IOWA CITY, IA – The Iowa Hawkeye football team has had two head coaches in the last 39 seasons. The team has experienced some success over those years too. Hayden Fry set the standard for coaching at Iowa. Kirk Ferentz is doing his best to pass Fry and raise that bar even higher. Ferentz and the Hawkeyes went into Yankee Stadium in December and won a bowl game over Boston College. That win gave Ferentz win number 143, tying him with Coach Fry for the most wins in program history as a coach.
Comparing Fry and Ferentz’s careers is no easy task. The argument is akin to the Lebron James or Michael Jordan debate. Both coaches have had amazing careers with Iowa, so deciding who is better is often times a matter of opinion. I will try my best though by presenting some numbers for both coaches.
10 win seasons
This may come as a surprise to some, but Ferentz has only coached one less year than Fry. Somehow, Ferentz has found a way to have two more 10 win seasons than Coach Fry. Both coaches started out their tenure at Iowa with the football program in an awful place. Ferentz only had one win in his first season while Fry had five wins. Fry was more consistent, however, as he had more eight win seasons than Ferentz.
Finished Seasons in the AP Top 25
Coach Fry dominates in this area over Ferentz. Fry ended 10 of his 20 seasons in the AP Top 25. Ferentz has fallen behind in this category due to the Hawkeyes lack of success in recent bowl games. The Hawks have lost several bowl games in a row prior to their victory in the Pinstripe Bowl this season.
Everyone remembers 1985. Michigan rolled into Kinnick and it was #1 vs. #2. That was the peak ranking wise for Fry’s teams. This Chuck Long led team reached the highest position any one team can be ranked. Ferentz has had a little more success in the top 10, however. Coach Ferentz has achieved #3 two times in his tenure at Iowa, 2002 and 2015. He also finished #8 in the country three years in a row.
B1G COY Awards
Ferentz takes the nod here as well with four Big Ten Coach of the Year Awards. Fry falls behind a little in this category with two Coach of the Year Honors. This is a tough number to stand behind because this award has a lot of other factors to it. What type of players are on the team, what the schedule looks like, and what other coaches you are going against.
Post Season Numbers
This is the only stat that people care about at the end of the day. Ferentz has appeared in 15 bowl games and won seven. Fry coached in 14 bowl games, won six and tied once. Basically, these two have the same bowl record. Ferentz has won more bowl games, but he has also lost more. The two coaches have been to a combined four Rose Bowls.
There is no determining who the better coach is/was. Ferentz had more ten win seasons while Fry was more consistent with 8 plus win seasons. Ferentz is going to fly by Fry in wins, but what Fry brought to the University of Iowa will never be forgotten. After all, this topic probably wouldn’t even be a discussion if Fry had not hired Kirk Ferentz a long time ago. The best way to choose who was/is better is to flip a coin. Looking at numbers alone only makes the discussion more challenging.
Coach Fry has his statue already. It’s safe to say Coach Ferentz deserves one of his own some day.
One thing is certain, Iowa football is in uncharted waters in regards to coaching stability. Let us hope whomever the next head coach is can continue to find success, and in doing so carry the torch passed on to them by these two legends.