Report: Iowa reaches to its past to hire Ladell Betts as new running back coach
Hiring Betts makes sense under the circumstances
By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – My first reaction upon learning that Iowa football is expected to hire Ladell Betts as its new running backs coach is that I like it.
I like it a lot; who he is, what he stands for, and the message it sends.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has to send the right message in the wake of multiple former Iowa black players having accused the program of racial disparities and bullying this past summer.
Ferentz has to reconnect with the former players who still are upset and resent what has happened, and hiring Betts should help since he is a beloved former Hawkeye. Betts should help to bridge whatever gap that was caused by the accusations.
Betts isn’t just a former Hawkeye, he is Iowa’s second all-time leading rusher with 3,686 yards and 25 touchdowns.
He also helped lay the foundation under Kirk Ferentz, playing his sophomore, junior and senior seasons under Ferentz after having been recruited to Iowa by Hayden Fry, and playing his redshirt freshman season under Fry in 1998.
Betts gained some of the hardest yards I’ve seen a Hawkeye running back earn while playing behind undersized and inexperienced offensive lines in 1999 and 2000. But he still surpassed 1,000 rushing yards in 2000 and had over 1,000 yards again in 2001 when Iowa had its breakthrough season under Kirk Ferentz, finishing 7-5 overall.
Betts then played nine seasons in the NFL, including his first eight seasons with the Washington Redskins, and rushed for 3,326 yards and scored 15 touchdowns.
Betts has played at the highest level, and he’s a former Hawkeye great, giving him instant credibility with the current Iowa players, and on the recruiting trail.
Pete Thamel from Yahoo Sports broke the news about Iowa hiring Betts Saturday afternoon. Thamel also broke the news about two weeks ago that Iowa is expected to hire current Tulane offensive line coach George Barnett to coach the Iowa offensive line.
Iowa has yet to confirm either hire, but that’s not unusual because coaching hires at the collegiate level take time to become official.
A native of Blue Springs, Mo., Betts was one of the last big-time recruits that Fry landed at Iowa.
Betts was redshirted as a true freshman in 1997, and then he led a 3-8 Iowa team in rushing in 1998 with 679 hard-earned yards.
Fry then retired shortly after the 1998 season, and Kirk Ferentz faced a major rebuilding job when he was picked as Fry’s successor.
Ferentz had coached the Iowa offensive line under Fry at Iowa from 1981-89, so Ferentz was familiar with the Hawkeye tradition, culture and terrain when he returned as head coach nearly a decade later.
That doesn’t always lead to success, but it did in Kirk Ferentz’s case, and maybe it’ll be the same with Betts, who will replace Derrick Foster as the Iowa running backs coach.
Foster recently resigned to become the running backs coach for the Los Angeles Chargers, while Tim Polasek also recently resigned as the Iowa offensive line coach to become the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Wyoming.
The 41-year old Betts is currently the head coach at Pine Crest High School in Fort Lauderdale. Fla. But what he might lack in college coaching experience, he more than makes up for with his credibility, and with his Hawkeye roots.
I remember Betts as being very humble and soft spoken in college.
His durability, toughness and determination all stood out as a Hawkeye.
So at least on the surface, this appears to be a good hire.
And welcome back Ladell Betts.