Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta shares his 2020-25 strategic plan with the media

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Kirk Ferentz (left) and Brian Ferentz

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa – The last time Kirk Ferentz met with the media in January, he focused mostly on what the Iowa football team has accomplished over the past five seasons, including winning 47 games and three bowl games.

On Monday, Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta held a press conference in which he focused mostly on the next five years of Hawkeye athletics, and what they hope to accomplish.

It is reasonable to assume that a head coaching change could occur in football within the next five years, considering Kirk Ferentz will be 65 years old when the 2020 season starts.

Ferentz has shown no signs of slowing down physically or given indication that he is even considering retirement after 21 seasons as the head Hawk.

But he also can’t coach forever and UI officials have to be ready with a succession plan.

That was among a number of topics that Barta addressed during his 45-minute press conference.

Barta was asked if he and Ferentz have had any recent discussions about a succession plan.

Ferentz's current contract runs through the 2025 season.

“Not specific, not specific individuals,” Barta said. “We talk about succession planning throughout the whole athletic department. If so and so leaves, do we have anyone internal that could fill that? And if so, what does that person need to be prepared.

“And, or are we looking constantly on the outside to see who might be a fit at Iowa if something were to happen suddenly.”

Barta was then asked if he could envision a circumstance in which only one candidate would be considered.

The question was asked in response to the assumption that Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, who is also Kirk Ferentz’s son, is being groomed to replace his father as head coach.

And while that might be the case below the surface, it seems unlikely.

For one thing, Brian Ferentz still has a lot to prove in his current position, and the team still has a lot to accomplish before a succession plan could even be considered.

“I would anticipate that we would interview, we generally do and we follow all university processes, too,” Barta said. “So yeah, I don’t think we’d have a single candidate situation. I think we’d open it.

“But some of that is just speculation. Right now, we’re focused on 2020.”

Barta then pointed out that Wednesday is the second of two signing days for football, although, Iowa’s 2020 class was mostly completed during the early signing day in December. Barta said his discussions with Kirk Ferentz focus more on the present than the future, and more on how to be successful right now than what might happen down the road. 

Some fans responded sarcastically after I tweeted that Barta couldn’t envision a scenario in which only one candidate would be interviewed for the head football job.

And that’s because some fans apparently are convinced that a succession plan with 36-year old Brian Ferentz already is in place and has been approved.

Kirk Ferentz wields a lot of power, but he can’t just name his son as his successor, at least not at this stage.

It just doesn't work that way at a power five institution.

Just ask former Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder.

He is that school's version of Hayden Fry, and yet, Snyder still didn't have enough influence and power to get his son hired as his successor.

Kirk Ferentz is giving Brian Ferentz every opportunity to show that he is the right person for the job.

Brian Ferentz also might have climbed the coaching ladder quicker than other assistants because of his family connection.

But at some point, it comes down to winning, and Iowa hasn’t competed at a high enough level with Brian Ferentz on the staff for him to just be handed the head coaching job.

That could change over the next two or three seasons, but there still is work to do in that regard.

Iowa hasn’t won a Big Ten title since 2004, or a West Division title since 2015.

This past season in which Iowa finished 10-3 marked just ninth time that Iowa has won at least 10 games in a season.

But Iowa also finished in third place in the West Division behind Wisconsin and Minnesota, so there is room for improvement.

My take on this whole succession thing is that Barta is waiting to see if Iowa has enough success over the next two or three seasons before making Brian Ferentz the heavy favorite to succeed his father as head coach.

There are so many things to consider with regard to rules, laws and procedure when hiring a football coach at the power five level.

Brian Ferentz certainly has his foot in the door, and a powerful and influential person in his corner.

But on the other hand, Iowa football isn’t a family business.

So this still is a very fluid situation.