Posted by Adam Jacobi
The Iowa Hawkeyes have just announced that Kirk Ferentz will be receiving a mammoth contract extension. The deal will push Ferentz's salary to over $4 million a year after incentives, which would make him the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten (at least, until Jim Tressel gets an extension).
The deal is good through 2020, which is not only a nice vote of confidence in Ferentz, but in effect a lifetime deal. Ferentz will turn 65 before the 2020 season, and it would be his 21st season at the helm of the Hawkeyes. If Ferentz stays that long, not only would he be the closest thing to a "lifer" in the Big Ten since Joe Paterno, but he'd also likely be extended through his 70th birthday for recruiting's sake. Big "if," of course, but Iowa's administration is making that invitation public now.
Now, some might look at the deal and wonder why Iowa's rewarding a coach whose seat was starting to get warm just three years ago and who's never made it to a Rose Bowl. But the reality of the situation is that Iowa's not an Ohio State or Michigan, and they don't have the institutional and traditional advantages a powerhouse would have. They're closing that gap year by year, mind you, but nobody would argue that Iowa's program is at the highest level yet. They've never played for a national championship, and they're usually not national championship contenders.
But what they can do is invest in a coach like a championship contender, and it's worked for the Iowa program so far. At the first sign of Ferentz's success in 2002, it was generally assumed that he would bolt either to an elite college program or the NFL, because Iowa wasn't considered a "destination school." Now, today, it certainly appears that Iowa is among those destination schools.