would be making visits to Ole Miss, Texas and Arkansas, in addition to Nebraska and Iowa.

3. Big Ten Love Tester — Let’s make it Rutgers at Ohio State. You saw the Scarlet Knights lose offensive weapon Janarion Grant last week for the season. The Buckeyes are coming off a bye week. The game is 11 a.m. on Big Ten Network. Urban Meyer hates 11 a.m. games. It would suck to be a Scarlet Knight Saturday.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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