First of all, 56 isn’t all that old.
That’s how old Kirk Ferentz of Iowa is today. He’ll be 57 in September when the dean of Big Ten football coaches also will be the league’s oldest head football coach. He was born on Aug. 1, 1955. Also 56, but born seven months after Ferentz, is Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio.
None of this occurred to me in a dream. I came upon those facts while reading this blog post by Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. Tramel was surprised Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, 51, is the Big 12′s seventh-oldest coach. (Paul Rhoads of Iowa State is eighth, at 45.
When was the last time the Big Ten’s oldest coach was younger than 57 (Ferentz will be 57 when the season starts)? Not since Penn State played its first Big Ten season in 1993, that’s for sure. That’s because Joe Paterno was the Nittany Lions’ coach.
The answer is 1985, when Iowa’s Hayden Fry (born Feb. 28, 1929) and Michigan’s Bo Schembechler (born April 1, 1929) were the league’s elder statesmen at 56. Coincidentally, Iowa and Michigan finished 1-2 in the Big Ten in ’85.
Earle Bruce of Ohio State was 54 that year. Bruce always seemed older than Fry when they were in the league together, though.
Minnesota’s Lou Holtz was a kid at 48 in 1985. Dennis Green was Northwestern’s 36-year-old coach. The Wildcats’ current coach, Pat Fitzgerald, is 37 and about to enter his seventh season in that role.
As Tramel’s post notes, the Big 12 has a 72-year-old coach in Bill Snyder of Kansas State. He was Fry’s offensive coordinator in 1985.
The SEC has five coaches older than Ferentz, including Nick Saban of Alabama (60), Les Miles of LSU (58) and Steve Spurrier of South Carolina (67).
Ferentz would be the sixth-oldest coach in the ACC and the second-oldest in the Pac-12.
If his team does in ’12 what Fry’s did in ’85, Ferentz not only will be the Big Ten’s oldest coach, but he’ll be its Coach of the Year.