Kirk Ferentz is about to go where no other Iowa football coach has gone before

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Kirk Ferentz receives an ice bath after Iowa's 27-22 victory over Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl.

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Kirk Ferentz will step to a podium on Friday and do what no other Iowa football coach has ever done before.

The 64-year old Ferentz will participate in his 21st media day as the Iowa head coach.

That is one more than Hayden Fry participated in while coaching the Hawkeyes for 20 seasons from 1979 to 1998, so history will be made on Friday.

In fact, history will be made every time that Iowa wins a game this coming season with Ferentz already the school’s all-time winningest football coach with 152 victories. Every win will be unprecedented from a victory standpoint.

Ferentz is going where no Iowa coach has gone before, which is impressive by itself.

But he also has a team that many feel is impressive from a personnel standpoint with star players such as defensive end A.J. Epenesa, offensive tackles Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs and three-year starting quarterback Nate Stanley leading the way.

Ferentz isn’t just hanging on and collecting a massive paycheck, or resting on his laurels.

He seems as energized now as when he took over as the Iowa head coach two decades ago.

His hair has faded to gray, but his passion for coaching and teaching and mentoring young men seems as strong as ever.

It probably helps that Ferentz has his 36-year old son, Brian Ferentz, running his offense because Brian helps to fill many of his father’s gaps.

If anyone can get Kirk Ferentz to think outside the box, it’s the oldest of his five children.

Brian Ferentz has a gift for gab and often says exactly what is on his mind, while his father is more guarded and reserved, at least in public.

Kirk Ferentz’s longevity is easy for Iowa fans, and for the Iowa media, to take for granted because we live with it every day. The closer you are to something, the more routine it becomes over time.

But there is nothing routine or typical about Kirk Ferentz’s longevity, or about the Iowa football program’s stability.

The fact that Iowa has had just two head football coaches since 1979 truly is extraordinary and probably something we’ll never see again.

Ferentz and Fry are the only head coaches to lead a Division I football program for 20 years consecutively. Ferentz is also just one of five Big Ten head football coaches to win at least 150 games.

On the other hand, Illinois and Minnesota both have had nine head football coaches since 1979, as has mighty Alabama.

None of the players in Iowa’s incoming freshmen class were even born when Ferentz replaced Fry as head coach.

Ferentz could’ve left Iowa for different coaching jobs, but unlike so many other head coaches these days, he has resisted the temptation to move on and now seems content with retiring as a Hawkeye.

Iowa certainly deserves some credit for that because UI officials have made it easy for Ferentz to stay from a financial and security standpoint and from a quality of life standpoint.

So while Friday’s annual media day event will be routine in many respects, it will also feature the longest tenured head football coach in the country. Ferentz is the only FBS head coach who began his current head coaching position before the 2000 season. 

He came to Iowa City as a 26-year old assistant coach under Fry in 1981, and has since spent nearly half of his life here. All five of Ferentz’s children graduated from the same high school (City High) and that kind of stability is practically unheard of for a college head coach these days.

Iowa hasn't achieved Big Ten power status under Ferentz, but it has been one of the more stable and consistent programs in the conference for nearly 20 years. And it was the same way under Fry.

The challenge in hiring any head coach is finding the right fit on and off the field.

Iowa has met that challenge in spectacular fashion when it comes to football, and has 40 years of stability to show for it.