IOWA CITY — Major-college football offices are airports, bus stations, street corners.
People come, they go. You seldom see the same group of coaches on the same staff for very long, even in good times.
But Iowa had a staff where coaches saw each others’ kids grow up. This was where winning was done, contented coaches didn’t feel compelled to leave, and the head coach had no reason to ask anyone to do so.
Now, Hawkeye football is a revolving door. For the time being, anyway.
Friday, Iowa named its sixth new assistant coach in the last 14 months. That’s two-thirds of the staff. That’s after a 2011 season that would qualify as disappointing, followed a 2012 season that was downright discouraging.
Unless two of Kirk Ferentz’s assistants voluntarily walked away from jobs paying a combined $494,640 in 2012 without jobs waiting for them, they got fired. Wide receivers coach Erik Campbell, who hooked on the coaching staff of the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes over two weeks after it was announced he was leaving Iowa, is gone. So is running backs/special teams coach Lester Erb.
Darrell Wilson, Iowa’s defensive backs/special teams coach last year, left Iowa under his own volition to become the DBs coach at Rutgers.
Erb had been with Iowa for 13 years, Wilson for 11, Campbell for five. All three leaving at once qualifies as a shakeup. A second-straight shakeup, since three Hawkeye assistants last year either retired, took a job at Nebraska, or took one with the Miami Dolphins.
“You’re looking at probably six different stories and six different things that have happened,” Ferentz said about the departed assistants of the last two offseasons. “I think the bottom line is when you’re doing something for a long time, it’s just going to happen. Things are going to happen.”
What, you expected specifics from this coach?
Why Campbell and Erb weren’t retained, we can only guess. Was it their coaching, their player-development, their recruiting? Did those two offensive coaches not fit with offensive coordinator Greg Davis? Davis wasted little time upon his arrival here noting Iowa’s receivers didn’t exactly have Texas Longhorns-type speed.
So enter a receivers coach named Bobby Kennedy who was on the Texas staff for seven years when Davis was the OC there. Coaching staffs are often assembled as much on familiarity and compatibility as anything else.
But Iowa also added running backs/special teams coach Chris White, who Ferentz said he hadn’t met until Tuesday. By the way, this program may need a sharp special teams overseer more than anything, and White has beaucoup experience in that department. He has never been a running backs coach.
Here’s what was obvious last November: You go 4-8 and drop your final six Big Ten games, you don’t ride the status quo all the way into the next season. Since you almost never fire or demote coordinators who have only had that job for one season, you look elsewhere. Because some things aren’t working.
Illinois, entering Tim Beckman’s second season as head coach, will have five new assistant coaches in 2013. Four of Beckman’s 2012 guys left for other jobs.
Oklahoma, which has had Bob Stoops as head coach for a few days longer than Ferentz has been in that role at Iowa, has changed five assistants over the last two offseasons. The Sooners went 10-3 in both 2011 and 2012. Since neither season produced a Big 12 title or BCS bowl, neither was regarded as a success.
One of the coaches Stoops recently dismissed was Bruce Kittle. Stoops and Kittle are friends of three decades. They were roommates when they played at Iowa.
In down times, head coaches make changes. Because none of them can survive if 4-8 becomes the status quo.