Ferentz Welcomes Insight Bowl Return

Dec. 4, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa — When University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz was looking to tour top college football facilities over the summer, he phoned friend Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. Stoops accommodated.

“We are looking at facilities right now and getting ideas as we move forward with our project and wish I had paid closer to the football aspect,” Ferentz said Sunday during a gathering with media inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “Maybe (I should have) picked up a playbook or something like that when I was there, but I had no idea we would ever be facing them on the field.”

That’s where the jesting ends.

Ferentz knows his 7-5 Hawkeyes have their plates full against the No. 19 Sooners (9-3), who entered the season as the No. 1 team in the land, on Dec. 30 in the Insight Bowl.

“They’ve always had great players,” Ferentz said. “I’m going back a long ways there. Even during their little down period before Bob got there, they had some talented guys, so I know they’ve had a lot of great players go through there. They have a lot of great players on their roster, as we look at their film, it’s going to be an imposing task for us.”

Iowa played 24 bowl games before spending the postseason in Arizona. Now they are repeat guests at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. Last season the Hawkeyes upset a 10-win Missouri team that was ranked 12th in the country, 27-24. The surroundings, like the tough opponent, will be similar this season.

“We’re looking forward to returning there for obvious reasons,” Ferentz said. “Very much like last year, we have a tough draw, a great challenge on our hands — we’re playing another great team from the Big 12 Conference. Like last year, this team is very, very talented. Like last year, they’ve got an outstanding quarterback (Landry Jones) — I would assume a first-rounder (in the NFL Draft) for sure. And they have a tremendous coaching staff. Bob Stoops is a guy I’ve known for a long time and have tremendous respect for on all levels; tremendous person, was an outstanding player here, and does a great, great job — they have a couple Hawkeyes on the staff, too.”

Stoops, co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell and tight ends/offensive tackles coach Bruce Kittle are all former Hawkeye players. Last season before the Insight Bowl, Stoops walked around Sun Devil Stadium wearing an Iowa sweatshirt (the Sooners played in the Fiesta Bowl two days later in Glendale, Ariz.).

“I doubt he’ll have (an Iowa sweatshirt) on this year; pretty good bet he won’t,” Ferentz said. “Bob is still a Hawkeye, and that’s one of the great things about this profession; one of the neat things about our program. The guys that come through here feel a real special bond toward the school, and Bob’s a good friend that way; he’s a good friend of the program, he’s always been a supporter. It’s a nice touch at least and extra interest to the whole thing.”

The month of December is a frenzied time for college football with coaches recruiting, players preparing for finals, graduation, and even the postseason banquet. But a busy month also means getting ready for a bowl game, something the Hawkeyes have been eligible to do 11 consecutive seasons.

“It’s always busy, but that’s how you want it in December,” Ferentz said. “It’s a really different challenge; all the players have a lot of things on their minds and a lot of things to juggle, so hopefully we have a good formula. We’ll see how that works out, but it really requires the players being focused and our guys have done a good job of that in the past.”

UI director of athletics Gary Barta said he did not know the Hawkeyes were heading back to the Insight Bowl until late in the afternoon Sunday. He spent the weekend at the Big Ten Conference football championship game where he spoke with several bowl representatives.

“From their perspective, they want a television draw,” Barta said. “They have great respect for Kirk and his resume and with coach Stoops and his resume. The combination of those two (coaches) and the two programs with strong history…I can see from our perspective — and certainly from the perspective of Oklahoma — it made a lot sense, even though we were going back a second year in a row.”

It has been well documented that after the 1998 season, both Ferentz and Stoops were candidates to replace Hayden Fry as head coach of the Hawkeyes. Ferentz got the job and has led Iowa to 96 wins, including six bowl victories.

“I wanted the job,” said Ferentz, who was an assistant with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens at the time. “It wasn’t life or death for me. It worked out beautifully for both us. He’s been extremely happy at Oklahoma and has done a fantastic job. That’s a matter of record. I think you could argue he has been good for that program. It’s worked out for us on this end as well.”