Ferentz Lauds O'Keefe, Hoists Parker

Feb. 8, 2012

IOWA CITY, Iowa — When it comes to choosing assistants, Kirk Ferentz desires good teachers and good team players.

Ferentz, entering his 14th season as head football coach at the University of Iowa, says that good coaches come from everywhere. It turns out that his choice to replace Norm Parker as Hawkeye defensive coordinator comes from an office down the hall in the Hayden Fry Football Complex.

Phil Parker, 48, who has been defensive backs coach at Iowa since 1999, was elevated by Ferentz to defensive coordinator Tuesday. That wasn’t the only personnel move among the Hawkeye coaches: offensive line coach Reese Morgan moves to the defensive line, and linebackers coach Darrell Wilson will now be in charge of the secondary.

“Phil is the best fit for our program at this given point,” Ferentz said at a gathering with media Wednesday. “He has proven himself through the years. Phil has earned everybody’s respect in our building: players, former players, coaches on our staff, former coaches.”

After serving as a graduate assistant at his alma mater Michigan State in 1987, Parker was defensive backs coach at Toledo from 1988-98 before joining Ferentz’s staff in 1999.

The defensive coordinator position opened in December when Norm Parker announced his retirement. As has become a trademark when replacing staff, Ferentz was deliberate before naming a replacement.

“We had a lot of tremendous options,” Ferentz said. “I feel fortunate, and I’ve always felt like coaching here, if you do things and take your time a little bit and look around a little bit, I think there’s always going to be great options available. We had plenty of them, both externally, and we had a couple options internally that looked good.”

“Phil is the best fit for our program at this given point. He has proven himself through the years. Phil has earned everybody’s respect in our building: players, former players, coaches on our staff, former coaches.”
Kirk Ferentz
UI head football coach

Ferentz still has holes to fill on his staff at offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. Ken O’Keefe resigned Feb. 3 to join the NFL’s Miami Dolphins as receivers coach. Ferentz said he wasn’t stunned by O’Keefe’s departure.

“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Ferentz said. “Probably the big factor there was (Dolphins head coach) Joe (Philbin) getting a job, and then secondly, was (O’Keefe) going to pursue an opportunity? That’s part of coaching, so our timetable moving forward really isn’t a firm one. We’re just committed to getting the right person, and that’s going to be a tough seat to fill, just like Norm’s.”

O’Keefe isn’t the only former Hawkeye coach to join Philbin in Miami. Charlie Bulllen, a graduate assistant the past three seasons after serving two years as a student assistant, will also be on his way to South Beach.

“Both Charlie and (current GA) Dave (Raih) are just outstanding, so it was really nice to see Charlie get a great opportunity,” Ferentz said.

After going 13 years with the same defensive and offensive coordinators, Ferentz will replace both this offseason. Rick Kaczenski left his position as defensive line coach to join Nebraska prior to the Hawkeye’s participation in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 30. The staff change is reminiscent of 1989 when Ferentz, Bernie Wyatt and Dan McCarney all moved on from Hayden Fry’s staff.

“(Fry) brought great guys in, and it worked fine,” Ferentz said. “This happens in coaching all the time, it just hasn’t happened here a lot. But with it comes opportunity. I’d cite the guys that we’ve been able to hire since we’ve lost (other assistant coaches) through the years.”

Even with Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison making a reported $750,000 per year, Ferentz doesn’t see any financial hardship when looking to fill his particular staff openings.

“I’m comfortable with the parameters we’ve been working in, and I’m confident we’re going to get good coaches to fit those parameters,” Ferentz said. “If it becomes an issue, I’ll talk to (director of athletics) Gary (Barta) about that. If it is an issue I’m sure he’ll be supportive, within reason. I’m not going to go ask for something ridiculous, but I don’t see that being an issue at all. I’m not worried about that in the least.”

Ferentz opened the 30-minute press conference by thanking O’Keefe for his years of quality service to the program.

“I want to say thanks to Ken for all he has done for us here, he’s just a tremendous football coach,” Ferentz said. “He’s been an outstanding teacher and a strong leader in this program, and that’s something I’m very, very appreciative of. He’s done a tremendous job, absolutely tremendous job.”

In other football news, spring practice begins March 24, and the open scrimmage will be held Saturday, April 14, inside Kinnick Stadium.