An Interview With: IOWA COACH KIRK FERENTZ
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Kirk Ferentz.
COACH FERENTZ: Welcome, everybody.
Everybody that’s been up here so far, we’re excited to get started, certainly. And we’re enthused about our football team. Last year was obviously very disappointing for all of us, and as soon as the season ended in November, we encouraged our players to turn the page and wanted to get them looking forward and then go back to work, and that’s pretty much what we’ve done. And we try to do that after every season.
I’m enthused again about the way the players have handled each step along the way, and needless to say, eager to get on the field here in a couple of weeks.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. As the Big Ten moves to the nine league schedule, many teams in the conference have scheduled traditional out of marquee games with Iowa being locked in a long-term contract with Iowa State. Would the program be willing to take a year with only six home games to secure a higher level out-of-conference opponent, or would you have to continue to work with having two home
games those other slots?
COACH FERENTZ: I’m not sure I caught the last part.
Q. Or would you just work with keeping two home games for the final two out-of-conference spots?
COACH FERENTZ: I don’t think there are many teams that are going to give up a chance to have at least seven home games. I can’t imagine too many of those.
And then the second part of that is that we’re — I’ll speak for myself, but I think we’re firmly locked in with Ohio State. That’s a very important game, very relevant game to all of us involved, and I can’t envision that thing ending in the near future.
Q. Have you thought much about the spearing penalties, how that’s going to play out? When do you sort of go through that with your players?
COACH FERENTZ: We first got introduced to some of the talk about it back in a
meeting early February as coaches and I think all of us are concerned about any of those types of plays. They’re bang, bang, flagrant fouls to anybody in the stands. Anybody can recognize that needed to be dealt with, but I think on the plays that are bang, bang, which many of those are, I’m just hoping the officials will use good judgment. And I know they’ve talked about video replay being instituted, too, which I think would be really something that needs to be done. It’s concerning.
Q. Urban Meyer was in here getting grilled about the disciplinary issues. How do you look at that as the role of a head coach, what you need to do to try to stem that?
COACH FERENTZ: I don’t think coaching is a lot different than parenting. My wife and I have raised five children and you’re always a parent. So that never ends.
Coaching is the same way. Once the parents, families turn their young people over to you, first time they’re living independently, typically, away from home, and a whole different set of circumstances, choices to make.
I think all of us would probably agree the most important thing you can do is try to equip them to making good decisions, try to educate them in terms of some of the challenges that are going to be out there for them, some of the things that they’re going to have to contemplate and think about. And then obviously the landscape’s changed an awful lot, too, with social media. It’s a lot different than it was eight years ago, certainly 18 years ago. So all those things kind of magnify it.
But I think some of the issues, some of the temptations, some of the bad decisions all college students can make, it hasn’t changed an awful lot, but the communication with them has.
So as a result of that, athletes have to be very, very aware of it because athletes can’t just float unbeknownst to other people, just like coaches can’t. They’re in a very public eye.
It’s an ongoing challenge. But I do certainly think it’s a big part of our responsibility as coaches to try to educate and arm our players as best we possibly can to making good decisions. And I think people were doing that 30 years ago. It’s just the landscape’s changed a little bit.
Q. In recent years, you guys have had a lot of run of bad luck at the tailback position but seems like entering this, you feel pretty confident having at a lot of depth at this position, at least more in recent years. Explain how you feel about that.
COACH FERENTZ: I’m sorry I didn’t catch that. My ears must be bad.
Q. How do you feel about the tailback position entering this season having more depth?
COACH FERENTZ: I never feel too good about that position. But we’re certainly further ahead than we were last year. Last year at this time, quite frankly, we didn’t know if we had a Big Ten running back. And Damon Bullock, I think when he was playing, did an excellent job. I think he’s grown a lot in 12 months’ time, and we’re really excited to see how he performs this year.
Mark Weisman at this time last year, we thought he would be a pretty good fullback. And I’ll backtrack. Going into spring a year ago, we weren’t sure if he’d block or not. He proved that he could do that. And we kind of stumbled into him as a running back during the course of last year.
So with those two guys alone we feel a lot better about where we’re at. Both those players have improved since last fall.
Jordan Canzeri rejoins our team. He’s healthy, had a good spring. Got a couple of younger players on our roster. Excited to see how they perform in August and some incoming players, too. We’re excited. All that being said, from experience, it’s hard to feel too good or too comfortable about any one position.
Q. A couple of coaches that you previously coached with who are now in the Southeastern Conference expressed concerns about the hurry-up offense and the potential for causing injuries. What are your thoughts about that, and is that a valid concern that they have?
COACH FERENTZ: I don’t have a lot of thoughts about it. And I haven’t really seen any statistical evidence to say it is leading to injuries. I don’t know if you can quantify that or not. I’m sure somebody’s working on it.
But needless to say, it’s changed the complexion of the game. And it’s become very, very popular. So as a result of that, you have to be prepared for that. And whatever your answers may be to slowing things down, either it’s rotating more personnel in defensively, somehow trying to slow the game down, the tempo of the game down.
Probably the best answer still is to get off the field in three downs. That’s always a good answer, no matter what your opponent runs offensively.
But I know it’s a talk item right now. I haven’t really given much thought to it.
Q. You went 0-8 in your first season at Iowa, and Tim Beckman went 0-8 in his first season at Illinois. Can you talk maybe not on that situation, but just the patience level or lack thereof, or is there less time to build programs now than there used to be?
COACH FERENTZ: To that question, yeah. The answer there is yes. I think there’s certainly less patience at all levels in football right now for anybody. And typically, if you’re 0-8, it’s going to require patience. You hope you have an administration that understands that process and understands what it is you’re trying to get accomplished and then allow you to go do the work you have to do.
I’ve always felt if you look at things over a five-week — or excuse me, a five-year window, at any point in a program’s tenure, establishment, gives you a little bit of a picture to what’s going on.
Typically it takes time to rebuild. To rebuild a good foundation, it does. If you’re 0-8 it’s probably what you’re doing. We’ve been there. We won two games in the conference last year and we’ve got a lot of work to do obviously, too.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.