Sports’ Most Absurd Nepotism Charade Has Ended

News report: Three key players received huge punishment to their……

The saga should stand forever as an example of how powerful coaches can often do whatever they want.

The most farcical story in college sports has, for a few years now, been unfolding on the football coaching staff at the University of The head coach, one of the best in the country, is Kirk Ferentz. Under Ferentz, Iowa has the best defense in college football, led by stalwart coordinator Phil Parker.

And it has the most consistently great special teams in the sport, too, under the leadership of another dependable coordinator, LeVar Woods. And yet Iowa has been just OK (though sometimes better than that) because it has the most painfully bad offense in the sport to pair with its two elite units. The offense has been bad for a lot of reasons, including that Kirk Ferentz has less than zero interest in modernizing it to look like what other teams now field. But the lowest-hanging fruit has been a staffing issue: The guy running the offense, to disastrous results for half a decade, has been Ferentz’s own offspring, Brian.

By results, Brian Ferentz has been the worst offensive coordinator in college football, but he’s retained a job making nearly $1 million a year to lead an offense at a Big Ten program for his dad. Exasperated Iowa fans have called for, even chanted for, his firing for years. Media members have made the whole story into a joke, treating Iowa—which is elite in two of the game’s three phases—as a circus, because the team’s nepo-baby offensive coordinator has floundered for so long.

Iowa announced on Monday that it will pull the plug on this charade at season’s end. Brian Ferentz will cease to be Iowa’s offensive coordinator after the team’s bowl game, and the program can at least gesture in the direction of putting a competent offense on the field to supplement its world-beaters on the other sides of the ball. Fans will have something new to chant about, reporters will have something new to write stories about, and Iowa will at least have a puncher’s chance to produce a better offense. But the Ferentzes should stand up forever as an example of how powerful coaches can often do whatever they want if administrators enable them, and how athletic programs can become self-dealing platforms, and how one program can create such gore and beauty at the same time.

The saga of Brian Ferentz, Iowa offensive coordinator, has been a little silly from the start. When he joined up in 2012, Brian told reporters that Kirk Ferentz had recruited him to Iowa’s staff, first as offensive line coach. “You can’t say no to your father,” Brian told reporters. But a father hiring and managing a son would violate school nepotism rules, and Iowa’s former athletic director, Gary Barta, said that it was he who had hired Brian. The athletic director remained Brian’s nominal supervisor, creating a dynamic in which—if Iowa wasn’t just playing a sick joke on its fans—the head coach would not have oversight of the person responsible for his team’s offense. This structure has remained in place, at least on paper, and nobody with power at the University of Iowa has chosen to reckon with its ridiculousness until now. It turns out Iowa’s athletic director can remove a direct report from the football staff. Barta never did, and he retired over the summer. But his successor, Beth Goetz, made the announcement that Brian won’t return.

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