7,843 points, 198 wins, two national coach of the year awards. Countless Iowa records — all belonging to the head Hawk. Before he begins his 25th season, I had the chance to speak with coach Kirk Ferentz one-on-one about his longevity, his future and why he continues to call Iowa home 34 years and counting.
Here’s the full transcription of the interview:
Coach, I’ll go back to the John Deere Classic. Zach Johnson said he thinks you’ve got 15 years left in the tank. Is that a little audacious?
“He for sure does, and it was so much fun to walk with him and just have a chance to visit with him. I don’t know about 15. I don’t know. I’m just taking it a day at a time right now but enjoying every one of them and I will say I feel good. So, knock on wood.”
Going back to the season, you talk a lot about the past your time here in the ’80s, your time here in the 2000s, and how that kind of shapes the way that you approach today. Why do you think that’s so important to go back and revisit what you did when you first got here?
“Obviously, the world changes and it’s changed dramatically in our sports world. The last year, two years, five years, however you want to look at it — but certain things don’t change. And I think that’s important for people to understand. I guess one advantage of being somewhere 30-plus years, the last thing I expected in 1981 was to be here three years, let alone x amount of years. That was never an expectation. But some of the things that I got to witness and experience in the ’80s — that was a big part of coming back here when I had the opportunity. There are a lot of things in life I think we sometimes we get hung up or chase things that maybe sound good that aren’t that important. And the older you get you kind of figure out what is important. Just feel really fortunate to have been here this long, and the interface the commonalities interface with great people, whether it’s our players, coaching staff, support staff, people at the university and the state. It’s just a great state to live in — although nobody comes here for the weather. I do know that. I’ll put a qualifier on that.”
Talking to some of the Big Ten coaches a couple of weeks ago, they all praise your ability to find the right people and then find the right places later. Is that the way that you approach finding the right kids in high school?
“It is, and I’d love to take credit for it. When you’re in the ’80s you’re learning from Coach [Hayden] Fry and the rest of our coaching staff. Every guy on the staff, basically, we were all mutts, you know … none of us had papers, no pedigree and same thing for the players. We had a lot of players that three years later, you say, ‘Where’d this guy come from? What’s his story?’ So, you know, that’s one thing I tried to learn and I would say the same thing about watching our wrestling program. As good as they were, I was always fascinated at how sometimes they would turn down a four-time state champion or a three-time state champ for a guy that maybe had won one but was on the rise. So you know, you’ve just got to pay attention. You try to learn from people around you and you know what a great place to learn being here in the ’80s.”
You mentioned just staying here for as long as you have. What is it about this state, the culture, just being the head coach that keeps you around?
“I never had to be a head coach. It was never a career goal. Enjoyed it most of the time. But it’s nice if you want to work out you get to move meeting times and stuff like that. It’s just, I think I’m smart enough to realize I’ve got a pretty good deal here. I’ve got a good job. It’s our quality of life for our family had a big part of that, having five kids go through high school, hard to do in our profession. so I feel very fortunate and appreciated there. People in the state are great. So there’s really never been a compelling reason to look somewhere else or consider going somewhere else. If it’s time for you to leave usually in our profession, somebody lets you know it’s time to leave and fortunately it hasn’t happened yet.”