INDIANAPOLIS — I didn’t have to drive the leg of I-74 between Peoria and Indianapolis Wednesday on the way to the site of the Big Ten men’s basketball tourney, so I got caught up on some light reading.
It’s been a while since I got as good a chuckle as what the story about Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta hiring new Hawkeyes offensive line coach Brian Ferentz gave me.
Ferentz, of course, is the son of Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz. Because of that, there were the obvious hoops to be jumped through to bring the hire within university policy.
Before we proceed, is there anyone other than a high-profile coach who could hire one of their children or siblings to work with them at a state university? Can you see the university president hiring his or her son or daughter, saying it was the best choice available, and doing so without a barrage of criticism from inside and outside the school?
By the way, I am on the record right here at this blog saying I think Brian Ferentz was a good hire who will be a fine coach for Iowa. This isn’t a criticism of the hire in the least, it’s merely derisive laughter at the lengths institutions will go (and often must go) to present themselves as doing things the proper way.
For the story on this that includes the letter Barta sent to Sue Buckley, UI vice president for human resources, check this On Iowa blog post, written by Marc Morehouse.
“I was very interested in pursuing Brian Ferentz to become a member of our football staff due to his strong experience and success in the professional coaching ranks,” Barta wrote to Buckley. “I worked through UI policies and procedures and we were subsequently able to convince Brian to apply.”
“I interviewed all four approved applicants. Kirk purposely did not participate in Brian’s interview process. At the conclusion of the interviews it was apparent to me that Brian’s credentials and candidacy were worthy of recommending for hire.”
First, good for Barta for somehow “persuading” Brian Ferentz to apply for this job. He probably had to do quite the sales job. (Uh huh.)
Second, what do you think the odds were going in that young Ferentz wasn’t going to be Barta’s “choice?” I’d say, oh, 20 million-to-1. But that’s without knowing the other three candidates. If one or all of them were proven whizzes at coaching major-college offensive linemen, then I adjust my estimate to only 15 million-to-1.
Brian Ferentz will report to Barta, not his father. (Again, uh huh). Barta submitted a management plan “in recognition of UI Conflict of Interest Employment” that has Brian Ferentz reporting to him. Barta also will conduct Ferentz’s annual performance review and compensation. Barta will seek feedback from Kirk Ferentz when it comes to those performance reviews.
So I guess Barta won’t need to pore over a season’s worth of offensive line game film each winter.
“It’s clear that all the university’s policies were followed, which makes us confident everything has proceeded as is supposed to,” UI spokesman Tom Moore said.
Sure, fine, whatever. The policies were followed. Wink, wink.
None of this is a knock on Barta. Honestly. He and Kirk Ferentz did the tangos they had to do with the university to get Brian Ferentz hired. But they and their university shouldn’t expect us to take any of of this bureaucratic wording too seriously. Kirk Ferentz — or any other major-college coach with any kind of stroke — doesn’t leave the hiring of assistant coaches to anyone else on this or any other planet. If Ferentz wants to hire Candidate X, no matter who it is, Barta isn’t going to hire Candidate Y instead.
It isn’t like the public was in some uproar over this hire, screaming about the evils of nepotism. Everyone who follows football knows Brian Ferentz has coaching credibility (four years in the New England Patriots organization) and ought to be a significant addition to the Hawkeyes’ staff.
At Iowa alone, Steve Alford hired his father, Sam Alford, to be one of his assistant basketball coaches. Tom Brands hired his brother, Terry Brands, to be an assistant wrestling coach.
Steve Spurrier Jr., was on his father’s football staff at Florida, and is now his dad’s passing game coordinator at South Carolina. Shane Beamer is the associate head football coach for his father, Frank Beamer, at Virginia Tech. USC football coach Lane Kiffin’s defensive coordinator is his father, Monte Kiffin.
They all probably had to go through their university policy games, but the head football coach at those institutions isn’t merely a name on an organizational chart. He is a boss, and in many instances, The Boss.
You would have feared for the safety of the university administrator or athletics director who would have tried to stop Tom Brands from hiring Terry or Kirk Ferentz from hiring Brian.
Barta isn’t dumb. He knew who he wanted to be Iowa’s next O-line coach. It was the guy with the same last name as the head coach, the guy Barta helped “convince” to apply for the job.
Like I said, funny stuff.