Big Ten Media Days isn't happening as planned, but we can always pretend!
Due to the ongoing global pandemic, we did not get a chance to talk to the delightful cast of Big Ten coaches at Big Ten Media Days this year.
It truly was a sad turn of events, but instead of sulk, we decided to take matters into our own hand and throw a make-believe Big Ten Media Days!
Here's how it works: each of our interviewers poses a hypothetical question to the coach (some serious, some not at all serious) and provides a brief explanation as to why that question is being asked. In some cases, we even took a crack at how the coach might try to answer it, because roleplaying is fun.
We're working from the bottom up in the conference, and we're through the bottom half of the conference with Rutgers, Maryland, Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern and . Minnesota. Next up, we've got Kirk Ferentz of Iowa.
*turns on moderator voice* Let us begin.
Kyle Jones: Coach Ferentz, in what can only be described as a minor mathematical miracle, your offense finished each of the last three seasons finished 10th in the Big Ten in total offense. How do you avoid the same fate again this fall after losing your starting QB and best offensive lineman?
The Hawkeyes will once again employ a stable approach to the running back position, leaning on a talented offensive line to lead the way. Left tackle Aleric Jackson returned for his senior season while sophomore center Tyler Linderbaum leads the interior after transitioning from defensive tackle.
Coordinator Brian Ferentz is well known for his excellent job of designing offenses to maximize hybrid tight ends in the past. But this year, his most dynamic playmaker will be senior receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette. If the younger Ferentz can find ways to get him more than just a handful of touches per game, then likely starting QB Spencer Petras may find his first year under center much easier.
Matt Gutridge: Coach Ferentz, your Hawkeyes shocked the Buckeyes in 2017, but the Iowa football program has lost seven consecutive games in Ohio Stadium. What can you do to end that losing streak?
Kirk Ferentz, probably: “Thanks for the reminder on the losing streak, Matt. Glad you didn’t mention that I’m 0–5 against Ohio State when the game is played in Columbus. Also, I’m glad you didn’t bring up my 2–8 record against the Buckeyes. However, what I’m most thankful for is that you didn’t ask me about the reports of racism and bullying that has been alleged against my program and the lawsuit my neighbors put me through this spring.
“Before focusing on defeating Ohio State for the first time in Ohio Stadium, I need to focus on keeping my job through all of these allegations. I’m also scouring Central Ohio for an Iowa fan we can bring in to inspire my team to defeat the Buckeyes. Is Jym Ganahl available?”
Dan Hope: How are you changing the culture of your program after accusations of mistreatment by a multitude of former players?
No coach benefitted more from the postponement of Big Ten Media Days than Ferentz, whose time at the dais would have been full of questions about the external review that concluded earlier this week into allegations made by former players – particularly, Black players – that they were mistreated by coaches during their time with the Hawkeyes. While Ferentz is keeping his job as Iowa’s head coach, his reputation has been stained over the past two months, and while he’d probably prefer to focus on football now that the investigation is over, there’s no question that the shadow of that review – which found that racial bias and abuse of power were present within the program – will continue to loom over Ferentz and Iowa football for some time.
Given that, Ferentz will need to be prepared to discuss the steps he’s taken to begin changing the culture of his program if and when Big Ten Media Days ultimately do happen. Ultimately, how well he does that will have a major impact on whether he can continue to achieve on-field success with the Hawkeyes, as his recruiting stands to take a big hit if he can’t convince prospective players that he has learned from this summer’s investigation and is committed to fostering a healthier environment going forward.
Ramzy Nasrallah: Coach who is your favorite rapper? Eminem, Snow, Machine Gun Kelly, G-Eazy or Mac Miller?
Kirk Ferentz, probably: "Actually I’ve always been more of a Macklemore guy. Poppin’ taaaags."
David Regimbal: Hey coach Ferentz, it's been five years since you stole... whoops, sorry about that, won the Big Ten Coach of the Year award. Has your contract with the devil just been in a really long renegotiation phase or is he just not holding up his end of the deal?
The league's most tenured coach has been roaming Big Ten sidelines since 1999, seven years longer than the No. 2 coach on the list in Pat Fitzgerald. During that span, Ferentz won Big Ten Coach of the Year honors four times, in 2002, 2004, 2009 and 2015.
You may remember that 2002 season, in which former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel went 14-0 and won the national championship just a year after the team went 7-5. You may also remember 2009, when Tressel and Ohio State beat the Hawkeyes and won an outright Big Ten title and Rose Bowl game against Oregon.
The Buckeyes have won two national titles and 10 Big Ten titles during Ferentz's tenure at Iowa. Ohio State's coaches, collectively during that span, have won precisely one shared Big Ten Coach of the Year award, and that distinction belongs to Ryan Day in 2019.
What I'm saying here, essentially, is what the hell?
Zack Carpenter: Coach, what sort of impact do you think the school’s recent investigation into the football program’s racial biases will have in recruiting? What sort of questions have you already heard from recruits and their families, and how will you approach the topic when you’re in living rooms (via Zoom for the foreseeable future) again trying to pitch your program?
Though Ferentz was largely exonerated by the investigation, why this question is important is pretty self-explanatory. It’s an awful look for him and his program for a number of reasons, and the fallout could be significant as he tries to keep his program humming along.
Johnny Ginter: Kirk, we used to joke about you being some kind of corn-based lifeform that's impossible to eradicate from the Midwest, but the thing about that joke is that it was based on your ever-lengthening contracts, not the apparently latent racism running rampant among your staff.
So instead of asking about who is going to replace outgoing quarterback Nate Stanley, I'll just ask if you think that maybe longevity isn't always a plus on someone's resume and if maybe, just maybe, success on the field isn't everything. Congrats on beating the hell out of USC in the Holiday Bowl though, I guess.
I don't know if Ferentz "needs to go" or whatever. I also don't think he really cares about the larger implications of allowing a guy like now-fired strength coach Chris Doyle to hang around the program and allegedly say and do racist crap for years and years and years. Either way, Ferentz likely doesn't view any of that as a reason to stop doing everything in exactly the same way he's been doing it for decades now. And that's the problem.
So actually, yeah, maybe I do know if he needs to go.