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Thursday, April 5, 2012
Ferentz family lines up this spring at Iowa

By Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Reporters and fans aren't the only ones who struggle to squeeze information out of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.

Ferentz's son, James, a senior center for the Hawkeyes, didn't fare much better this past winter.

When Iowa announced in early February that offensive line coach Reese Morgan would move to the defensive line, speculation immediately increased that Brian Ferentz, Kirk's oldest son and James' big brother, would return to his alma mater and coach the offensive front. James Ferentz heard the rumors, too. So he did some recon.

"I was trying to squeeze some information out of my mom, but she wasn't talking," James told ESPN.com. "Obviously, neither was my dad. He wasn't going to crack at all, so I knew my best chance was going to my mom. And when she wasn't talking, I knew I wasn't going to get any information."

James Ferentz
James Ferentz provides Iowa with stability at center, having started the past 26 games.
James didn't discuss the situation with Brian, not wanting to put his brother "in an awkward position." But when their mother, Mary, clammed up about the situation, James knew there was a decent chance his brother would be leaving his post with the New England Patriots to return to Iowa City.

James ended up getting the scoop, but only a day before Kirk informed the rest of the team.

"I was really excited to finally hear the news," James said. "It's going to be good for Iowa football and selfishly good for me."

It's not unusual to see FBS coaches having their sons on the roster. Ferentz has coached his two oldest sons and his youngest, Steven, might walk on at Iowa.

There are also examples of coaches hiring their sons as assistants, like Frank and Shane Beamer at Virginia Tech or Steve Spurrier Sr. and Steve Spurrier Jr. at South Carolina.

But for a head coach to have one son on staff and another on the roster -- and to have the older son directly coaching his younger brother -- is unique. Brian played guard and center for the Hawkeyes. Kirk coached Iowa's offensive line from 1981-89.

"It's been great on two fronts," Kirk Ferentz told ESPN.com. "On a personal level, it's been interesting and neat, not something I ever envisioned happening. So that worked out beautifully. But more importantly, he's doing a competent job, and that's what we brought him here for, to do a good job coaching the line.

"He's off to a great start."

Brian's hiring has been scrutinized because of his relationship to his boss. The University of Iowa has a policy against nepotism that states familial relationships should be avoided whenever possible during the hiring process. According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, Iowa considered more than 100 candidates for two assistant positions before hiring Brian Ferentz and promoting LeVar Woods to linebackers coach.

From the AP report:
Athletic director Gary Barta has said it was his decision to hire Brian Ferentz, he will act as his supervisor and that Kirk Ferentz recused himself from the interview process. The claim was undercut earlier this month when Brian Ferentz said he had spoken about the job with his dad and took it because "you can't say no to your father."
The documents released Friday do not mention the relationship between Ferentz and his son, or any special steps taken during the hiring process. In fact, they show Kirk Ferentz was a member of the search committee for both positions along with other assistants and athletic department officials. A department spokesman had no immediate comment Friday, and university spokesman Tom Moore said the school had "followed its policies throughout this process."

Asked about the response, Kirk Ferentz said, "Not surprised, especially in Iowa, you kidding me? Anything that happens, you have to consider it to be news."

Ferentz noted how Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands hired his twin brother, Terry, as associate head coach.

"That was a pretty good thing for the wrestling program," he said. "I wouldn't have brought Brian back here if I didn't think it would be a good thing for our program. That was the first priority."

James hasn't struggled to view Brian as a coach, first and foremost. He has been impressed by Brian's knowledge and his ability to connect with each offensive lineman.

"I don't if he's harder on me than most guys," James said, smiling. "He's probably a little quicker to point out my mistakes, but I make plenty of them, so I leave the door open a lot."

Iowa is young up front. While Ferentz has started the past 26 games at center, left guard Matt Tobin is the only other lineman with significant starting experience.

Ferentz sees the need for the line to prove itself and come together. He's excited to do so with his older brother and father calling the shots.

"If you can't appreciate the uniqueness and the incredible opportunity," he said, "I think I'd be missing out on a lot. I'm really fortunate to be in this position."