Ferentz Under Siege

Jon Miller
Publisher
Hawkeyenation.com

Kirk Ferentz has been under siege for the past four days, and it’s tough to watch, or read.  At least, it is for me.

Given the response to national columns and opinions as well as some locally, other Iowa fans don’t care for it, either.

I don’t know their reasons or rationale and can only express mine, which is what I am about to do.

First, I don’t think Kirk Ferentz is some sort of lower case ‘g’ god.  He’s just a guy; a flawed human like the rest of us.  I don’t know Kirk personally but I know several folks who have a personal relationship with Ferentz, people who have gotten to know him a great deal away from the cameras and sidelines.

I also don’t think he’s perfect or beyond reproach, the same as any man.  I didn’t see eye to eye with his decision to leave Adam Robinson in the game in the fourth quarter of Iowa’s game against Michigan State this year that resulted in Robinson getting a concussion, I openly spoke about how I felt he underutilized Derrell Johnson-Koulianos in his career and thought their ‘issues’ had more to do with a generation gap than anything else and I have recently stated my opinions on how his not being at a press conference this week was not the best idea from a symbolic perspective.  Those are just a few of the criticisms I have offered up over his career at Iowa, and I have been covering Iowa football since the day he arrived in Iowa City.

I will also grant you that there aren’t but a handful of other instances or issues where I have been critical of Ferentz.  For those who want to say I will never criticize him, you are wrong because words like ‘never’ are easy to deconstruct.  However, it’s fair to say I am slow to be critical because of his track record with me and what I have observed through the years.

That latter point is why it does bother me to some extent, seeing Ferentz’s name get dragged through the mud by some in the national media as well as some in the Iowa media.  I certainly can’t and won’t tell another person how to do their job.  Everyone has a different style, none of which is truly right or wrong.

The sentiment I am most bothered by is the one painting Ferentz as someone that doesn’t care for his players, or as a man who is not concerned about their well being.

That’s a load of hot garbage and I don’t mind saying so.

As Marc Morehouse of The Gazette pointed out this week, whenever you see Ferentz break down on camera in post game interviews, it’s typically when his players are mentioned.  I know enough former Iowa players, some of them well, to know how much they care and respect their former coach because of the care and investment he has made in their lives and continues to make in their lives.  When they need something from Kirk, he is still there for them.

The job I have allows me to come into contact with hundreds if not thousands of Iowa fans each year, either on the message boards, via email, about town or other venues and situations.  I cannot count the number of emails or stories I have been told by strangers that have been touched by Kirk Ferentz.  I would guess to have received 20-plus emails through the years from families that Ferentz has impacted.  People that had a family member in a bad way health wise, people that lost a family member to a disease that needed some sunlight brought into their lives…Kirk Ferentz was there for them, when asked if he could lend a hand.  I have heard even more stories like this from the mouths of strangers, and even more second hand. I have even relayed some requests for people to his secretary. I don’t do this often, I typically tell people how to write the football offices. But in some instances where the heart strings were impossible to ignore, I have passed the messages along. In every instance, that person got back to me telling me how Ferentz had come through for them.

I have heard numerous stories where Ferentz had been in Des Moines a night earlier at some charity function or cause, having driven himself over, taken the time to lend his name to a cause, and then slipped out of town not looking for any personal glory or attention.  These instances are not covered in the press because Kirk doesn’t want it that way.  He is not a pharisee on a street corner saying ‘look at the good I do’ because then, it’s glory for self.

That’s not how Kirk, nor his wife Mary, live their life.

They live it away from the spotlight whenever possible; they walk the walk privately and have done so for the past 12 years…and likely much longer than that.

Given all of this evidence, all of this consistency of action, all of these humble and mostly silent contributions to the lives of the people in this state, I am all of the sudden supposed to believe that Kirk Ferentz doesn’t care about the players on his team that were admitted to the hospital early last week, the way he is being painted by some in the press?

Not hardly.

These people don’t remotely know Kirk Ferentz. They don’t have the direct or second hand knowledge that we do as it relates to his character.  Much of it is hit and run, ready, FIRE, aim material.

