Fast forward to January 1, 2021. The Hawkeyes squeak past an improving Tennessee team in the Outback Bowl to wrap up another 9-4 season. As the press scribes ask Ferentz about the latest bowl triumph (and the ghost of the 2015 Hawk Slayer meltdown), he preempts the wags with a bombshell announcement.
“I am retiring—effective immediately.”
Ferentz then thanks Hawkeye Nation for two plus decades of loyalty--and, ever the politician, states that he has “total confidence” in Gary Barta. When Marc Morehouse inquires about potential replacements, Ferentz deflects--stating that he “knows a number of coaches that would be capable replacements.”
Following Ferentz’s stunning announcement, scribes flock to Gary Barta (or the ghost of Gary Barta). In a surprise to no one, Barta’s PR assistant instructs reporters that “Gary is not available for comment.” Of course, Gary is later seen standing inside the locker room tunnel flanked by a security guard. He offers a terse “no comment” when a waiting Go Iowa Awesome reporter spots him at his preferred tunnel hideout.
While Gary isn’t talking about the head coaching search, I am--and, of course, would be happy to offer unsolicited advice to our esteemed athletic director (for starters, keep a record of your employees’ performance; it might save the university--give or take--$6.5 million).
Gary, enough about that pesky lawsuit; it's only athletic department coffers right? Let’s get down to head coaching business--your first call for the Hawkeye opening has to be Bob Stoops. As we know, Big Game Bob engineered an impressive turnaround at OU. How impressive? Before Stoops ascended to OU headman, the Sooners wallowed in Illinois-like mediocrity. The five season before Stoops took over in Norman: 6-6, 5-5-1, 3-8, 4-8, and 5-6.
More than just rebuilding OU, Stoops transformed the program into a Big 12 and national powerhouse. His teams claimed 10 (yes, 10) Big 12 titles. In six out of his last seven seasons, Stoops won ten or more games. In fact, his final two teams ranked in the top five. Under Stoops, OU has been the Big 12 standard bearer--essentially the conference’s Ohio State (without the Urban Meyer baggage).
Look, I can somewhat understand your trepidation about Stoops. He would be 60 and will likely only coach the Hawkeyes for another five or so years. He hasn’t recruited the Upper Midwest. And there is the Joe Mixon fiasco (cover your eyes if you watch the video), which Stoops admittedly mishandled. To Stoops’ credit, he acknowledged his complicity--and that, in hindsight, he should have booted Mixon.
Gary—acknowledging these concerns, we still have an opportunity to hire one of the sports’ preeminent coaches. In terms of age, Stoops will be a young 60 (for the record, Nick Saban is 67) and should be recharged after his time away from college football’s grind. As for recruiting, Stoops and OU developed a national brand--one that transcends Iowa’s regional footprint. Furthermore, Stoops can rebuild the once fertile Texas pipeline; he successfully mined the Lone Star state for talent (Adrian Peterson, Baker Mayfield) during his OU tenure.
The Joe Mixon situation, of course, is more complicated. It is the most notable faux pas on an otherwise sterling resume. You can expect tough questions--and rightfully so--if you hire Stoops. My recommendation to you and Bob: be transparent, accept responsibility, and outline protocol if/when a similar situation arises. And, please, don’t play hide and seek with the local media--reserve the Per-Mar security guards for the next court storming (and not for your personal security detail).
I understand Kirk is advocating for his son--and there is a wink-wink agreement that Brian will be the “coach in waiting.” Undoubtedly, Brian has the ability to be a successful coach but this article offers real, legitimate concerns about Brian’s immediate ascension to the Hawkeye throne. There is no (resume) comparison between Stoops’ 18 years of head coaching experience and Brian’s four years as Hawkeye offensive coordinator. There just isn’t.
Rarely do you get a second chance to make a first impression (and a second chance to nab a coach with Bob Stoops’ pedigree). Let’s not fumble the handoff—or phone call—to the next great Hawkeye head coach.