By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – According to Athlon Sports, Kirk Ferentz is the eighth best head football coach in the Big Ten Conference.
Maybe I’m just a homer, but that seems too low for the dean of Big Ten coaches who is coming off a three-year stretch in which his teams have combined to win 28 games.
Combine Ferentz’s recent success with his long-term success, which includes two Big Ten titles, eight or more wins in 10 seasons since 2002 and 15 bowl games since 2001, and it’s hard to believe there are seven coaches in the Big Ten who deserve a higher ranking than Ferentz.
No disrespect to Nebraska’s Scott Frost, but he hasn’t even coached in a Big Ten game yet, but still is ranked one spot ahead of Ferentz.
Frost worked wonders as the head coach at Central Florida, but he still hasn’t worked the sideline during a Big Ten game yet.
Nebraska fans seem convinced that Frost is their savior, and that it’s only a matter of time before the Cornhuskers will be elite again.
That could certainly happen, but it hasn’t yet.
Should Frost restore Nebraska to dominance, then he would deserve to be ranked ahead of Ferentz and ahead of every other coach in the conference.
The 62-year old Ferentz is easy to take for granted because he’s been the Iowa head coach since 1999, because he isn’t flashy or addicted to the spotlight and because his teams struggle every now and then.
But the good still far outweighs the bad with Kirk Ferentz.
He averages nearly eight wins per season, his players graduate at a high rate and a lot of them also move on to the NFL.
Iowa has had 66 players selected in the NFL Draft under Ferentz, including 16 in either the first or second rounds.
A case could be made for Ferentz being ranked ahead of every coach in the Big Ten except for Urban Meyer, Mark Dantonio, James Franklin and Paul Chryst.
Wisconsin fans also have a gripe with Chryst only being ranked sixth on the list.
Chryst doesn’t get near the credit he deserves for sustaining Wisconsin’s dominance in football. There is a perception that Wisconsin Athletic Director and former head coach Barry Alvarez still micro-manages the football program.
And while there might be some truth to that, the soft-spoken Chryst still deserves credit for leading Wisconsin to 34 victories and to two Big Ten West Division titles in his three seasons as head coach.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is ranked fourth on the list despite being a combined 1-5 against Ohio State and Michigan State and 0-1 against Iowa.
The Wolverines are also coming off an 8-5 season, which used to be unacceptable at Michigan until Harbaugh returned to his alma mater. Harbaugh seems to have lowered the standard at Michigan because fans are convinced due to his popularity as a former Michigan quarterback and due to his previous success at Stanford and with the San Francisco 49ers that he ultimately will get the job done.
Harbaugh obviously can coach because you don’t lead a team to the Super Bowl or win 12 games at Stanford by accident.
But to rank Harbaugh fourth on the list has to be based more on his reputation and on his previous success than on his performance at Michigan.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is also ranked ahead of Ferentz at No. 5 on the list. I don’t have a big problem with that because you could argue that Fitzgerald does the best job in the conference of developing lightly recruited players, even better than Ferentz does.
Fitzgerald also has to deal with tougher academic standards, so his ranking seems fair.
I was surprised that Ferentz didn’t make the top five on the list, but as I mentioned previously, that could be the Hawkeye homer in me over-reacting.
Ferentz probably wouldn’t have a reaction to the list, except for maybe one of his famous snorts. Or he might joke about being ranked too high because Ferentz thrives on self-deprecation.
But the real joke is Ferentz being ranked eighth on the list.
Big Ten head football coaches as ranked by Athlon Sports
1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
2. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
3. James Franklin, Penn State
4. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
5. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
6. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
7. Scott Frost, Nebraska
8. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
9. Jeff Brohm, Purdue
10. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota
11. D.J. Durkin, Maryland
12. Chris Ash, Rutgers
13. Tom Allen, Indiana
14. Lovie Smith, Illinois