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  1. #1

    Hawk Stock: What Should Our Annual Expectations Be?

    This is part one of our 'Hawk Stock' series. It's an attempt to take stock of where the Iowa football program is and where it may be heading. First up is an effort to set a bar for expectations for Iowa football in the current era.

    As is typically the case following a loss, the message boards were abuzz with a variety of opinions following the Nebraska loss.

    There were extremes on both sides, which is the usual fare. Some of the opinions expressed were: Fire some coaches, Ferentz makes too much money and we can't settle for this were juxtaposed with look at the macro, this program is doing fine compared to its peers, its harder to win at Iowa and time was when we'd be estatic with seven wins. Some of you may reside in the middle of those extremes.

    I have digested a lot of the opinions not only this weekend and not only this season, but for the entire Kirk Ferentz era. I have presided over message boards nearly every day since Kirk Ferentz was hired, first at Superhawkeye.com and then HawkeyeNation.com beginning in April of 2001.

    That's a lot of phone calls (more than 3,000 just on the post game shows) and that's a lot of message board posts (over four million since 1999). I'd say I have been exposed to quite a few opinions during the last decade. You've had a lot of things to say and write and I've taken it all in.

    There was one phone call from Soundoff on 11/26 that caused me to sit back and do some serious reflecting. I'm not sure why this particular opinion sort of stopped me in my tracks and got me to thinking, but it did.

    The caller's name was 'Al' and the gist of his call was that in this day and age of 12 regular season games, six wins should be the minimum level of performance fans should expect from a program of Iowa's stature.

    Al's phone call hit home with me. For years, I have said if seven wins is all of the sudden the low of the Iowa football valley, it's a pretty good thing considering lows of past decades. Yet I believe Al had a good point; you can schedule your way to five wins a year with little problem if you're Iowa circa 2011. Three out of conference wins can be scheduled. There are typically two bad Big Ten teams on your schedule that you should beat.

    If you ascribe to that, then this season was barely above the minimum level of reasonable low end expectations. Perhaps it wasn't even that considering how manageable Iowa's schedule. The NCAA said it was the 10th 'toughest' schedule among Big Ten teams. I also think you must juxtapose this with the fact Iowa returned the fewest starters of any team in the Big Ten and, according to Phil Steele, the second fewest of any team in the FBS level.

    2010 HANGOVER EFFECT

    At times, this team looked solid. At times, this offense looked dangerous. At times, the defense played above the level anyone could have reasonably expected. At times, they were none of those things and on the opposite end of the spectrum.

    Inexperienced teams are typically inconsistent and that's exactly what the 2011 Iowa team was; inconsistent. If you view this year as a stand alone year, not taking last season's disappointment into account and not looking at the 2012 depth chart, a seven-win regular season doesn't feel so bad. These things are going to happen at Iowa from time to time given some of the inherent challenges this program faces on the recruiting trail.

    However, the 2010 7-5 regular season record is next to impossible to parse out of the equation and I strongly believe the hangover from last year's unmet expectations has been a big part of the discord I have witnessed on the message board and call in shows related to this season.

    Expectations...the slippery slope...and how can we possibly find something most people agree with?

    SPOILED FAN BASE?

    For every opinion like Al had on Soundoff, you'll see an opinion like this that was on the message boards on 11/28 from board user Payton34Mase13:

    ...I am 39 years old (40 next Tuesday)...Many times, I heard my parents talk of the 19 years of losing, not with remorse, but almost with reverence for Hawkeye Nation and how the fans continued to support moribund teams and coaching staffs. Remember, Hayden was in Year 2 and the Hawks were still a year away from the Rose Bowl.

    Have we reached a point where we are spoiled, for lack of a better term, by the success that this program has achieved in the 30 years since? If you compare with what the generation before us supported, through thick and thin (mostly thin), and what we have the opportunity to support now, can we not gain perspective? An entire generation of Hawkeye fans knew losing and nothing but losing....


    Spoiled. That's a lightning rod term when applied to a fanbase. I heard the WHO TV Soundoff crew use the term the Sunday night after the Nebraska loss, along the lines of 'has this program made us spoiled?'

