Sports Illustrated college football writer Stewart Mandel riled up a certain fan base this past week – okay it was Iowa’s – when he wrote a column listing the 10 best and five worst coaches in America.
Among his worst? Illinois’ Tim Beckman, Eastern Michigan’s Ron English, USC’s Lane Kiffin, Kansas’ Charlie Weis and, yes, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz.
Iowa fans didn’t take too kindly to the slight and took to Twitter to voice their displeasure.
“I guess (it’s) a little bit of Midwestern loyalty,” Stewart said on the Damon Amendolara Show, trying to explain the backlash. “You’d certainly never see an SEC fan base stick up for a coach coming off a (4-8 season).”
Ferentz was hired at Iowa in December 1998 and has guided the Hawkeyes to two Big Ten titles (2002 and 2004), two BCS games and, in 2009, their first BCS win in school history, when they defeated Georgia Tech, 24-14, and finished 11-2.
Disregarding that year, however, the Hawkeyes have gone 47-41 since 2005.
Ferentz makes $3.6 million per year.
“Kirk Ferentz has had a tremendous run at Iowa, he’s taken them to two BCS games and he’s been a part of that culture since the early ‘90s – so I can understand why there’s protective instinct there,” Mandel said. “But my list, like I said in the article, is really just based on recent performance. His program has gradually sunk further and further into mediocrity over the last six or seven years with the one highlight being that Orange Bowl season.”
Iowa has gone 11-14 over the last two seasons, including 4-8 in 2012. Nevertheless, Ferentz’s job remains secure.
“He’s got this unbelievable contract that you’ve never really seen,” Mandel said. “It would be almost fiscally impossible to fire him with the protection he has in that contract – and that’s been a source of a lot of frustration for Iowa fans. They feel like there’s no recourse for the kind of seasons like he had last year.
“That’s what’s been interesting about this kind of phenomenon this week, too,” Mandel continued. “I’ve heard nothing but complaints for the past two years, but then this column seemed to re-energize everybody.”
From 2002-04, Ferentz went 31-7, winning two Big Ten titles and at least 10 games every year. Since then, he’s finished .500 or worse three times.
“There’s just a lot of goodwill built up from the Big Ten titles back in the early 2000s and the Orange Bowl a few years ago,” Mandel said.
Mandel’s 10 best coaches, if you’re curious, are Alabama’s Nick Saban, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Boise State’s Chris Petersen, TCU’s Gary Patterson, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, LSU’s Les Miles, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Western Kentucky’s Bobby Petrino and Baylor’s Art Briles.
Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Georgia’s Mark Richt and Arkansas Bret Bielema just missed the cut.