Iowa Football

Time flies: Kirk Ferentz's tenure is older than many of his players

Saturday, Ferentz becomes first Iowa football head coach to enter 21st season

Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz blows a bubble during his team's practice on Aug. 16, 1999, in Iowa City. (The Gazette)
Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz blows a bubble during his team's practice on Aug. 16, 1999, in Iowa City. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — On Saturday, Kirk Ferentz will become the Iowa Hawkeyes’ football head coach to hold the job for 20 seasons plus one game.

The Ferentz/Hayden Fry tie at 20 seasons will be snapped, and the longest-tenured coach in major-college football also will become the longest-tenured football coach in Hawkeye history.

Twenty-one years as the head coach at one school. It’s a blink of the eye in the history of the planet, but it’s forever and a day in college football. How long ago was it when Ferentz was hired? Many of his players weren’t yet born on that day, Dec. 2, 1998.

“That’s crazy,” said Iowa junior safety Geno Stone, born four months after Ferentz succeeded Fry. “I’m going to have to think about that. … That’s crazy.”

Junior wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette, born eight months after Ferentz became the head Hawkeye, didn’t go quite as far.

“That’s kind of crazy,” he said.

“You don’t really hear of that at universities for longer than 10 years and whatnot. Just being able to have that history and that chemistry, and have that background, is pretty decent.”

Only 12 other FBS coaches, including Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, started at their current jobs before 2010.

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Bill Belichick became the New England Patriots’ coach in 2000, but only four of his 31 NFL peers began at their current jobs before 2010.

The San Francisco Giants’ Bruce Bochy is the only Major League Baseball manager who held his current job before 2010. The San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich is the only NBA coach who held his current job before 2008. No National Hockey League coach was at his current job in 2012.

For a better opportunity at long-term job-security, run for Congress.

Alaska U.S. Congressman Don Young has been on the job for 46 years. Patrick Leahy of Vermont has been a U.S. Senator for 44 years. Iowa’s Chuck Grassley was in the U.S. House of Representatives for six years before starting his current 38-year run in the Senate.

They’ve been lucky. They don’t have to answer to impatient or angry sports owners and fans.

Other professions are more forgiving than coaching. Like game-show hosts and letter-turners.

Pat Sajak has hosted the syndicated nighttime version of “Wheel of Fortune,” making quips for 37 years. Vanna White has worked alongside him throughout that time, smiling and flipping over consonants and vowels.

Chances are, few fans have written angry letters and emails to the show’s production company over the years, calling for a change in the on-air talent. Social media isn’t populated with people claiming Pat can’t keep up with the game or Vanna has lost her touch.

Other showbiz enterprises aren’t as great for long-term employment. “Saturday Night Live” debuted in 1975. Kenan Thompson, a very funny guy, has been a cast member on the show longer than anyone in the show’s history. However, Ferentz had already won a Big Ten title and taken the Hawkeyes to an Orange Bowl by the time Thompson joined SNL 16 years ago.

#KF143: Ranking Kirk Ferentz's first 143 wins as Iowa head coach

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Tuesday, Ferentz noted there have been four U.S. presidents since he became coach. “That’s a whole lot of caucuses and primary seasons, oh man. We’ve got something to look forward to, don’t we?”

In a more serious vein, when asked about interacting with players now as opposed to 1999 he said “I don’t think it changes a lot, quite frankly. The world has changed, obviously. And the world they’re living in is a lot different from guys back then.

“I’ve worked with young people every day of my life, basically. Hopefully, you’re paying attention a little bit to what’s going on in their world. I don’t understand a lot of what goes on, but I’ve got to pay attention.”

The world had 5.93 billion people when Ferentz took over at Iowa. Today it has 7.53 billion, including Smith-Marsette and Stone … and Matt Hankins … and Tristan Wirfs … and Tyler Linderbaum … and …

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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