I am hardly perfect, and I will screw up again.  My criticisms as it related to DJK proved to be hollow a week after I spoke them on ‘Soundoff’.  My 2007 diatribes about Iowa’s offensive philosophy not matching up with its offensive personnel looked pretty foolish in 2008.

But that sort of stuff seems silly in comparison to the situation now facing Ferentz and the kinds of things being said about him.  Kirk Ferentz doesn’t care about the players that were sent to the hospital?  Iowa has some punitive strength and conditioning program all of the sudden, when Kirk’s own son is a member of this program at present and another one of his son’s was a past member of the program?

Do people realize how ridiculous that sounds as they say it or write it?

Yet, the way things were handled this week from a public relations perspective did not do Iowa any favors from the national perspective.  Had they waited one more day and allowed Ferentz to be the representative from the football program that took the dais only to say he could say very little, it would have taken a few arrows out of the quivers of some of the national scribes as it relates to assertions that Ferentz was hiding our, or didn’t care.   I have not nor am I of the opinion that he neccessarily SHOULD have flown back to Iowa City right away.  I understand those that feel that way, but as Biff Poggi said at the press conference, he had spoken with Ferentz at least four or five times since his son Jim was admitted to the hopsital on Monday.  I highly doubt Mr. Poggi was the only parent Kirk spoke with.  Here is a part of Ferentz’s statement released on 1-28:

“I have been communicating with each student-athlete and their parents, or guardians, since learning they were admitted into the hospital.  Members of the football staff have also been communicating daily with this group.  This communication will continue until each student-athlete is able to resume their academic and athletic commitments.”

Words like ‘each’ and ‘daily’ are absolutes, easy to deconstruct if there is even just one exception.  Words like that should never be thrown around unless they are 100% accurate.  There have been stories where unnamed sources have said some family members lit into Ferentz saying he should have been back in Iowa City the minute he learned that some players were admitted to the hospital.  I can see that, and I can also see that Ferentz was in contact with everyone the minute he found out players were admitted to the hospital.  He said he was and he said that members of the coaching staff had daily contact with this group.

For some, that’s not going to be enough and for some, like Pat Forde of ESPN, it means Ferentz doesn’t care about his players.

That column was the biggest pile of garbage I have seen written about someone of whom I have some level of understanding and it made me fighting mad.  In reading 779 comments from Forde’s column, it seems I am not the only one.

Being that this article isn’t being written on ESPN or CBSSports or another national venue, it likely won’t see the light of day outside of preaching to the choir of Iowa fans.  Not all of those will agree with me and some of them will blast me as a homer.  That being said, most of those people don’t have the access I have had to the program, its past players or the platform to hear from so many people whose lives have been touched by Kirk Ferentz, so please keep that in mind.

Until there is evidence that shows the Iowa football program has acted incompetently and has done so from a positon of premeditated malice or has fostered a dangerous environment or anything of the like, I sure as hell am not going to all of the sudden disregard the consistent actions a man has shown for more than a decade.

At least in this little corner of the world that I occupy, I’ll stand up for the integrity of Kirk Ferentz, even though this evidence will not be heard on any mountaintops.

  • JustinVanLaere

    Amen, Jon. Amen.

  • iowahawkeyes89

    Good stuff Jon

  • JoeHawki

    thank you jon. ou know how i feel about how he has been get ripped. Some yahos on kxno this morning in the 6 oclock hours were going off on him. They need to get heir facts straight and lay off him.

  • HawkKing81

    Iowa fans take this type criticism of Ferentz to heart. You can be critical of his gameplans, his depth-charts or his game management, but when you criticize his integrity, that strikes a chord with Hawkeye fans.

    Hawkeye’s have a love affair with the Iowa football program because of it’s belief that Iowa does it the “right” way, in a world where so many other programs find a way to cheat the system. Iowa fans revel in the fact that every win that we get, is a win that was done the right way. We like that Ferentz is a man of principles. He never wavers from that, even if that might cost him a blue-chip recruit or the suspension of a top player. Ferentz is loyal to his coaching staff, to his players and to the Iowa fans.

