News began to spread Monday morning of the passing of former Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker. Several of his former players tweeted their condolences. I’ll write more later tonight, but Iowa has lost a legendary Hawkeye and heaven has gained a great soul. Here is something I wrote upon Norm’s retirement a few years back.
December 11, 2011, by Jon Miller
On Sunday evening, Norm Parker announced that he would retire from coaching, following Iowa’s Insight Bowl game.
The three most important figures in Iowa football over the past decade or more are Kirk Ferentz, Norm Parker and Chris Doyle.
Depending on the year, each has been able to lay claim to that ‘title’ more than once. Since Kirk Ferentz hired everyone and has mostly stayed out of the way of the people he has hired, you tip your cap to him for that.
Parker’s defensive scheme, like-ability, how he has related with young people for decades and just the ‘Grandpa Norm’ character will be impossible to duplicate at Iowa, or anywhere. We are truly talking about a one of a kind, ‘they broke the mold’ kind of person and coach.
As I’ve been writing the Hawk Stock series these past two weeks, the value of Parker’s defenses have been slammed home to me. It’s not that I haven’t been a big Parker supporter and believer for the last decade, but the significance of his design is all the more impressive when you look at it compared to the production of the Iowa offense over the same period of time. The numerical values below represent Iowa’s statistical ranking in the NCAA for the given years and categories.
Simply put, Iowa football would not be Iowa football without Norm Parker. Iowa football will have a tough time remaining Iowa football without Norm Parker.
Here is what Norm said in a statement on Sunday night:
“I would like to announce that the 2011 Insight Bowl will be my last game as a football coach at Iowa. I would like to personally thank Gary Barta, Kirk Ferentz, the coaches, and players at Iowa, along with the fantastic fans. It has been a great time, one that myself and my entire family greatly appreciate. I would also like to thank the office staff, the equipment people, and a special thanks to the medical staff, as I used them enough. The entire Hawkeye community has been great.
My wife Linda, and all the members of our family, were very pleased to be members of the Hawkeye family. We truly enjoyed our time here. After 48 years of doing something I love, it is time to enjoy some time with the grandkids. Go Hawks!”
Kirk Ferentz added the following:
“Norm’s contributions to our team the past 13 years are deeply appreciated, as he has had a tremendous impact on our program. As I have said publicly on many occasions, Norm is a superb defensive coach and has served as a strong role model and mentor for all of our players and our entire staff.”
Chew on these ditties for a bit:
Under Parker’s direction, Iowa has ranked among the top 10 nationally in rushing defense five times. Iowa has been in the top 10 in scoring defense three of the past four seasons. In 2010, Iowa was fifth nationally in total defense (332.1), sixth in rushing defense (101.5) and seventh in scoring defense (17.0).
The Iowa media guide lists the ’10 best seasons’ in school history for several categories.
During the Norm Parker era at Iowa, he helped the Hawkeyes to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th best rushing defense seasons all time. The 2008 Iowa defense allowed 13.0 points per game, which is tied for the 9th best mark in a single season in Iowa history, with the steel curtain defense of 1981, arguably the best Iowa defense of the last 50 years.
One my lasting images of Parker will be the 2010 Insight Bowl.
The Hawkeyes had just won the game and Parker was brought down to field level in a wheel chair. I looked over in time to see Kirk Ferentz walk over to him, bend down and give Parker a long embrace. When they separated, each man had a tear in his eye and Norm had a few on his cheek.
Parker noticed that I had noticed and I walked over, put out my hand and said ‘Well done, coach’. He shook it, nodded and sat back to take in the scene. I got out of the way quickly, because I didn’t want to take away from his sharing that moment with his players or other coaches.
It felt like the end was near.
2010 was a tough, tough year on Parker as well as the Iowa staff. Parker missed most of the season due to having one of his legs amputated, related to diabetes. The remaining staff members had to pick up the slack. The Iowa defense didn’t close out as many games as we’d been used to seeing. It was not an easy ride.
However, it ended well.
Parker’s resignation announcement on Sunday night was not shocking. Many of us in the media have probably had this story half written over the past few weeks, as the smoke signals related to Parker’s retirement were plentiful and impossible to miss.
Yet knowing that it was coming doesn’t make it less significant when it finally happens. Norm Parker finished well. We all knew this year’s defense was going to be challenged up front and it was. However they did enough to keep up their end of the bargain more often than not. We will all miss the amazing stories and anecdotes that flowed from Parker and I hope he gets to spend several years with his family.
Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette tweeted on Sunday night that Iowa’s next defensive coordinator will be the fourth defensive coordinator at Iowa in the last 34 years. That is truly mind boggling in this era of college football. Coaches come and go, but that hasn’t been the case in Iowa City and the Iowa football program has reaped the benefits of continuity.
Now, the Iowa football program is going to make their first coordinator hire since 1999.
My hunch is Kirk Ferentz already knows who is going to replace Parker. He has known this day was coming for the past several weeks if not months. I’m certain he was probably working on a short list the last few years.
Who will be Iowa’s next Defensive Coordinator? Click here to read my thoughts.