Alternative Title - Kirk Ferentz is Not as Safe as Most Assume if Iowa is Truly Thinking Long Term
There was an interesting thread yesterday about Ferentz yesterday and his "bullet proof" contract disallowing for his dismissal. Someone posted this story from Forbes on why Iowa CAN indeed fire Ferentz and while I don't agree 100% with the math, it's generally correct. Indeed, the math will show Ferentz could have been fired (before Jan 31, 2015) and Tom Herman hired and Iowa would have actually saved money.*
[Of course it is too late for Herman, I am just speaking of what Iowa could have done this past month if it was forward thinking]
It did not have to be Herman, it could be any number of coaches whose salary is $2Mish and Iowa would take a small annual loss v retaining Ferentz. I offered Herman because (a) he was an Iowa State OC so he knows the state and (b) he is a hot assistant that would instantly excite a fanbase deep in the throes of apathy in year 16 of Ferentz.
*I am using an asterisk because I am only comparing Ferentz buyout + cost savings of firing vs Herman salary. The cost of assistant buyouts would be a short term (1-2 year) issue for Iowa but a coach of Herman's experience (which is not much) probably retains the entire Iowa defensive staff so buyouts would probably just be a few guys on the offensive side of the ball.
Let's look at the math of the Ferentz contract.
- He is owed 5 more years (thru 2019)
- His base go forward is flat at $2.07M a year
- His supplemental income is flat at $1.48M a year
- He is owed 75% of that total, paid monthly thru 2020 if fired
- He has annual retention bonuses that must be paid if he is not fired by Feb 1 of any year - this year's is $525K per Rovell of ESPN
- In total his retention bonuses - including the $525K he would be owed if he remains Iowa coach Feb 1, 2015 would be $3.15M per Forbes
WARNING - MATH AHEAD!
Iowa owes Kirk 5 yrs x (2.07M + 1.48M) = $17.75M on base contract + $3.15M in retention bonuses if retained as coach thru 2019. That is $20.9M or ~ $4.18M a year.
If fired they owe Kirk 75% of the $17.75M = $13.31M. They save $7.59M: $4.4M on his base contact and $3.15M in retention bonuses.
In this scenario, they pay Kirk $2.66M a year to sit at home. It does not reduce if he goes elsewhere. That sucks. But it's doable for Iowa. It frees up $1.52M a year.
Tom Herman was hired at Houston for $1.35M a year, a new record for a Houston coach. Kirk sits at home for $2.66M a year, you hire Herman for $1.35M a year = the annual cost to Iowa football for a HC is $4.01M a year combined. Less than keeping Kirk thru life of contract.
If you don't want Herman there are a bevy of coaches in CFB making $2-$2.2M who are solid. I am not saying you are getting THESE guys but these are examples of coaches you can hire at $2Mish - Cutcliffe, Whittingham, Golden, Kill, Shaw, Helfrich. (This is what Hoke should have been paid grrr) You could also hire a dud for $2M a year - see Illinois. But the point is good coaches are available at these prices.
Hiring a $2M a year coach rather than a Herman type means you'd take a small annual loss on the Ferentz contract thru 2019 - a $2M coach costs you $4.66M a year in sum (Ferentz $2.66M + $2M new coach). So you lose $400K a year vs retaining Ferentz. That's a rounding error to Iowa athletics. And you bring some excitement back to a stale program. Kinnick has been below capacity all year except for the Iowa State game. Sell 3000 more tickets at $50 a pop x 7 home games = $1M.
* Iowa would take some short term hit on assistant coach buyouts I presume. But again if you brought in Herman you probably retain that entire defensive staff - Iowa generally is known to be decent defensively, at least when they are not young. Their staff made about $2.5M last year. Who knows what the buyouts are - lets assume $750K to get rid of everyone. It's a 1x cost and most new HC will retain PART of the staff at minimum.
IF I WAS IOWA's AD
I'd fire Ferentz today and go get Kyle Whittingham for $2.8M+. He makes $2.2M at Utah and is 55 years old - you'll get a solid decade out of him. He is in desperate straights at Utah, is in massive conflict with his tight wad AD, is a hell of a coach, fits Iowa's mold perfectly of tough minded defense and apparenty interviewed for Nebraska. He has lost both his coordinators so he probably keeps the whole Iowa staff for 1 year until he asseses them so you don't take any buyout hits. You take a modest hit financially but immediately have IMO the best coach in the Big 10 West. (He or Kill)
Iowa is too poor you say? No. According to Forbes they are 11th in nation in athletic revenue. In 2012 they finished 2nd to only Bama in profit at $30M. That was an outlier - in 2 of the prior 3 years they had $14M in profit. So let's assume $15-16M in profit; they can eat $500K-$1M for 5 years to right their football program.
Iowa didn't beat a FBS team with a winning record this year; they have not been ranked in 4 years, they have been essentially .500 since the 2009 bowl win. They are sub .500 in the Big 10 the last 5 years. They now recruit worse than Wisconsin (50s for Iowa, 40s for Wisconsin). Ferentz is a solid coach who did great things early to middle of his career at Iowa. Like Fry he got stale late in his regime. Time to get the new Ferentz/Fry.
But but but no one can win at Iowa!
Sure you can. There is always a risk you don't do better than Ferentz of course - but there is an opportunity to do better as well. Especially 2014 Ferentz v 2004 Ferentz. People are winning at Wisconsin which has no serious advantage over Iowa. They recruit a similar brand of player. People are winning at MSU which has only slight advantages over Iowa. Ferentz was taking Iowa itself to BCS bowls early in his career. Heck they were in the Orange Bowl in 2009. It can be done. Doesn't mean it is easy. Good coaches with solid resources are doing great things across the landscape as parity reigns. Iowa is a well off school in a very rich conference with loads of bowl and TV money to be shared annually. And are in a division which is ripe for a 9 to 10 win Iowa. Being a top 25 team is not an outlier at Iowa the past 35 years.
I don't know the politics of the Iowa athletic department but from a financial perspective the meme of Kirk Ferentz cannot be fired should go away. He can be, and at this point should be - Iowa has too much on the line to be Iowa State's little brother.