    I feel for the 13 players that were injured, I wish them a full and speedy recovery and I hope the program can find the answers to why this happened. But, I do appreciate that true Hawkeye fans are coming together to stand up for Ferentz, a man that has dedicated his life to Iowa football.

    I suspect when it’s all said and done for the coaching career of Ferentz, we will look back on this situation as one where Ferentz yet again conquered adversity and where Iowa fans demonstrated their loyalty to their coach.

  • 22HAWKS

    I agree Jon! I have always liked how Ferentz has carried himself and how he cares about his players (anyone thinks otherwise doesn’t know him or is trying to shock – Matt P). Anything said otherwise just simply is not true! I also agree he should have come back, but we have to trust leaders and also understand as you said to make mIstakes.

    My issue is the Craziness and ridiculous way people react and just do so in ways to going after the coaches reputation and hit below the belt. If Ferentz is wrong – espn, the KXNO and others are as wrong in how they are acting.

    Yesterday my 11 year old son and I were in the car at 4:30 and Matt “porky pig” P and Ken were after Ferentz saying he does not care (see this all of this back and forth takes us all off the high road). And my son (in Jr High – so a considered expert). Says either this Matt guy was a bully growing up or was bullied. He then says the first week of school they watched a film and this guy sounds like the guy on the show! I smiled.

    Jon keep asking hard questions – allow for mistakes – and let the facts fall. I work in the HC Business – and I think we will find it has been hush hush because of HiPPA and second it will be some situation of virus, cautious coaches. And Jon, as always, you can sleep easy because you have not acted in anyway to bring shame to you or your website – as Ferentz always does for Iowa.

    Now I have to feel bad about calling Matt P names….. Thanks for leading by example :)!

  • HawkinMilwaukee

    nice post Jon. Forde’s was a simple hit piece – plain and simple. Hawk fans are well justified in being incensed. You can criticize Ferentz here and there for various strategies, game day coaching issues, personnel issues, etc. – but you’d have virtually no justification whatsoever in criticizing his character.

  • Travisam

    Pat Forde is a gutless coward much like is alma mater Missou. I only hope that someday Forde will have to face Ferentz/Iowa and will get smacked in the mouth in the manner that Mizzou did.

  • cibula11

    Some much need perspective. Thanks!

  • iHawk

    Having Coach Ferentz at the UIHC feeding the players ice chips 24/7 wouldn’t have been enough for some.

    I also think that some people just love to cast stones, and are (unfortunately) paid to do it. Doesn’t matter how the hits get there, they can use those hits to seek more $.

  • http://www.wideright3.blogspot.com Matt

    Great job Jon!

  • HawkeyeShane

    I don’t have much to say other than, “Well played, Mauer”…

  • BigDHawk12

    Fantastic, Jon. I have been waiting for a piece like this.

  • phxhawkeye

    Good piece. Doyel’s point of view was harsh, but he is objective enough to admit other’s pov. It’s not so much Doyel and Dodd I have a problem with. It’s Pat Forde. He flat out attacked KF, he attacked Iowa football, and he attacked the state of Iowa…all in an attempt to assassinate the character and integrity of the Hawkeye program.

    Pat Forde is a mockery to journalism. Pat Forde has lined his pockets with ESPN’s money, and doesn’t care who he throws under the table in his effort to get himself attention. I do not understand people that need attention like that, and will go after it at any cost. It’s funny to learn that he has won awards for his writing, because he is one of the worst sports writers I have come across.

    Regardless, I take Forde’s attack on Kirk Ferentz very personal. Doyel just had a negative reaction that didn’t sit well. It’s understandable how he sees things, so he doesn’t offend me. It’s Pat Forde and ESPN that offend me. They do not care one ounce about the Iowa football players, yet they make money off letting the whole world think they do and we/KF doesn’t.

    I believe in Karma. And Karma has an appointment with Pat Forde, that I have faith in. I do not wish that man harm, I just think what goes around comes around.

