We need to talk about the nepotism that is ruining the football program at University of Iowa.
Some of you might not know what’s going on at Iowa, and some of you might just be checking college football box scores on Sunday morning and wondering if the Iowa score was an accidental century-old misprint from the era of leather helmets and no forward pass.
So for those of you that aren’t up to speed on the country’s slowest offense, here’s the deal:
Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz, who has been with the Hawkeyes since the 1900’s, has had all three of his sons come through Iowa as players during his tenure. His oldest son Brian was hired on at Iowa to be the offensive line coach in 2012 after three years as an assistant in the New England Patriots organization.
If you follow football at any level, you know that nepotism is beyond commonplace. Plenty of coaches throughout the country have their children on staff in some capacity. The list is endless- Bill Belichick, Mike Shanahan, Pete Carroll, Marvin Lewis, Andy Reid, Jeff Fisher, Steve Spurrier, Bobby Bowden, Shane Beamer, Joe Paterno, it might be easier to make a list of coaches that didn’t employ their own kids.
So what makes the Kirk Ferentz, Brian Ferentz arrangement any different?
Well, first of all, the University of Iowa actually has rules and regulations in place that are supposed to prevent nepotism.
In order to get around those rules back in 2012, the program was forced to lie and cover up that Kirk had any hand in hiring Brian to be on staff, despite Brian saying the reason he took the job was that his father called him up and asked him to apply.
After that initial lie, the guardrail Iowa supposedly put in place to give the appearance of objectivity, is that for the last 11 seasons, Brian Ferentz has technically been a direct report of athletic director Gary Barta.
So, father and son technically have the same boss, and that boss, independent of any input from Brian’s father, decided that after five seasons of coaching his own brothers on the Iowa offensive line, Brian was ready for a promotion to offensive coordinator.
That brings me to my next point about why this is an extra special brand of nepotism–
Brian Ferentz absolutely, objectively sucks at his job.
In the last five recruiting classes, Iowa has landed two total four-star skill position players- Arland Bruce and Keagan Johnson. They would have had a third, but 2023 RB Kendrick Raphael saw this offense in action and decided black and gold weren’t going to be his colors.
So he can’t recruit, so what? Some people are more innovators and less salesmen.
Just not Brian Ferentz. He managed to have 7+ future NFL players on his 2018 and 2019 offenses, and never ranked better than 86th in the country in those seasons.
But hey, sometimes it’s about getting your own players into your system, right? So let’s look at the last three years, over which they’ve gone a very respectable 19-9.
The Hawkeyes went from 40th nationally in points per game in the Covid-shortened 2020 season, to 99th last year, and are sitting at 127th this year, just ahead of University of Colorado. And in offensive yardage, which Kirk Ferentz has called an overrated stat, Iowa went from 13th in the Big Ten last year, to dead last in the country this year, and so far behind last place in the Big Ten that if you doubled their output, they’d still only be in third place.
There are statistics and realities that can be used to crush every excuse for continuing to employ the head coach’s son as the Hawkeyes play-caller. For those who say Iowa is a running team and they shouldn’t be expected to put up big numbers in the passing game, there are currently 38 FBS players that have rushed for more yards than Iowa has as a team, plus the Hawkeyes haven’t had a running back selected in the NFL draft since 2009.
For those that say Iowa is all about playing for the field goal, four out of every 10 possessions for Iowa this year have ended without a single first down. They aren’t playing for the field goal, they’re lucky to ever even get an attempt.
Six times in the last calendar year, Iowa has been held to seven points or less, and they only have 18 offensive touchdowns in their last 14 games. You can tell yourself “That’s just Big Ten Football,” but isn’t Marvin Harrison Jr. playing in the same Big Ten as Iowa? He has 12 touchdowns in his last seven games by himself.
Gary Barta, Brian’s “real boss” says that they’re not going to evaluate the status of any position coach until the end of the season. Which means we’re going to get to see the worst offense in football take the field six more times this year, starting with a guaranteed bloodbath at Ohio State on October 22nd.
We don’t have the ability to see Iowa’s struggles through a father’s eyes. All we see from the outside is an offense that
can’t gain yards, can’t score, can’t recruit, and has had one wide receiver selected in the NFL draft since 2013.
If Brian Ferentz didn’t have his father’s last name, what defense would there be for keeping him on? I can’t think of a defense on earth that would be good enough to justify keeping him.
Not even Iowa’s.
Let that sink in.