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IOWA CITY — Iowa’s coaching staff will have at least one new face in 2022.
Ken O’Keefe is “stepping away” from his role as Iowa’s quarterbacks coach, the program said in a news release Wednesday, while moving into an off-the-field role in the Iowa program.
O’Keefe, 68, has spent 18 years on head coach Kirk Ferentz’s staff — first as offensive coordinator from 1999-2011 and then as quarterbacks coach since 2017. He spent five seasons in the NFL on the Miami Dolphins’ staff between his two stints in Iowa City.
“I look forward to helping out behind the scenes while also getting to spend some long overdue time with my wife, Joanne, and our family,” O’Keefe said in the news release.
O’Keefe’s move comes amid a lull in quarterback production since Nate Stanley was drafted in 2020. The Hawkeyes finished 12th in the Big Ten in completion percentage in 2020 and 2021.
Iowa ranked 10th in the conference with 6.2 yards per passing attempt in 2021.
Ferentz recognized the need for improvement in the passing game in his Feb. 2 news conference.
“We don't have to score 45 points, but we've got to do better,” Ferentz said. “We've got to make the makeable plays.”
Iowa quarterbacks to learn from O’Keefe during his first stint at Iowa include Brad Banks, Drew Tate and Ricky Stanzi. Banks was the runner-up for the 2002 Heisman Trophy.
Ferentz called it a “professional and personal honor” to work with O’Keefe, who hired Ferentz in 1978 to be on his staff at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts.
“He was one of the key components of building our program’s foundation 23 years ago and has been a friend for far longer than that,” Ferentz said in Wednesday’s news release.
Iowa will honor the terms of O’Keefe’s contract, according to the news release. O’Keefe earned $685,000 in compensation in the 2020-21 fiscal year, according to the Iowa State Employee Salary Book.
Ferentz has not announced any other changes to his coaching staff although he said the NFL hiring cycle could have an impact on his coaches.
“There's also always a trickle-down effect any time the NFL hires,” Ferentz told reporters on Feb. 2.
As Iowa searches for O’Keefe’s replacement, it’ll have the benefit of the $7 million salary pool for assistant coaches, which is part of Ferentz’s recently-extended contract.
“It’s a good way for us to remain competitive,” Iowa athletics director Gary Barta previously told The Gazette.
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