  • http://www.hawkeyenation.com seepig

    Good article Jon I agree that’s why I posted my thread this morning. It’s guys like Forde and Luginbill that will get their just desserts some day. It would surprise me if Ferentz just said to hell with all of it and went to the Pros.

  • NorfolkNeb

    People with almost no personal knowledge of Coach Ferentz making these uninformed critical comments sadly reminds me of myself, 30 years ago. When Nebraska was competing for national titles & Iowa was in the depths of 19 non-winning seasons. I said (at the time) that Tom Osborne treated his players like “used sparplugs” throwing them in the trash when they became injured and just sticking a new one in. I also criticized him for giving players who ran afoul of the law (like Lawrence Phillips) a second chance.
    In the last ten years of gotten to know Coach Osborne personally when he came to public schools I administered to speak to our students. In this time I’ve learned of the countless times he’s helped folks, receiving no ‘credit’ and I’ve become aware of the hundreds of former players he’s helped in any way they needed and how every one of his former players credits him for their adult maturity. We all need to avoid throwing stones, becaue we all live in glass houses.

  • PatrickAdamovicz

    Well said Jon. You summed it up beautifully what many Iowa fans are steaming angry about. Thank you!

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  • HawkeyeHomebrew

    To be honest I think this is exactly what Coach Ferentz needed. We as an Iowa fanbase have been extremely critical of him the last few months. I for one can attest to being critical of his decisions on the field and off the field regarding the drug testing issue. It certainly brings me back into his corner after reading articles of AP writers questioning his character. I, too, read the Forde article and it was completely repulsive. I couldn’t even finish it. Now that Kirk’s character has been in question, all of the Iowa nation (at least most of it) has had his back because we know what kind of man/coach he really is. It really humbles me as an Iowa fan looking back at the flack that he’s received over the last 4 months. I truly believe we will use this as a lesson learned and stand by our coach even stronger, especially going into this next football season. I wholeheartedly believe that this program’s hurdles are starting to be in the rear-view and we can leave this non-sense behind us, for after all, the night is always darkest before dawn.

  • Figplant

    U can list all of ferentz’ “good deeds” and all the heartwarming stories you want to jon, but it doesn’t change the fact that 13 kids went to the hospital with potentially life threatening issues under his watch. Does that mean he’s a horrible person, no not at all. But in the end, he is the one who is responsible.

  • JonDMiller

    I’d like to find out exactly what caused these kids to have to go to the hospital before I go looking for a gallows pole.

  • DDHawkeye

    IN KIRK I TRUST!!!!!!!!!!!

  • bottleby

    I read Forde’s article via the link you provided. It seems to me that it was not much more than a vitriolic diatribe. After reading it, I began to wonder whether he was aware of the distinction between a responsible sports columnist and a rabid gossip columnist.
    The hospitalization of several players is a serious matter and should be thoroughly investigated to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
    Kirk Ferentz has repeatedly shown leadership, compassion, and accountability in his tenure as head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes and I am confident that this will continue.

  • phxhawkeye

    Bob Stoops would send his sons to Iowa to play football
    The Gazette

    So, where would Stoops send his (twin) sons if they developed into Division I prospects?

    “They’re only 11, so I don’t know where I’ll be at that point,” Stoops said. “I won’t let them come here. I’ll send them to Iowa maybe and they can play for Coach (Kirk) Ferentz.”
    http://thegazette.com/2010/10/28/bob-stoops-would-send-his-sons-to-iowa-to-play-football/

    According to Pat Forde’s logic, Bob Stoops must not care about his kids if he would send them to play for KF. ;)

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  • TimMcLaughlin

    Well done, Jon. Had been waiting for this. STAND UP, HAWKEYE NATION!
    IN KIRK WE TRUST.

    Also, iHawk said it. Spot on. For Doyle and Forde it’s all about the hits and it matters not if they’re reckless and uninformed in the process. I will NEVER read another column from either. Makes me very weary of the information I’ve been fed from those two to this point.

    GO HAWKS!

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