CEDAR RAPIDS - Earlier this season, a reporter asked Iowa City West boys' tennis coach Mitch Gross about the #x201c;triple crown#x201d; of prep tennis.
At the time, Gross dismissed the thought of winning a state championship in singles, dou ... »
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IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz has the timing of a Rolex, which he can afford. With engraving.
The contract extension Ferentz just signed at Iowa happened to come with the Hawkeyes winning 13 of their last 15 games. Ferentz is again a beautiful swan, not a lame duck.
And, Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta has done it again. For the second time in six years, he essentially gave Ferentz a 10-year contract with a buyout larger than the gross national product of Iceland.
Iowa had a 12-0 regular-season in 2015. Which meant, just like during Ferentz’s last extension following the Hawkeyes’ 2009 Orange Bowl season, he had leverage in negotiations.
Barta has a coach who is again extremely popular, a football program on solid footing, and a comfortably quiet fan base. (Just don’t lose to Iowa State Saturday.)
So he did the only thing he realistically could do, then did a little more. He extended Ferentz’s contract through the end of the 2025 season. With the extension came a bump of over $400,000 to $4.5 million a year.
You have to sprinkle in an extra few hundred grand so it doesn’t look like you’re insulting your coach. But hey, $4.5 million will be chicken feed for coaches in 2020, let alone 2025 when the coaches at Alabama and Ohio State will probably be taken to work in chariots made of gold.
The money and length of the contract aren’t especially surprising. But this story does have an amazing component. Which is, it’s as if the dismal end to the 2014 season and the following offseason of venting from Iowa’s ticket-buyers didn’t happen.
It’s as if there had never been an angry soul who said Ferentz’s contract through the 2020 season had hamstrung the program instead of giving it stability. It’s as if the fact the Hawkeyes were 26-25 overall and 15-17 in the Big Ten from 2011 through 2014 didn’t happen.
It was only 16 months ago when comedian Lewis Black performed at Riverside Casino & Golf Resort and was in the middle of a rant about America’s education system.
Trying to make a point, Black innocently asked the crowd “If the University of Iowa football team doesn’t do well, you fire the coach, don’t you?”
The reaction he got from the audience was derisive laughter.
Genuinely confused, Black said “It isn’t like I studied ... so you have a (expletive that rhymes with ‘‘gritty”) coach? How long’s he been the coach? Forever?”
Someone in the crowd shouted Ferentz’s tenure and salary.
“Sixteen years the highest-paid employee in the state?” Black repeated. “Wow! You might want to work on that. You might want to have a town meeting about that.”
That got a big laugh.
Sixteen months later, no one is calling for a town meeting. Iowa is ranked No. 10 in the newest coaches’ Top 25 poll.
“The foundation at Iowa to remain and be one of the top football programs is well-set, is well-established,” Barta said Tuesday.
“We’ll have challenges, we’ll have hiccups along the way. But I feel as strongly and as confident about the athletic program and the football program as at any time in my 11 years at Iowa.”
If the Hawkeyes flatten out and have another four-year run of 7-6, 4-8, 8-5, 7-6, Barta won’t be asked by Iowa fans to write a book called “The Art of the Deal.”
But for all we know, the Hawkeyes’ good times may go on for a long time. Maybe the most-golden portion of the Ferentz Era began last season.
If so, a chariot of the same metal probably will be included in the coach’s next contract extension.
By the way, Ferentz’s longtime agent is Neil Cornrich. He also has represented several former Hawkeyes, including Marshal Yanda, Riley Reiff and Brandon Scherff.
If that doesn’t prove Ferentz takes care of his players, nothing does.