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Did You Read That?
Boston Globe spotlights Iowa, Ferentz
Ferentz has yet to put his team into the 'elite' category. Many others have, however.
Ferentz has yet to put his team into the 'elite' category. Many others have, however.
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Sept. 8, 2005

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  • Game-Day Parking and Road Construction Information
  • 2005 Hawkeye Huddles
  • Follow the Renovation of Kinnick!
  • The Schedule: 2005 and Beyond

    Editor's Note: The following was written by Mark Blaudschun and first appeared in Sept. 1, 2005 editions of the Boston Globe.

    The fields are still fallow in late spring, ready for another harvesting season that will come soon enough. But the rest of the place looks just as millions of Americans picture it. The pristine field, the green outfield grass, the house tucked in behind the first base line.


    The Field of Dreams, made famous in the 1989 movie, welcomes all comers, and on this Chamber of Commerce afternoon, it sits there, kissed by the sun and with a hint of wind blowing across a blue sky. It is found in the bread basket of America, 3 miles off US 20, and then a slant to the right down Dyersville East Road for 3 miles. If you don't pay attention, you will miss it, because - like most things in this state - the message is understated: No billboards or flashing signs, just a small roadside marker pointing you in the right direction.

    It is in many ways, the Iowa way of doing things. Understated, but solid.

    If you leave Dyersville and head 70 miles southeast, you will see another field of dreams. It, too, is understated, but solid. It is Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa football team.

    In mid-summer, Kinnick stadium is buzzing with activity. An $87 million renovation is underway. But instead of expanding, Kinnick Stadium is shrinking, if ever so slightly, as seats are widened and more state-of-the-art creature comforts are added.

    Again, this is the Iowa way, solidifying foundations, rather than making quick fixes that might not last. It is the same way Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz is building his team, as evidenced by three consecutive No. 8 final rankings.





    Again, this is the Iowa way, solidifying foundations, rather than making quick fixes that might not last. It is the same way Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz is building his team, as evidenced by three consecutive No. 8 final rankings.

    Mention to Ferentz that the Hawkeyes can climb higher this year and he rolls his eyes and laughs. "We're not there yet," he says with a smile and a shrug.

    But in a year in which Southern Cal - seeking a historic three-peat as national champion - is the best team, which other program could be poised to stand tall should the Trojans falter?

    Why not Iowa?



    Mention to Ferentz that the Hawkeyes can climb higher this year and he rolls his eyes and laughs. "We're not there yet," he says with a smile and a shrug.

    But in a year in which Southern Cal - seeking a historic three-peat as national champion - is the best team, which other program could be poised to stand tall should the Trojans falter?

    Why not Iowa?

    Ferentz is sitting in his office in the Iowa football complex, talking about his past while trying to explain his future. Ferentz has New England ties, having played at the University of Connecticut, before coaching stints at UConn, Worcester Academy, Pittsburgh, Iowa, and the University of Maine before diving into the National Football League on Bill Belichick's Cleveland Browns staff in 1993. He returned to Iowa as the head coach in 1999.





    Rivalry Week on CSTV.com zeroes in on Iowa-Iowa State. To see the video, click HERE


    "I've kind of lucked into jobs," he said. "I've never looked too far down the road. When I left (Iowa) in 1989, I felt it was time for a change. And when I came back, I was with the Browns when Coach (Hayden) Fry announced his retirement on ESPN News and I remember when (director of player personnel) Ozzie Newsome, came up to me and said you might want to watch this. And it just worked out. I never really had a plan or a vision. It's funny how things worked out."

    When Ferentz came back to Iowa City in 1999, he found a program that looked worn down. Iowa football was never a major player in the Big Ten, not with the likes of Ohio State and Michigan. In Fry's last season, the Hawkeyes were a woeful 3-8. And in Ferentz's first season, they were worse with a 1-10 record, and didn't get much better the following year when the Hawkeyes could only manage a 3-9 record.

    But Ferentz had spent time planting the corn, nurturing it. It helped that the expectations weren't great. No Iowa team had ever won a national championship, and until Ferentz arrived, Big Ten titles were more like wishful thinking. If you visit the Iowa Sports Hall of Fame on the edge of campus in Iowa City, you will find more of a presence in wrestling, which has produced 19 national championships.

    But now, no matter what happens each fall, one thing is certain. "This (Iowa football) is the show in town," said Bob Rasley, who serves as an informational font at the Hall of Fame and has lived in Iowa City for 50 years.





    "People out here appreciate an honest effort. It's very comfortable here. Realistically, you can come up with a lot of reasons why we shouldn't be able to sustain it. We're doing a lot of zigging and zagging, while a lot of teams are cruising. We're not an elite team. But we're not backing down from anyone. And we're having fun."
    UI Football Coach Kirk Ferentz


    When Ferentz came back, he felt a kinship for his youth, wanting to return a sense of pride to the state. He also recognized that he was not the first choice to replace Fry. That honor belonged to Bob Stoops, who also had Iowa roots and was the hot commodity six years ago but was gobbled up by the University of Oklahoma before Iowa could make up its mind.

    "You have to understand that none of us were the first choice to the prom," said Ferentz. "None of us were the first invites and that's coaches and players."

    Ferentz has turned that feeling of rejection into one of pride. Over the past three seasons, Iowa has compiled a 31-7 record, including a last-second win over LSU in the Capital One Bowl a year ago and an Orange Bowl appearance against USC two years ago.

    Last year's team was 10-2, tied for first in the Big Ten with a 7-1 record, and managed to do all of that with a roster that was so decimated by injuries that the Hawkeyes were down to their fifth-string running back by the end of the season and were second to last nationally in rushing yardage.

    This year's team returns 13 starters - seven on offense, including the offensive line and quarterback Drew Tate.

    "Kirk is one of the secrets," said defensive coordinator Norm Parker, who has been with Ferentz for the past seven seasons. "Kirk is like the people in this state. They'll give you a dollar's worth of work for a dollar. And the kids that we get are used to working. It's a refreshing place to coach. A year ago, we could have just as easily been 2-10 as 10-2."

    It has taken much work by Ferentz and his staff, which includes strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, who almost everyone says may be the key ingredient in turning Iowa prospects into players.

    Ferentz, who has had opportunities to leave in the past few years, says he relishes that challenge and feels more and more at home each day. "The best thing about this job is that if things get screwed up, I can't blame anybody," he said. "It's my fault. What else can you ask for?"

    Ferentz says he feels the Hawkeyes are still part of the outer core of Top 10 teams. "We're goofy enough to think we can have some success. It's a good challenge and we're all kind of excited about it."

    But it's more than that. It goes back to the core; back to the basics of the Field of Dreams theory: If you build it, they will come. Slowly and steadily.

    "People out here appreciate an honest effort," said Ferentz. "It's very comfortable here. Realistically, you can come up with a lot of reasons why we shouldn't be able to sustain it. We're doing a lot of zigging and zagging, while a lot of teams are cruising. We're not an elite team. But we're not backing down from anyone. And we're having fun."

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