IOWA CITY — It wasn’t breaking news and anything still can happen. It still officially is college football coaching’s silly season, at least it is until the first spring practice unfurls sometime this month.
Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said Monday that he believes Kirk Ferentz’s current coaching staff will remain intact for the 2020 season. You have to love how the defense has evolved under coordinator Phil Parker and assistant defensive coordinator Seth Wallace. Did you like the development of Iowa’s wide receivers last season? It looks like wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland will be there for Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith’s senior seasons.
“One of the reasons among many that has made Kirk so successful is continuity within himself, continuity with his assistants, his strength team, everyone around him,” Barta said. “It’s very likely that team is going to stay intact for this coming year.”
Barta met with media on Monday.
Things are going well for the Hawkeyes. The men’s basketball team moved up to No. 17 with a victory Sunday over Illinois. The women’s basketball team is ranked 18th and is 18-4 and 9-2 in the Big Ten. No. 1 Iowa wrestling looked like it did when Dan Gable had real bones for hips in a 19-17 victory over No. 2 Penn State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena last Friday.
“Incredible momentum over the past few years and not just this year,” Barta said. “I mentioned momentum with our fans. The sellout we had in men’s basketball (on Sunday) and then on Friday night. Going back a couple of weeks, we had an incredible watch Megan Gustafson’s jersey go up in the rafters.”
It’s February, but football still is in the headlines. This was more to do with Barta than anything. The College Football Playoff announced in January that Barta was named the new chair of the CFP selection committee, replacing outgoing member and Oregon athletics director Rob Mullens. Typically, the chair serves that role for two seasons. Barta has two years left with the committee.
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Really, what this means is Barta, entering his second year with the committee, will be the face on ESPN telling you why your team isn’t in the top four at that given moment. It can be a bit of a hot seat and it will be. There will be some team from somewhere that’s not happy. That’s how this works.
Barta asked the three past chairmen if they had to do the CFP committee thing over again, would they?
“Without hesitation, all three said yes,” Barta said. “It’s just an honor to represent the University of Iowa. We don’t get to wear our logos, but (ESPN’s) Rece (Davis) will probably introduce me as ‘Gary Barta, athletics director, University of Iowa,’ so we’ll get the Hawkeyes mentioned a few times.”
Barta talked a little bit about the proposed wrestling facility, which, Barta said, could someday be the home of Iowa women’s wrestling.
This is the time of year for football evaluations. Ferentz’s Hawkeyes put up a 10-3 record in 2019, with a bowl victory over USC, a No. 16 final CFP ranking and 3-1 mark in rivalry trophy games.
This is Barta’s 14th year at Iowa. Ferentz is the dean of college football coaches. At this point, these probably are less evaluation and more “how do we keep the party going?”
“Making sure our salary pools are competitive, making sure our facilities are great,” said Barta, who also added that Iowa made a $5 million profit in 2019. “Making sure that if there’s something that comes along that we think we need that we find a way to, whenever possible, fund it.
“I think we’re in a good place, but we’re going to make sure in the next five years that we don’t take it for granted.”
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Part of this news conference was Barta unveiling a five-year strategic plan. There is a heavy focus on the next five years. Will Kirk Ferentz be included in all five of those?
Well, hard to say. Barta said he isn’t an AD who carries around a list, but he did say he has general thoughts. That said, this doesn’t sound like a front-burner thing, even though Ferentz will turn 65 in August. Barta did cop to there being a general succession plan, but he was careful with the language saying that discussion hasn’t focused on one individual.
In short, as much as you might want to jump ahead and simply know these things, they haven’t been decided yet.
But they are being discussed.
“He’s enjoying himself,” Barta said of Ferentz, who’ll begin his 22nd year as Iowa’s head coach when Iowa kicks off spring practice in late March. “He’s had a great run especially the last five years and his health is good. What do we have to do so we have at least as much success in the next five years?”
That’s how Barta characterized offseason conversations with Ferentz. It’s been more about what the next college football arms race will be (probably mental health and performance training) and less about “next coach in.”
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