Sunday, July 31, 2005

Book It, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz Has No Interest in Being Governor

Admit it, if Kirk Ferentz wanted to run for a higher

Oh, all right, maybe some of you Cyclone fans don’t agree with that. But stay with me on this.

Right now, Ferentz is enjoying life as Iowa’s football coach, and his teams have won a school-record 38 games over the last four seasons. The Hawkeyes have been especially difficult to beat at home, with 18 straight victories at Kinnick Stadium.

Ferentz has become a fan favorite to the degree of Forest Evashevski, Iowa’s coach from 1952-1960, and Hayden Fry, who brought the Hawkeye program back from the scrap heap from 1979-1998.

That leads to my thought about what kind of game plan Ferentz might have for the future.

It’s not often that a football coach’s name comes up in the same sentence as the word “governor.”

Ferentz and the governor’s office would seem to be an ideal fit.

Until you talk to Ferentz.

Which is what I did.

It started with something George Wine said. Wine is a retired sports information director at Iowa and the man who co-authored the book, “Hayden Fry—A High Porch Picnic” with the former coach.

Wine still keeps his finger on the pulse of Hawkeye athletics.

They used to talk about Forest Evashevski running for governor of the state of Iowa,” Wine said. “Over here [in and around Iowa City], there’s no doubt that Ferentz could run for governor, and probably win overwhelmingly.”

When I told that to Ferentz, he tossed cold water on the thought immediately.

He said, “There are three jobs I definitely don’t want—athletic director, university president and governor. Anything but that. I’m happy being a coach.”

Ferentz told me those things while I was doing research for the second printing of my book, “Tales from the Iowa Sidelines.”

Mike Pearson of my publishing company called one day this past spring with some comments and a question.

“The hard-cover version of your book has been a big seller,” Pearson said. “We’ve either sold, or distributed to bookstores, all or more of the 10,000 copies of the book that were printed. So, with Iowa’s and Kirk Ferentz’s success in recent years, we’d like to publish a soft-cover version of the book, with a 4,000-word addition.

“Are you interested in writing it?”

Pearson’s words were those that every author likes to hear. Anytime the publisher calls to tell you the book has been a best-seller, you’re happy.

“Give me a day to think about it,” I told Pearson.

The next day, I called Pearson and told him I’d write the addition. And, once I got busy with the project, it was fun touching base again with Ferentz, Wine, announcers Gary Dolphin and Bob Brooks and others for the research that was needed.

Ferentz’s on-the-field success and his smoothness with people off the field proves again that Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby made the right decision in hiring him as Fry’s successor.

Of Ferentz, Bowlsby told me, Kirk is “an ideal football coach. He’s very, very thorough. Coaching jobs at places like Iowa aren’t getting any easier. There’s a lot of scrutiny and pressure, but Kirk handles it all in a way that’s first-class.”

Of quarterback Drew Tate, who teamed up with Warren Holloway for a 56-yard scoring pass on the final play of the Capital One Bowl that beat LSU 30-25, Ferentz said, “The next two years could be very special to him. He’s a playmaker. He made some young-player mistakes, but I was impressed with the way he bounced back from those mistakes. That’s a tribute to his mental toughness.”

Said veteran sportscaster Bob Brooks of Cedar Rapids, who has been watching Hawkeye football—including games played by the legendary Nile Kinnick--since the 1930s: “Tate is a Houdini. He’s an escape artist. He wills his way to completing those passes. His legacy will be known when it’s done. Without injury, he’ll be the best Iowa quarterback ever.”

The start of Tate’s junior season isn’t far away. The second printing of “Tales from the Iowa Sidelines” – with the new cover which shows Holloway catching the winning touchdown pass in the Capital One Bowl--is scheduled to be in the stores before the Sept. 3 opener against Ball State.

I’m ready for another big year, and I’m sure Tate and the other Hawkeyes are, too.

Vol. 4, No. 362
July 31, 2005