IOWA CITY — You knew things were different in a bad way for Iowa football when Kirk Ferentz fired two assistant coaches after last season.
“Continuity” and “college football coaching staffs” are seldom terms that share sentences, yet Iowa’s coaching roster had done nothing to keep U-Haul in business. But after 2011, defensive coordinator Norm Parker retired, offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe went to the Miami Dolphins, and defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski switched from Iowa to Nebraska.
That was a lot of change to digest for Iowa, and the digestive system was taxed further by the Hawkeyes’ 4-8 season in 2012. Then came more change, this time mostly Ferentz-induced. Defensive backs coach Darrell Wilson left for Rutgers. Receivers coach Erik Campbell and running backs coach Lester Erb were dismissed.
So Ferentz hired three different coaches for the second-straight year. One was receivers coach Bobby Kennedy, who was at Colorado when the entire staff was dismissed after last season. Another was someone who had gotten fired as Virginia’s defensive coordinator in a four-coach purge by head coach Mike London after the Cavaliers went … 4-8.
“I was at Virginia for three years and then I was fired,” Jim Reid said at Iowa’s Media Day Thursday. It was the first time he’d been fired, and he has a resume as long as a linebacker’s wingspan. He has worked at eight different schools and an NFL franchise over the last 40 years.
“It was a little surprising,” he said. “I don’t know what really happened. I’d never make anything hard for anybody, so I just went ahead and packed up.
“I had a couple of opportunities. Honestly, I had some great opportunities. But you have the chance to work with Coach Ferentz, I think it’s something you absolutely have to do. He has all the qualities I love that I believe the game teaches.”
You’ve heard that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Well, the Hawkeyes think they’ve found treasure in Reid.
“He knows the game,” Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “He makes it easier for me to play to the best of my ability.”
Reid and LeVar Woods share the linebackers coach duties. Reid is 62, Woods is 35. Woods is a large man who played linebacker in the NFL for seven seasons. Reid? “We have to tie him down so he doesn’t blow away,” said Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker.
But the early returns are that they are meshing well, given the comments of both Thursday.
“Coach Reid is awesome,” Woods said. “His style reminds me of Norm Parker in that he’s a very, very smart guy and a very experienced guy as well.
“It’s really fun to be with LeVar,” said Reid. “He’s really transitioned me here, from the linebackers’ room to the university itself. I tell players he is what you can be like, a great player, a great student, and he was in the NFL for seven years.”
At Iowa’s final spring practice in April, Reid was unafraid to make his voice heard. But while fiery at times, he didn’t have the flame turned all the way up. It seemed that when he had something to say, his new charges listened.
This is someone who was a I-AA head coach over 17 seasons at Massachusetts, Richmond, and VMI. That’s the same number of years Ferentz is in his 18th year as a head coach.
Reid had planned to stay longer at VMI, but in 2008 he became the outside linebackers coach for the Dolphins.
“To have the chance to go to the NFL was almost like your doctorate degree, like the terminal degree of your profession,” he said. “I couldn’t resist that, and I’m glad I didn’t.”
Now he’s a former college head coach, major-college coordinator and NFL assistant who is a linebackers coach here. And he sounds pretty happy about it.
“Any aspiration other than to be the best father, the best son, the best football coach, the best mentor that I possibly could be,” he said, “I leave it at the door.”