    I think there is 'some' truth in it and let me explain.

    HIGH TIMES

    The past decade of Iowa football was the most successful in school history as far as bowl wins, winning percentage and Top Eight finishes in the polls. Since 2002, Iowa had four seasons where it won 10 or more games and four seasons where it finished the season ranked inside the Top Eight in the final poll. In six of the past 10 years (which goes back to 2001) Iowa has won nine or more games in a season.

    When compared to Iowa history, the last decade has been a runaway success. Ten years is also a considerable amount of time as it relates to shaping perception and creating expectations. You're talking close to two generations of Iowa fans whose fandom has been shaped by this sort of success; fans who were eight years old in 2001 and fans who were entering college in 2001.

    For them, the Iowa football program has won nine or more games in a season more often than not. For them, the six and seven win regular seasons may be tougher to accept because they have not been the norm they have come to expect based upon the success of the program. None of this is to say that fans who are in their 30's and up aren't expressing frustrations at the present time, because they are.

    The term 'victim of your own success' does come to mind here. I think that can be substituted for the term 'spoiled' because nobody wants to be identified that way, present company included.

    Many of you have read my opinions related to the inherent challenges I see associated with the Iowa football program. Recruiting disadvantages via a low state population, two BCS conference programs in the same small state, etc. I do think it's harder to win at Iowa than it is at Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State due to those demographic factors. Illinois should also be much better than it has been as their state produces a number of BCS conference caliber players.

    However, the past 30 years have seen the Iowa program perform at a better than expected level. Since Hayden Fry snapped Iowa's 19 straight years of non-winning records in 1981, the Iowa football program has been a winner.

    Since then, this program has been one of the top 25 programs in the nation in winning percentage.

    Since then (and ongoing with the new practice facility construction), this program has facilities that are on par with the Top 15 to 20 in the sport.

    Since then, Iowa pays its head coach among the top 10 in the sport (or higher).

    Since then, the Iowa football program generates revenues that are Top 16 in the sport.

    KICK OUT THE CRUTCH

    The decades of struggle for this program are ancient history. College football is much different now than it was before Hayden Fry arrived in Iowa City. The era of 85 scholarship (1994) cannot be objectively compared to the era before it although Fry's resurrection of the Iowa program is all the more impressive given that it happened before those 85 scholarship limits were put into place.

    In my opinion, it's time to stop reciting the tough times during the 1960's and 1970's because they are no longer relevant to the Iowa football program, circa 2011. I use the term 'we' intentionally, as it most definitely applies to me.

    This program has produced sustained success for a period of time (30 years) that outnumbers the period of time where it stunk (19 years).

    In the not so distant past, I have used phrases like 'Well, there was a time where a seven win season would have been cause to celebrate'. I am done with that. I may have even written or said something like that within this calendar year, but over the past few weeks of taking phone calls on Soundoff and hearing from two decidedly different camps, the calls where such a sentiment was expressed began to ring hollow with me.

    If you can be a victim of your favorite team's success, it means that things have been going well for the team your root for. I believe that is the case here and it's irrefutable.

    CONSISTENTLY RISING ABOVE OBSTACLES

    This program has been successful regardless of the challenges it faces on the recruiting trails. This staff has proven to be a good one as it has repeatedly overcome these challenges. They have proven to have an eye for diamonds in the rough and have been able to develop those players into NFL millionaires.

    Having done this consistently, I feel like this coaching staff has drawn a line in the sand, having proven that six wins in the regular season is the new 'low point' for this program.

    When you adjust your analysis for strength of schedule, this year's team barely met the minimum. That is still going to happen from time to time, especially after the program places the third most players of any program into the NFL draft last two years.

    All that does is serve as a painful reminder of just how disappointing the 2010 regular season was. This year's performance was understandable to me; last year's was not.

    Al, the caller to Soundoff, was basically saying that given the strength of the program, there are a number of coaches who could get this program to six wins a year based on the realities of scheduling in this era of college football. The hard part at Iowa is getting from six wins to nine or more wins.

