ROSEMONT, Ill., — No matter what happens during the 2015 football season, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz will have four years remaining on his contract, which runs through the 2019 season.
It’s industry standard for a football coach to have five years remaining on a contract so the program can sell recruits that the coaching regime will be in place for their entire five-year careers at the school.
Asked what Iowa’s plans are, athletics director Gary Barta didn’t say either way.
“To answer your direct question, boy, that’s a long way off and I haven’t even thought about what the discussion is going to be at the end of the year as it pertains to future recruits,” Barta said Tuesday at the Big Ten headquarters, during a break between sessions at the Big Ten spring athletics director meetings.
Last season, Ferentz made nearly $4.1 million and was No. 9 nationally in coaches salaries, according to the USA Today coaches salary database.
Schools that haven’t signed coaches to new contracts often have a rollover that automatically gives a coach a one-year extension at the end of every season. Ferentz’s current contract doesn’t have one of those clauses.
Barta believes Ferentz’s 17 years at Iowa are more than enough to suggest to recruits that he’ll be around for their five years.
“Normally, when you tell recruits that, it’s when you have a coach who hasn’t been there for 16 or 17 years,” Barta said. “I don’t think that’s even a discussion point for recruits because of the amount of years he’s been there. Again, just evaluate at the end of the year and make that decision on where we sit and how we’re doing.”
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As far as “where we sit and how we’re doing goes,” Barta was asked about that, too. In the last five seasons, you have a pretty good idea where Iowa has been and hasn’t been. To review, Iowa is 34-30 overall, 21-14 at Kinnick Stadium and 24-28 against Power 5 conference teams.
Barta weighs the present with the past, which for Ferentz has included two Big Ten co-championships and three Big Ten coach of the year awards.
“It’s a year-to-year discussion, however his body of work over the time he’s been at Iowa has really been phenomenal when you look at the number of games he’s won, the number of times he’s been voted Big Ten coach of the year, the way he graduates his student-athletes, the way he treats his student-athletes,” Barta said. “The body of work is important and then beyond that, it’s a year-to-year evaluation. I say all the time, I observe daily, but I evaluate annually. We always have high expectations, and at the end of last year, when both of us sat down, we didn’t believe we met our expectations. That said, I still believe fully that he’s the right guy to lead the Iowa Hawkeyes.”
Barta has been asked before if he’s demanded staff or playing style changes from Ferentz. He hasn’t and likely won’t, he said.
“I don’t micromanage any of our coaches,” Barta said. “We certainly have great discussion, if we didn’t meet expectations in certain areas, what led to that and how do we fix it? But I don’t ever tell a coach, you will hire this assistant coach or that assistant coach because that can lead you down a path you don’t want to go.”
The noise in the system has been well documented. Barta knows it’s not going anywhere unless football starts winning.
“One of the beauties of having success is the expectations just keep climbing,” Barta said. “We sort of created our own situation. We had so much success in the middle of the 2000s and then up and down after that.”
Barta said earlier this month that Iowa has sold around 30,000 season tickets for the 2015 season. That’s approximately 7,000 below last season’s 37,823, which was the lowest since 2009. Iowa did finish 22nd in the nation in football attendance last season (67.512), but recorded just one sellout (Iowa State), which is the lone Kinnick sellout (70,585) in the last two seasons. Barta said Tuesday the No. 22 is nice, but they obviously want sellouts.
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Conversely, the demand for luxury seating at Kinnick (suites and club seating) remains vibrant. Barta said one of Kinnick’s 46 suites came open and he’s confident it will sell for 2015. Also, he said a waiting list remains for 1,150 outdoor club and 110 indoor club seats.
“Seven wins on some campuses, there would be a lot of excitement,” Barta said. “Seven wins at Iowa last year didn’t meet expectations, mine or the coach’s or all of our supporters. There are some people saying anecdotally, I’m done, I’m moving on and then I’ve got another 500 season tickets, where do I sign up? These things run in trends. I hear from those who are upset and my response is, we can’t wait to get you back and we’re going to work as hard as we can to do that.”
There was some stable vs. stale discussion in regard to Iowa, which has had two head coaches in a 37-year period. For comparisons, you might look at Penn State, which has now had two coaches after Joe Paterno’s 46 seasons, or Kansas State, which has had Bill Snyder as head coach for 24 years (he retired from 2006 through 2008, but returned as head coach in 2009) and certainly Virginia Tech, where Frank Beamer will begin his 29th season as head coach.
Barta has had three basketball coaches in his nine-year tenure as Iowa’s AD (Steve Alford was at Iowa for Barta’s first year). He’s had one football coach and it sounds as if he wants to keep it that way, or he would like to keep it that way.
“I’m not a person who enjoys or who thinks it’s part of my signature to change coaches,” Barta said. “In fact, I’d love it if I didn’t have to hire another coach because that would mean we have stability. That being said, again, you have to evaluate on an annual basis.
“Is the coach you have in this job going to make you better next year? If you continue to believe that, I think stability is a huge advantage.”
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