On Sept. 2, 2010, Iowa announced it had extended head coach Kirk Ferentz for the entirety of a decade that had just started, through the 2020 season. “I’ve said publicly, and privately to Kirk, that it would be my goal to have him retire at Iowa,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said at the time. “This contract is a statement supporting that commitment.”
Before going any further, let’s first put ourselves back in that place and time. And at the time, Iowa football was humming along quite nicely. The Hawkeyes were fresh off an 11-2 season in 2009, a year in which they won the Orange Bowl and earned a No. 7 final ranking in both polls. Ferentz, 55 at the time, had led Iowa to four double-digit win seasons and four top-10 finishes in the previous eight years. The Hawkeyes had won nine games or more five times in that span and only missed the postseason once. From 2002 to 2009, the only Big Ten program more successful than Ferentz’s Hawkeyes was Ohio State.
And, at the time, there was no thought Iowa’s success would not continue. Iowa entered the year ranked ninth by the Associated Press, trailing only Ohio State in the Big Ten. But the Hawkeyes went only 8-5 in 2010, the first of a new trend in which the program teetered on either side of mediocrity. Since then, Iowa has suffered only one losing season (2012), but it hasn’t won more than eight games or recorded a top-25 finish, either. As Scott Dochterman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette points out, since Iowa offered Ferentz a contract that would pay him $3.65 million a year through the next decade, and still leave $9 million guaranteed on the table after the 2015 season, the Hawkeyes are 34-30 overall, 29-30 against the FBS and 19-21 in Big Ten play.
Still, Barta told the paper he doesn’t regret offering Ferentz the deal.
“Kirk was still being sought after, by both professional teams and by a particular collegiate team at the time,” he said said. “I never have and may never again give a coach a 10-year contract, but it wasn’t just about winning. It was the way he went about his business. The graduation rates, the approach to his students in life, creating them to be future leaders and, yes, the winning. All of that combined.
“He already had a great contract structure that was put together by (former athletics director) Bob Bowlsby. There came a point where he and I had great discussions and I said, ‘There’s going to be other people across the country who can pay you more money. I’ve put everything on the table but one of the things I’m willing to provide because of your longevity so far, the way you carry yourself, your great fit at Iowa, is a 10-year contract.’ I don’t regret it at all.”