The following excerpt from the Wednesday column of the Detroit Free Press' Mitch Albom means nothing more than what it says. It isn't saying Kirk Ferentz is a candidate for the Michigan football coaching opening. Here it is, then we'll proceed:
But (Michigan Athletic Director Dave) Brandon, in addition to chuckling over Harbaugh, also admitted:
1) He wants a man with head coaching experience, not some promising assistant. 2) He's willing to pay top dollar, something new for Michigan. 3) He doesn't mind taking some coach away from some other school.
"No," he said, when I posed that point-blank. "I've had that done to me. I have 27 other sports. ... The idea of schools coming after coaches is not a new concept."
This means people like Les Miles are on the board, despite his status at LSU. So, in theory, is Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, despite a contract to 2020, and so, in theory, is every coach in America, with or without a job.
That's a lot of candidates.
Ferentz's name was among the many tossed about three years ago before Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez to replace Lloyd Carr. Albom isn't saying Ferentz is a candidate now. Ferentz simply has a name and reputation that you use as a measuring stick. That reputation is golden in football circles. Which is something that serves the Iowa program very well.
Wednesday, as this Free Press story details, Brandon listed what he called Michigan's red-letter games. Those are the ones against Notre Dame, Michigan State, Penn State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Iowa, plus bowls. What that means is Iowa is now regarded as Michigan's equal in Ann Arbor. That shouldn't enrage anyone in Hawkdom. This isn't a recent development. But it's interesting, I think, that the Michigan program -- still a national program, and still haughty despite its recent downturn -- publicly admits the Iowa game is "red-letter." It's definitely a compliment to the Hawkeyes and their leader.
Iowa's 8-5 record of 2010 was viewed nationally as a disappointment, and that's actually also a compliment. Ferentz's program has gotten to a place where people from well beyond Iowa have certain expectations for it.
Ferentz just finished his 12th season as Iowa's coach. Only seven FBS coaches (Joe Paterno of Penn State, Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech, Larry Blakeney of Troy, Bill Snyder of Kansas State, Chris Ault of Nevada, Pat Hill of Fresno State, Mack Brown of Texas) have been head coaches longer at their current schools. That counts for something. That has to matter in recruiting, where you don't have to explain who you are or where you've been, and you don't have to make promises about staying put. ("I've been at Iowa since you were in pre-school, young man.") Take away Paterno and Jim Tressel, and that 12 years is longer than any two other Big Ten coaches combined at their jobs.
We live in the present, and those November 2010 losses Iowa had are still as fresh as the winter air on the University of Iowa's Pentracrest. But fans of Michigan look at Iowa and see stability, what has become a decades-long extension of what Hayden Fry started over 30 years ago. Michigan fans, who take enormous pride in their program's tradition and trying to extend what Bo Schembechler molded into something proud and successful, probably see more of what they want to be in Iowa these days than from their own program.
This didn't happen overnight.Michigan's coaching search will have some big names mentioned before the process is completed. If Ferentz is one of them -- and someone's bound to include him somewhere on the World Wide Web -- it's wishful thinking on someone's part. Don't sweat it, Iowa fans. It's a compliment.