    We'll tackle that aspect and others over the next several days. Some of the topics will include:

    -Where are things headed for Iowa football?
    -Have things gotten stale within the program?
    -Is there talent in the pipeline to reverse this two-year trend?
    -Does Ferentz need to tweak things philosophically or within his coaching staff?

    Do not assume that this series of opinions will be negative, even though these topics may bring about such connotations. It will be my best attempt at objectively looking at all sides of the football program and an effort to arrive at a few conclusions. Those end points will not speak for anyone other than me. If you have different opinions, chime in below with your thoughts.

  2. #2

    Re: Hawk Stock: What Should Our Annual Expectations Be?

    Great info. I think that a well rounded look at this can establish reasonable expectations. I agree, we have been a 7+ win team the majority of my life so my expectations are higher than some. I think that Ferentz has a proble

  3. #3

    Re: Hawk Stock: What Should Our Annual Expectations Be?

    Jon your articles are always very good. However, today I don't have the rest of the morning to read that thing. Can someone summarize that thing so I can get this gist of it. Thanks in advance!

  4. #4

    Re: Hawk Stock: What Should Our Annual Expectations Be?

    I would say 8+ REGULAR season wins, plus a bowl game. But calling it an "annual" expectation doesn't mean that a rebuilding season where you go 7-5 every so often is unacceptable - it just shouldn't be the norm like it has been for Iowa football 5 of the past 7 years.

    Out of the 8 regular season wins, I'd say it could break down a couple ways:
    4-0 non-conference, 4-4 in the Big Ten
    3-1 non-conference, 5-3 in the Big Ten

    Either scenario gets you to 8-4. Of course, doing better than that sometimes would be nice. Like going 4-0 in the non-conference, and 5-3 or 6-2 in the conference. To get to 9-3 or 10-2.

    Also in my expectations are to regularly beat underdog teams like ISU, Indiana and Minnesota. It doesn't mean we should NEVER lose to those teams. Upsets happen. But 19-9 since 2006 as 10+ point favorites is unacceptable, considering all of the other teams in the conference have lost 2-3 games MAX in that scenario in the same time frame. Winning these types of games is a MUST if we want to see 8-9+ win seasons with regularity.

  5. #5

    Re: Hawk Stock: What Should Our Annual Expectations Be?

    an issue coaching more talented players. so his performance has suffered with better recruiting classes. Also I believe 2009 might be an outlier since seasons before and after it finished with similar results.

  6. #6

    Re: Hawk Stock: What Should Our Annual Expectations Be?

    Quote Originally Posted by bhawkn30 View Post
    Jon your articles are always very good. However, today I don't have the rest of the morning to read that thing. Can someone summarize that thing so I can get this gist of it. Thanks in advance!
    LOL.

    Sorry, but this series is going to be wordy. Given the mood the last year or so, I feel it requires as much of an in depth look as I have ever undertaken, to be fair on all sides.

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    Re: Hawk Stock: What Should Our Annual Expectations Be?

    I would like to see a philosophical change of opening up the playbook more. I would also like to see two tailbacks used throughout the season. I would like to think that lesson had been learned when Adam Robinson got a concussion but the staff still stubbornly uses one back only.

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    Re: Hawk Stock: What Should Our Annual Expectations Be?

    Alternatively, we could just enjoy the ride and stop pretending that we're the athletic director. Maybe that makes me a bad fan, I don't know. I do know that my particular "expectations" don't affect the program in any way and don't make me enjoy the season any more. If anything, they make me enjoy it less. Gary Barta makes good money to figure this stuff out; I'm happy to let him do so.

  9. #9

    Re: Hawk Stock: What Should Our Annual Expectations Be?

    Quote Originally Posted by 1977Hawkeye View Post
    I would say 8+ REGULAR season wins, plus a bowl game. But calling it an "annual" expectation doesn't mean that a rebuilding season where you go 7-5 every so often is unacceptable - it just shouldn't be the norm like it has been for Iowa football 5 of the past 7 years.
    The last seven years, barring this year's bowl game, Iowa has averaged 7.8 wins per year.

