Kirk Ferentz discusses ‘disappointing’ end to 2020 season, will return for 23rd year as Iowa head coach

Ferentz said his 2020 Iowa team will go down as one of his favorites.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks to his team during a football game between Iowa and Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, September 14, 2019. The Hawkeyes retained the Cy-Hawk Trophy for the fifth consecutive year, downing the Cyclones, 18-17.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

One week after the Music City Bowl matchup between Iowa and Missouri, which was scheduled for Wednesday, was announced, the game was canceled because of COVID-19 issues in the Missouri program.

Iowa’s season was canceled in August, then it was brought back in September. The Hawkeyes played eight regular season games in an eight-week span starting Oct. 24, then had their Champions Week game and bowl game canceled because of COVID-19 issues with the opposing teams.

It turns out that Iowa’s 28-7 victory over Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium in the last game of the regular season was the final game for this season’s Hawkeye football team.

The Hawkeyes finished the season 6-2 after losing their first two games of the season. The chance for a seventh consecutive victory and a fourth season in a row with a bowl victory was shattered with Sunday’s cancellation.

“It’s just really disappointing to end the season this way,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said on a video conference Sunday. “And this is two games in a row now where we haven’t been able to get to the finish line. I feel terrible for our players. Can’t say enough about the group that we’ve been able to work with this year. It’s a remarkable group of players and they are remarkable people.”

Missouri pulled out of the bowl game Sunday because of more than a dozen active COVID-19 cases within its football program. The team is on pause through Jan. 2.

Ferentz said Iowa did not consider trying to find another opponent to replace the Tigers.

Related: Iowa-Missouri Music City Bowl canceled, 2020 season over for the Hawkeyes

The Hawkeyes had their own COVID-19 issues last week, and in-person activities were paused on Monday through Saturday because of positive cases within the program. Ferentz said the team met Monday night and decided it still wanted to compete in a bowl game.

“It’s one of the prouder moments of this season quite frankly,” Ferentz said. “It was a very resounding yes. The attitude was, ‘We’ve come this far. And we wanted to finish it out and have a chance to play one more final game together.’”

Ferentz said that Iowa would not have been at full strength as far as available players if the game had been played Wednesday, but the team still intended to play.

Over Zoom, Ferentz informed his team that Iowa’s season was over and said goodbye shortly before his 4 p.m. video conference on Sunday.

“The biggest thing I wanted to do was, like in the locker room after the last ball game, thank everyone for their efforts,” Ferentz said. “With this team that is especially true.

“If there’s one thing I appreciate during this COVID time was the Zoom for us to communicate. And if there’s one thing I’ll never miss in my adult life, if we never Zoom again and can just do things face to face, like the old days. That day won’t come soon enough.”

Like his Iowa teams in 2004 and 2008, Ferentz complimented the 2020 Hawkeyes on their ability to overcome a slow start to the season and play their best football down the stretch.

This year’s team had the extra hurdle of doing that during a pandemic.

“That 2004 team, the 2008 team, those are two of my all-time favorites,” Ferentz said. “This one will go down the same way… For a lot of reasons this is a year we’ll all remember. Right along with that, we’ll always remember this team for the way they’ve handled things. Today’s a disappointing day, and we’ve had a few of them this year. But tomorrow I’m hopeful everybody can step back and really appreciate… what they have accomplished.”

Ferentz will return for 23rd season as Iowa’s head coach

Not that his potential retirement was being speculated, but Ferentz, 65, confirmed Sunday that he intends to return next season for his 23rd year as Iowa’s head coach.

“I might need an oil change, 65,000-mile oil change, one of those shots, but I feel pretty good,” Ferentz said. “This is what I like doing. I’m not quite ready for stamp collecting or bird watching. Maybe until I can find some interesting hobbies outside of football, but this is what I enjoy.

“I’ve probably been thinking more about five-year plans than I have about five-week or five-month, that’s for sure.”

Ferentz holds a 168-106 career record and is Iowa’s all-time winningest coach. Against Penn State on Nov. 21, Ferentz became the fourth Big Ten coach to win 100 conference games. Ferentz is the longest-tenured head coach in the FBS.

Hawkeyes pulling together information for Nixon

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. projects Iowa defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon as the 10th-best prospect in the upcoming NFL Draft. Nixon, a junior, has not announced whether he will come back for his senior season or declare for the draft.

Ferentz said he told Nixon, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, that the team would pull some information together as to where Nixon may be drafted to help him make that decision.

Another junior who could look to turn pro is center Tyler Linderbaum.

Linderbaum will be one of the top draft prospects at his position should he declare. Ferentz said he has not discussed the draft with Linderbaum, but the staff will also compile draft information for him to help with the decision.

“I have no indication that he’s even thinking about that,” Ferentz said. “But it’s silly for me to assume that.”

Aside from potential draft departures, there are other Hawkeye personnel decisions yet to be announced. Every Hawkeye senior has the opportunity to return to the program for an extra year of eligibility because of a blanket waiver passed by the NCAA.

Wide receivers Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith have already declared for the draft. Linebacker Nick Niemann and kicker Keith Duncan are the only other Iowa seniors who have publicly confirmed they are not returning to Iowa.

“I think in a lot of cases it’s a foregone conclusion that guys are leaving,” Ferentz said. “There may be some cases where guys are interested in staying and that’s great. We’ve got time in the next week or two to wrap some of that up.”