As a Central Michigan field goal sailed through the uprights to hand Iowa a 32-31 loss, the internet lit up with chatter of Kirk Ferentz’s contract. The Hawkeye head coach is paid $3.675 million annually to 2020, a hefty chunk change — not money taxpayers foot the bill for, as some might egregiously assert. The Iowa athletic department is among the list of the self-sufficient.
Regardless, is Ferentz worth the money? Athletic director Gary Barta believes so, hence the lofty vote of confidence. But Ferentz is the fifth highest paid coach in all college football, and the only among the six wealthiest without a national championship. His company includes Nick Saban, Mack Brown, Bob Stoops, Les Miles and Gene Chizik.
Iowa has been consistent, missing the postseason only once in the past decade. That run of bowl games includes two Orange Bowls. But consider the rest of the aforementioned coaches save Chizik have veritable fast passes to the BCS, and his track record becomes much less impressive.
So should Iowa consider firing a consistently winning coach because of the contract it gave him?
Fan expectations are increasingly stringent. Virtually every football Saturday is littered with bellows of “fire Coach ___.” I’m still exasperated by the existence of a Fire Coach Chris Ault website, the architect of Nevada and really only winning leader in the program’s history. Such sentiments could be easily brushed off as the irrationality of win-hungry zealots, were athletic departments not showing impatience for their coaches mirroring spectator sentiment.
Joker Phillips is all but done as Kentucky’s head coach, barring a miraculous Wildcat run through the latter half of the schedule. Quarterback Maxwell Smith was absent for Kentucky’s tilt against Florida, a program no UK coach has been able to beat since Ronald Reagan was president. The Gators exploited Morgan Newton’s inability to find his targets and pounded the Wildcats into submission. Add to last week’s loss against Western Kentucky, and Joker’s days are numbered.
Phillips has been UK’s head coach fewer than three seasons. There used to exist a school of thought that coaches were afforded the duration of a signing class before being evaluated for the chopping block. But as contracts swell and demand for wins expands with them, patience is almost non-existent.
Take Turner Gill, whose tenure at Kansas ended in just two seasons. Kansas began to sputter at the end of Mark Mangino’s largely (no pun intended) successful run, and bottomed out under Gill. But was Gill at fault for the program’s woes, or merely in the wrong place at the wrong time as the Big 12 enjoyed unparalleled success at programs like Oklahoma State and Baylor?
Gill had two seasons of extraordinary on-field against him. Al Golden has been the head coach of Miami for all of 16 games, the 16th of which is ongoing as I type this. The Hurricanes were a modest 6-6 in Golden’s debut season, 2-1 presently and embroiled in an overtime clash with Georgia Tech that should they win, will elevate them to 2-0 in the ACC.
Miami is a university in a mess that predated Golden. A program facing the uncertain future ahead of Miami is lucky to have a coach committed as Golden is, exhibited in his signing of a contract extension. Now, Google “Fire Al Golden” and marvel at the vitriol.
Even coaches with success are feeling the heat. Aforementioned Gene Chizik has not been free from scrutiny less than two years removed from winning a BCS championship, suggesting that the consternation shown Ferentz might still exist even if one of those Orange Bowl teams were good for one win more and a crystal ball.