IOWA CITY — Fresh air continues to blow through the Iowa football program.
During a spring wrap-up news conference Tuesday, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz talked about the buildings arm race and how Iowa needs to keep up, the speed dating that is going on now in recruiting and how Iowa intends to stay in step and, yes, the possibility of Nike Pro Combat uniforms.
You know the ones, they’re usually accompanied by a flat black helmets and everything but flames.
“I’m open to some things like that, too,” Ferentz said. “We will certainly consider it moving forward.”
“Moving forward” is the theme.
You know all about the changes on the coaching staff. Next fall, Iowa will have new coordinators, Phil Parker on defense and Greg Davis on offense, and they will call games from the press box, something Iowa rehearsed during its final spring practice last Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. Beyond coordinators, Iowa welcomed its first two Generation Y assistant coaches, O-line coach Brian Ferentz and linebackers coach LeVar Woods.
The recruiting territories have been tweaked. That and a hyper-accelerated recruiting timetable have yielded six recruits before the end of April (compared to one in 2011).
You simply can’t miss the $19.6 million indoor facility that is lined by fence and has the buzz and clip of construction noises, pushing Iowa’s football training into Kinnick Stadium. The UI Football Operations Facility, phase II of the project, goes before the Board of Regents for approval this week. The budgeted proposal is $36.6 million.
That’s Iowa’s $57.2 million ante in the arms race.
The operations building would be immediately adjacent to and south of the new indoor facility. It would include spaces for strength/conditioning, squad meetings, video editing, lockers for players and coaches, coach’s offices and reception space.
Ferentz said Iowa needs something to show recruits. The Bubble, which was deflated last Friday after 27 years of service, wasn’t something recruits had on their list of must-sees when they visited Iowa City.
“We might, we might not,” Ferentz said when asked if they did actually show recruits The Bubble. “It wasn’t a showcase, for sure.”
From The Bubble to the new indoor facility, which will have a natural grass practice field behind it, to the new operations building, Ferentz said the advantage isn’t so much an advantage as much as keeping pace with the Big Ten Joneses.
“Probably Ohio State, but I’m just guessing,” Ferentz said when asked which Big Ten school had the best facilities.
“As you know, it’s an arms race out there in recruiting. That’s one factor,” he said. “. . . For the long-term success of our [athletic] programs Carver-Hawkeye had to be addressed. Certainly, our facilities needed to be addressed. These have been adequate and they’ve worked and we’ve won games with these facilities, but with the pace of recruiting, like it or not, it’s important to recruits.
“If you can’t recruit, you can’t survive.”
That bell has certainly sounded this spring. Iowa picked up its sixth commitment on Monday night. Ohio defensive tackle Brant Gressel selected the Hawkeyes over Cincinnati, Louisville, Miami, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. That made it three commitments — non-binding until the letter of intent is signed and delivered in February — this week.
Ferentz said Iowa isn’t doing anything differently in its approach to recruiting. He believes it’s the new pace of the game, with social media playing a driving force.
“It’s not going to slow down for sure,” Ferentz said. “I think our roles at some point may end up changing and evolving a little bit. I’ve heard the NCAA said they’re going to look at the whole rule book a little bit. I think this kind of falls in that category, in some regards, just because the face of recruiting’s changed so dramatically.”
And Iowa is changing along with it. You can see the construction. You might see uniforms you never thought you would under Ferentz’s watch.
Maybe the Hawkeyes could see Pro Combat uniforms, which players have embraced even when fans (specially fans in the 40-something demographic) have turned up their noses.
Players like them. And this is all about recruiting and a little bit about survival.