After withstanding years of criticism about nepotism and a floundering and unimaginative offense, Iowa brought clarity to Brian Ferentz's status on Monday as interim athletic director Beth Goetz announced head coach Kirk Ferentz's son will be out as offensive coordinator after this season.
The Hawkeyes' offense has never been prolific in Brian Ferentz's seven seasons, but the unit has been in a free fall for three years.
The team's 232.2 yards per game this season ranks last in the Football Bowl Subdivision by far and its scoring average of 19.5 points per game is 120th. Since 2021, Iowa has averaged 268 yards per game, last in the FBS, and 20.4 points per game, which ranks 123rd.
“Anyone who loves Iowa football recognizes both the success and challenges that have brought attention to our program this season," Goetz said in a statement. “Our struggles on offense coupled with the offensive coordinator’s contract make this a unique situation.”
Former athletic director Gary Barta restructured Brian Ferentz's contract in February, cutting his salary $50,000, to $850,000, and requiring the Hawkeyes to average 25 points per game over a 13-game season in order to secure his return in 2024.
The so-called “Drive for 325” stands at 156 points through eight games, meaning Iowa would have had to average 33.8 points over its final five games to reach the now-moot mandate.
Goetz said the decision to remove Brian Ferentz was made after her conversations with Kirk and Brian Ferentz and school president Barbara J. Wilson.
“I informed Brian that our intention is for him to be with us through the bowl game, but this is his last season with the program,” Goetz said. “Making this known today is in the best interest of the program and its loyal fans; it provides clarity during this pivotal time in the schedule.”
Goetz is Brian Ferentz's immediate supervisor rather than Kirk Ferentz due to state nepotism laws.
“It is not my practice to be involved in assistant coaching decisions and certainly not to make public such a change during a season,” she said. “Our priority is to put all our student-athletes in the best position to have both short-term and long-term success, on and off the field.”
The Hawkeyes are 6-2 overall and, at 3-2 in Big Ten play, in a four-way tie for first place in the West Division. They play Northwestern at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Saturday.
In a statement to ESPN, Brian Ferentz said, "For the vast majority of my adult life I have had the privilege to represent the University of Iowa as a football player and coach. I have always considered and will always consider it an honor. In that time my singular goal has been to contribute to the football team’s success. As long as I am employed by the University of Iowa my stated goal will not change. My priority will continue to be the well being of our students and the success of our team.”
Brian Ferentz was a defendant in a race discrimination lawsuit brought by a dozen former players in 2020. Ferentz and former strength coach Chris Doyle were accused of making inappropriate comments to Black players and being abusive. Brian was removed as a defendant shortly before Iowa agreed to pay a $4.2 million settlement to the former players.
Since Kirk Ferentz hired Brian as offensive coordinator in 2017, the Hawkeyes have averaged 320.2 yards and 25.3 points per game. The total yards average ranks 131st and the scoring average 100th in the Bowl Subdivision over that span.
Kirk Ferentz has received scathing criticism for retaining his son while the offense has sputtered. There was hope before this season when Cade McNamara transferred from Michigan, but improvement was minimal and he suffered a season-ending injury on Sept. 30.
Deacon Hill, an inexperienced transfer from Wisconsin, became the starter. Iowa's production has dropped to 218.3 yards and 15 points per game with Hill, and his pass completion rate of 37.8% is second-worst in the nation since 2000 for a quarterback with as many attempts (98), according to Sportradar.
The Hawkeyes hit bottom when they managed just 12 total yards in the second half of a 12-10 home loss to Minnesota on Oct. 21.
Kirk Ferentz, when asked about his son, typically defended Brian's retention by pointing out the Hawkeyes' record. Not including the condensed 2020 pandemic season, the Hawkeyes have won no fewer than eight games with Brian as coordinator and have gone to a bowl each year.
The Hawkeyes have benefited, to be sure, from playing in the famously weak West Division. They won it in 2021 and were beaten 42-3 by Michigan in the conference title game.
They also have been able to cover up their offensive shortcomings, to a degree, because of a defense and special teams that annually are among the nation's best.
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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football