  10. #10

    Re: Hawk Stock: What Should Our Annual Expectations Be?

    Quote Originally Posted by JonDMiller View Post
    The last seven years, barring this year's bowl game, Iowa has averaged 7.8 wins per year.
    Just keep in mind, and I think you pointed that out already, that 7.8 wins now is equivalent to 6.8 wins "back in the day" when comparing to Fry's era.

    The advent of the 12-game schedule, which is the addition of a cupcake, is a freebie for the schedule.

    Something to keep in mind when comparing the averages.

  11. #11

    Re: Hawk Stock: What Should Our Annual Expectations Be?

    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyeguy85 View Post
    Just keep in mind, and I think you pointed that out already, that 7.8 wins now is equivalent to 6.8 wins "back in the day" when comparing to Fry's era.

    The advent of the 12-game schedule, which is the addition of a cupcake, is a freebie for the schedule.

    Something to keep in mind when comparing the averages.
    I was replying to a post that said 8 or more wins per year should be the expectation.

  12. #12

    Re: Hawk Stock: What Should Our Annual Expectations Be?

    Quote Originally Posted by JonDMiller View Post
    The last seven years, barring this year's bowl game, Iowa has averaged 7.8 wins per year.
    After many arguements, i would say the concensus over/under is 7.5 wins in the regular season. Obviously it depends on talent and the schedule, but i think 8-4 will satisfy a majority of the fan base. This will usually get us into a bowl like the Gator or Outback.

    It is a fine line between 7 and 8 wins (reg. season). With 7 you get 25% of the fan base calling for Ferentz's head, with 8 wins i think that number dwindles to 5-10%.

  13. #13

    Re: Hawk Stock: What Should Our Annual Expectations Be?

    Quote Originally Posted by 1977Hawkeye View Post
    I would say 8+ REGULAR season wins, plus a bowl game. But calling it an "annual" expectation doesn't mean that a rebuilding season where you go 7-5 every so often is unacceptable - it just shouldn't be the norm like it has been for Iowa football 5 of the past 7 years.

    Out of the 8 regular season wins, I'd say it could break down a couple ways:
    4-0 non-conference, 4-4 in the Big Ten
    3-1 non-conference, 5-3 in the Big Ten

    Either scenario gets you to 8-4. Of course, doing better than that sometimes would be nice. Like going 4-0 in the non-conference, and 5-3 or 6-2 in the conference. To get to 9-3 or 10-2.

    Also in my expectations are to regularly beat underdog teams like ISU, Indiana and Minnesota. It doesn't mean we should NEVER lose to those teams. Upsets happen. But 19-9 since 2006 as 10+ point favorites is unacceptable, considering all of the other teams in the conference have lost 2-3 games MAX in that scenario in the same time frame. Winning these types of games is a MUST if we want to see 8-9+ win seasons with regularity.
    This fellow 1977 grad agrees with you. Very well said.

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    Re: Hawk Stock: What Should Our Annual Expectations Be?

    Quote Originally Posted by JonDMiller View Post
    LOL.

    Sorry, but this series is going to be wordy. Given the mood the last year or so, I feel it requires as much of an in depth look as I have ever undertaken, to be fair on all sides.
    I'm a huge Bill Simmons fan so keep the long articles coming. Reading his stuff on Grantland is like a life experience. Basically grab a drink, some chips, and get comfy because you're going to be there awhile.

    Great stuff overall. Can't wait to read the rest.

  15. #15

    Re: Hawk Stock: What Should Our Annual Expectations Be?

    Quote Originally Posted by JonDMiller View Post
    I was replying to a post that said 8 or more wins per year should be the expectation.
    Yeah, I know...it was just more a general fyi for others. A lot of times I hear the fact that Hayden averaged 7.15 wins over 20 years, that the recent ~8 win/yr average is an "improvement" despite the difference in scheduling.

    Even that still ignores some absolutely brutal non-conference schedules they played in the 80s (compared to present day), and the years the Big 10 played full, round-robin 9 game schedules, (Iowa was 8-4-1 and 9-3 including bowl games those years).

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