IOWA CITY, Iowa – This coming Monday will be Kirk Ferentz’s 61st birthday.
Win or lose, retirement is coming sooner than later for Ferentz.
It’s a relevant topic at this stage in his career, but not one that Ferentz is thrilled to discuss.
And why should he be?
Ferentz appears to be in good health and has built enough job security to leave on his terms.
He has 13 starters returning from a team that finished 12-2 last season, highlighted by 2015 Jim Thorpe Award winner Desmond King and all-Big Ten quarterback C.J. Beathard.
He has new facilities to help with the daily operations and with recruiting.
And he has the full support of Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta, who told reporters at Big Ten Media Day on Tuesday that he was working on what Barta described as a life-time contract that would take Ferentz into retirement.
“I hope it’s a long contract,” Ferentz said Tuesday after being told about Barta’s comments. “I hope it’s not two years.”
“I think as you might have figured out by now, it’s been one of my goals to remain at Iowa. I love coaching there and the university has been great to not only myself, but to our entire family. So that would be our goal certainly.”
Ferentz treats retirement sort of like the ninth or 10th game on an upcoming schedule. He is too busy living in the present and trying to get better on a daily basis to worry about stuff that has no immediate impact.
“I get a little nervous with that r-word,” Ferentz said in reference to retire. “So that’s way down the road, hopefully.
“But it’s just been a lot of fun to coach there and we’re really excited about what’s in front of us right now.”
Ferentz said he occasionally thinks about his life after football, but in no great detail. He and his wife Mary have five children and also are grandparents.
Ferentz assumes he will know when to step down because the forces around him will let him know when it’s time.
“My guess, one or two things, whenever that time comes I read about people that they say you just feel it in whatever profession you might be in,” Ferentz said. “I’m lucky. I’m in a profession, too, where other people are willing to tell you it might be time outside of your wife.
“So, we’ll deal with that whenever it comes. But I think that’s down the road a little bit, hopefully.”
Ferentz’s current contract expires in Jan. 2020, shortly after the 2019 season.
Neither he nor Barta have seemed in a rush to finalize a deal, and they shouldn’t have to be under the circumstances.
“The advantage in this case is we know each other well, he knows the University of Iowa and I know him,” Barta said. “We have a great contract right now. We’re just trying to continue to look into the future.”
Barta told reporters on Tuesday that Ferentz’s new contract would be more than just a one-year rollover.
That seems fair, considering Barta is negotiating with one of the greatest coaches in the history of the Iowa football program who is coming off a 12-win season.
A three or four-year extension at the most with a competitive raise, numerous incentives and a buyout that isn’t nearly as one-sided as the current one is for Ferentz would seem fair and reasonable.
Depending on when the contract would be finalized, Ferentz would have either six or seven years on the new deal.
It would be long enough that opponents couldn’t use it to scare recruits away from Iowa, but also short enough to where the university would have some leverage should things unravel.
I can’t think of any reason why a head coach would need more than seven years on a contract to do his or her job effectively. And that includes Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Geno Auriemma.
Seven years is almost the equal of two college playing careers.
Ferentz’s current contract has an annual salary of approximately $4 million and started as a 10-year deal. It was completed shortly after the Hawkeyes finished 11-2 in 2009.
Iowa was riding high at the time, so most fans didn’t pay attention to the length of Ferentz’s contract or question it.
But that changed when the Hawkeyes started to struggle. Fans used Ferentz’s contract against him, saying he was being over paid, that it was too one-sided and had too many years.
The same thing would happen perhaps as soon as this coming season should Iowa fail to meet expectations.
It was only a year ago that some fans wanted Ferentz to step down. They weren’t being fair or reasonable in my opinion, but they didn’t care.
Ferentz’s critics were tired of being mediocre in football and it took a historical season to silence them.
The goal with Ferentz’s next contract should be to satisfy him and his agent, but not to the point where critics would use it against Ferentz at the first sign of trouble.