Ferentz contract completes fast turnaround

February, 12, 2009
2/12/09
2:34
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Few men have traveled the route from "coach on the hot seat" to "hot coach" faster than Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, who today received a new seven-year contract through 2015.

 
  Mark Cunningham/Getty Images
  Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has a new contract that takes him through the 2015 season.

And few men have handled both positions better. 

Think back to the spring and summer, when Ferentz had to defend himself and his program following a flurry of player arrests. The most serious incident, an alleged sexual assault involving two former Hawkeyes players, prompted accusations of a cover-up by the football program and a second investigation into Iowa's handling of the situation. This was all coming off three subpar seasons after the glory years of 2002-04.

The negative sentiment around the program continued up until preseason camp. But the unflappable Ferentz addressed the problems calmly and urged everyone to wait and see what would happen in the fall. 

"The fact of the matter is we've gone through a period where we've had an inordinate amount of problems," Ferentz told me on Big Ten media day in Chicago. "It's never been acceptable in our program, never will be. ... The couple things I would ask. I would hope people would give this team, the 2008 team, a chance to establish their own identity and judge them on their actions."

Five games into the season, Ferentz had to address his job status after Iowa started 3-2. Another loss brought increased criticism on his assistants, particularly offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe. Then Ferentz's son, James, a freshman offensive lineman for the Hawkeyes, was suspended after being cited by police for alcohol possession.

But things turned around for Ferentz, both on and off the field, in mid-October as Iowa won five of its final six games, including an upset of No. 3 Penn State on Nov. 8. Ferentz hired Chigozie Ejiasi as the team's director of player development, and the off-field incidents involving players seemed to decline. 

The Hawkeyes' turnaround earned them an invitation to the Outback Bowl, the program's fifth January bowl under Ferentz. 

Suddenly, Ferentz was in familiar territory: Lauded for his coaching ability, rumored for NFL head coaching jobs with the Browns and Chiefs. 

And once again, Ferentz handled his position well.

He never campaigned for an NFL job and reiterated that he was happy at Iowa and wanted to stay. He never asked for a new contract. Still, his close friendship with new Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli sparked rumors he could be departing.

Sometimes, that's all the leverage you need. Ferentz and athletic director Gary Barta started discussing his contract in January, and boom, here it is.

Ferentz makes a ton of money (the new contract doesn't change his salary), returns a team that should rank in the preseason top 20 and boasts the kind of job security most of his colleagues can only dream about. He might jump to the NFL eventually, but he's in a pretty good spot right now, and he knows it.  

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