IOWA CITY, Iowa – It’s obvious now that Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz never will change, but in this case, I mean that as a compliment.
This column isn’t about whether you think Ferentz, who turned 60 years old on Aug. 1, is too stubborn to evolve with the times, but rather a reminder that Ferentz is a perfect fit for his job in some respects.
He might not always win enough games. He has a bad habit of losing to Iowa State. And his offense has a tendency to move sideways.
But you’ll also never see Ferentz bring shame to the University of Iowa with his behavior. You can question some of his coaching decisions, but you can’t question his character or his principles because they’re exactly what you need for a leader of young men.
I was reminded of that this week by news involving two other college football coaches.
From USC coach Steve Sarkisian being drunk and using profanity at a team rally to Illinois coach Tim Beckman being fired a week before the season opener amid allegations of manipulating medical decisions and pressuring players to play to hurt, the image of a college head football coach has taken a hit.
In fairness, there are two sides to every story.
Sarkisian said he made the mistake of consuming alcohol after taking pain medication, while Beckman firmly denies the allegations against him and suggested that he might take legal action.
My question to Sarkisian is why mix alcohol and pain medication on a day in which you plan to be with your players at a team function in public? Following a doctor’s order to use pain medication is one thing. But nobody is ordering Sarkisian to consume alcohol at inappropriate times.
He has since issued a public apology and the program has banned alcohol on campus for the coaching staff. Sarkisian also said he was done drinking alcohol for the season.
So maybe this was just a temporary lapse of judgment. You hope so for Sarkisian’s sake and for the sake of his players because they shouldn’t have to deal with distractions caused by their head coach.
As for Beckman’s case, it’s hard to believe a college would take such a drastic measure with the start of the season just days away without having reason to do so.
What can’t be disputed is that both coaches have brought shame and embarrassment to their university with their behavior, or in Beckman’s case, his alleged behavior.
Ferentz, on the other hand, never has jeopardized his reputation or his employer’s reputation with his behavior and he never would.
There is another side of Ferentz that I’m sure is different than what the media sees at press conferences. But in terms of character, Ferentz doesn’t change. I’m confident in saying that what you see publicly is the same behind closed doors.
Ferentz’s critics likely would respond by saying why praise a head coach who is simply being responsible in a high-profile position where being responsible should be expected, along with results?
It’s true that Ferentz wouldn’t have lasted this long as the Iowa coach just by being a man of high integrity. And he probably wouldn’t leave on his terms without winning a certain amount of games from this point on.
All I’m saying is with Ferentz running the show, Iowa fans can be assured that winning at all costs won’t take priority over making the right decisions.
Ferentz might frustrate fans with some of his in-game decisions, but he’ll never embarrass them with his personal conduct. That has to mean something.