CHICAGO – Maybe the best word to describe the Iowa football team’s presence at the 2015 Big Ten meetings would be irrelevant.
Nobody outside of the Iowa media seems to care much about the Hawkeyes unless they’re talking about last season’s quarterback controversy that sent Jake Rudock packing to Michigan or about Kirk Ferentz’s job security.
Three of the first four questions that were asked to Ferentz at the podium on Thursday dealt with his quarterback situation.
Ferentz answered the questions as you would expect him to answer them in a public setting. He was courteous, but he didn’t say much because it’s an awkward situation.
“It’s like any player in our program,” Ferentz said. “I think any coach wants what’s best for the individual.
“That was Jake’s decision all the way. And, certainly, we did all we could to cooperate and help him with whatever path he chose to take.”
Iowa was represented by three players at Thursday’s annual media event – senior center Austin Blythe, senior defensive end Drew Ott and senior free safety Jordan Lomax. All three players assumed they would be asked about the quarterback controversy, and about new starting quarterback C.J. Beathard, and they were right.
“Fifty-fifty,” Lomax said when asked if he had answered more questions about himself or about Iowa’s quarterback situation. “Definitely, I was expecting that.”
Blythe dealt with questions about the quarterbacks from more than just the media.
“I’ve gotten that a few times, not even from media people, just from fans or friends,” Blythe said.
One of the harsh realities about Iowa football is that nobody outside of its own fans and media seem to care much about the Hawkeyes unless they’re winning big or creating controversy.
That’s also the case with Illinois, which is dealing with allegations of player abuse involving head coach Tim Beckman. Nobody cares that Illinois played in a bowl game last season, not when the head coach is accused of abusing his players.
It had to be rough on the three Illinois players who attended this year’s event because they spent most of their time on Thursday answering questions about the allegations against Beckman.
That’s why Beathard should be grateful that Ferentz kept him home because Beathard probably would’ve been asked more about his competition with Rudock last season than about the upcoming season.
The only way for Iowa to become relevant again is to win and win big. Seven or eight victories won’t cut it under the current circumstances because the Hawkeyes have done that before under Ferentz, including in each of the past two seasons when Iowa won seven and eight games, respectively.
It’s always a neat story when Iowa has success, because as a developmental program, it takes on that little-engine-that-could mentality.
But when the Hawkeyes struggle, the attention quickly fades. And that’s what is happening now.
Ferentz, who turns 60 years old on Saturday, is the dean of Big Ten coaches by a long shot, so his story has been told over and over. I’m not suggesting that he is old news, but there isn’t much left to say about a coach who is entering his 17th season for a program that has combined to finish 34-30 over the last five seasons, including 19-21 in Big Ten games. Ferentz was surrounded by about a dozen reporters while answering questions at a round table on Thursday. So it wasn’t as if he was being ignored, although, most of the reporters were from Iowa.
Ferentz said Thursday that he takes some of the criticism personally because he cares about his job. For him, and for Hawkeye fans, there is nothing bigger than Iowa football.
Unfortunately, at this event, Iowa is mostly a sidebar.
That’s the price you pay for being mediocre for too long.