IOWA CITY, Iowa – You know it’s the dog days of summer when the biggest story concerning Iowa athletics is Kirk Ferentz bailing on the Johnson County I-Club Breakfast.
But it’s a story nonetheless that could come back to haunt Ferentz if he doesn’t right the ship this fall.
If the Iowa football team wins at least eight or nine games, it won’t matter to most fans that Ferentz ended a long-standing tradition of being the keynote speaker for the Johnson County I-Club Breakfast.
Those who have personal ties to the event still would be hurt and disappointed by Ferentz’s decision. But it wouldn’t matter if Iowa has a successful season because winning takes priority over everything.
No disrespect to the breakfast, but if Ferentz believes that freeing up those two hours on seven Friday mornings in order to have a walk-through practice is needed to make Iowa better, then you have to let him do it.
Entering his 17th season as head coach, and with his program mired in mediocrity, Ferentz has used up all his good will at this point. His only means for survival is to win ASAP.
Ferentz’s critics will see it as desperation by a coach whose better days are behind him. And they’ll hold it against Ferentz if Iowa struggles this fall.
It’s hard to pick a side in this debate because both have strong arguments.
Those associated with the Johnson County I-Club Breakfast – at least the ones I’ve spoken to – won’t go as far as to say they feel betrayed by Ferentz bailing on their beloved event. But that’s exactly how they describe it.
They don’t understand why Ferentz wants to severe ties after all these years. It hurts them to think that their event isn’t worth two hours of Ferentz’s time on the Friday morning before each of the seven home games.
It won’t be worth Ferentz’s time if Iowa returns to glory this fall. That’s a big if, though.
Former Iowa coach Hayden Fry made the Johnson County I-Club Breakfast significant by embracing his role as keynote speaker throughout his 20-year reign from 1979-98. Fry had fun with it because the role of keynote speaker fit his outgoing personality.
Ferentz has done his part, too.
For 16 years, he made the Johnson County I-Club Breakfast part of his to-do list and deserves credit for that.
Perhaps we should’ve seen this coming after Ferentz told reporters in January that he needed to spend more time on his coaching responsibilities.
Ferentz couldn’t drop his radio show because of contractual obligations. And imagine the backlash if he stopped meeting with reporters on a weekly basis during the season.
There are some things that a head coach has to do as part of the job. Being the keynote speaker for the Johnson County I-Club Breakfast isn’t one of those things.
The people closely affiliated with the breakfast need to realize that and come up with an alternative plan, which they’re trying to do. I-Club members met on Wednesday to discuss their options.
It would be sad to see the breakfast end because it’s unique to Hawkeye football and serves a purpose. It sort of ushers in the football weekend and helps to get fans excited.
And though it only involves a tiny portion of the fan base, the importance of the breakfast can’t be measured by attendance alone.
I disagree with those who say the breakfast has run its course and that without Ferentz it has no chance of surviving.
It can survive with some creativity and effort.
The challenge now is to create a new format that packs enough entertainment punch so that fans will keep rising before the sun on Friday mornings in the fall. The Johnson I-Club Breakfast opens its doors at 6:30 a.m. and usually draws about 500 fans who pay $10 to attend the event, which includes a buffet, a raffle and featured guests.
I like the idea of having a different keynote speaker for each breakfast. You could choose between former players, former coaches and from celebrities who have ties to the Iowa program.
It might not be easy to get a celebrity like Ashton Kutcher to be the keynote speaker. But it would be worth the effort and the expense because just imagine the response to him.
Having Ferentz as the keynote speaker was convenient for everybody except Ferentz. Life without him will take some getting used to, but the Johnson County I-Club Breakfast is bigger than one person and now has a chance to prove it.