IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The son of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz beat out 100 other applicants for a position on his father's staff and was given a salary $15,000 higher than a second assistant coach hired at the same time, according to documents released Friday.
Brian Ferentz was given a starting annual salary of $202,400 when he was hired away from the New England Patriots in February, placing the 28-year-old's compensation in the top half for offensive line coaches in the Big Ten, according to hiring documents released in response to an open records request by The Associated Press. The other assistant hired at the same time, linebackers coach LeVar Woods, will earn $187,000.
Despite Brian Ferentz's obvious qualifications, the hiring has come under scrutiny because of the father-son relationship. A university policy meant to ban nepotism says familial relationships should be avoided whenever possible, and must be strictly managed to avoid even the appearance of favoritism.
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."
University officials justified giving Brian Ferentz a higher salary because he had more coaching experience than Woods, an administrative assistant with the team who coached as an interim assistant in two seasons. Brian Ferentz had been with the Patriots four years, coaching the tight ends last season, which ended in a loss at the Super Bowl. Hiring documents say his talent was in high demand.
"Mr. Ferentz's abilities are recognized through the rapidly escalating competition for his coaching services by a competing Big Ten Conference football program as well as NFL clubs," according to a Feb. 11 memo sent by director of football operations Paul Federici on behalf of Kirk Ferentz and Barta.
Federici sent the memo to the university's Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity summarizing the search for the assistant jobs. He said team officials reviewed 102 applications and requested permission to interview four -- Ferentz, Woods and two others whose names were redacted from the records.
A Feb. 16 memo to human resources from Federici and Barta praised Brian Ferentz's experience in the NFL, his background playing for Iowa between 2002 and 2005, and his "beliefs in academic, athletic and citizenship achievement."
"Feedback from the search committee was that applicant Ferentz would transition smoothly and be a successful addition to the existing staff based upon his sincere interest to contribute to the student athletes' success," the memo said.
The university refused to release the names and resumes of the applicants. The school cited an exemption to Iowa's public records law that allows agencies to withhold communications with people outside of government if their public disclosure would discourage future interactions. The school's response did not address another provision that says job applicants' information can be made public with their consent.
Leaders of a university oversight committee and the university administration have said all proper procedures were followed.