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Appreciate Captain Kirk

BY GUEST OPINION | APRIL 16, 2012 6:30 AM

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Many Iowans take issue with Hawkeye football coach Kirk Ferentz's whopping $3.786 million salary, the highest public-employee salary in the state of Iowa. Citizens cite the discrepancy between a financially struggling university and a multi-million dollar coach. Hawk fans and those who understand his salary comes directly from football revenue — not tuition or state funds — instead show frustration with a 7-5 team sporting the sixth highest paid coach in the country.

But fans instead should decide whether Ferentz merits his salary by comparing it against similar coaches. There is a lot to be said against his high income but not enough.

The only coaches making more than Ferentz are Nick Saban (Alabama), Mack Brown (Texas), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Les Miles (Louisiana State), and Urban Meyer (Ohio State). All of them have national-championship rings. The man just behind Ferentz? It was Bobby Patrino (Arkansas), but I won't go there. After Ferentz there is one coach with a title — Gene Chizik of Auburn and former ISU head coach. Ferentz is at the top of midlevel competitive programs.

He has a winning percentage of 59 percent, far below Wisconsin's Bret Bielema at 75 percent, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier at 61 percent, and Georgia's Mark Richt at 73 percent. Since 2001, the Hawks have lost eight times to a team with a losing record — most coaches in his pay range rarely have two such losses. Iowa has not won a conference title since 2004, and Ferentz has never coached Iowa to the Rose Bowl.  

However, Ferentz inherited a struggling program. If the 1999 and 2000 seasons were dropped, his winning percentage would rise to 66 percent. Yet, after rallying to 68 percent, Ferentz slumped back to 64 percent from 2007 to 2011.

Where Ferentz thrives most is consistency and competitive edge. In the past four years, Iowa only experienced three losses of more than 10 points. In the same span, Spurrier experienced nine such losses, Richt 10, Bo Pelini (Nebraska) seven, and Beliema four. In those same four years, Iowa did not experience a loss of more than 17 points (three possessions). Pelini had five (including numerous 30-point drubbings), Richt five, and Spurrier six. For years, Iowa has been consistently competitive until the sweet or bitter end of every game. This type of success is hard to achieve.

Before the end of last season, no Pac 12 or Big Ten coach owned a Rose Bowl or national-championship victory. This is because of scandals and impatience in many football programs. Ask Nebraska how firing Frank Solich after one bad year worked out. The Huskers witnessed the destruction of their football tradition. In such a cutthroat league, loyalty and consistency are worth something — let's say $3.8 million. And honesty is priceless: Just ask Arkansas. Fans should appreciate this in the wake of such turmoil and stay above the fray.

Now, Meyer signed onto Ohio State and Oregon's Chip Kelly has a Rose Bowl victory. Yet, with both those schools overcoming NCAA violations, there is still a power void to be filled. The dean of the Big Ten, Captain Kirk, may just be the perfect man for the job.

Alejandro Alonso Galva
UI alumnus


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