Saturday, July 2, 2022

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Civic Skinny

Big bonuses are in store for assistant coaches,


The most successful labor union dealing with the state of Iowa has but 13 members. They get big annual raises, are covered by one rather simple document, are rewarded with hefty performance-based bonuses and don’t pay a penny in dues. And there’s no rule against nepotism.

All 13 make more money than the governor of the state.
The 13 are University of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz, his nine assistant coaches and three others on his staff. The pay and bonuses of all 13 are covered by the long-term contract signed by Ferentz and regularly amended and updated.

It’s good to be a member of that union this week.

Friday’s victory over Nebraska kept Iowa unbeaten during the regular season, and that assured Coach Ferentz a bonus of $250,000 on top of his base salary of $4,075,000 for this season. And there’s more to come. If Iowa finishes in the top 10 in the ESPN, USA Today or AP ranking, he’ll get another $250,000. (If they’re in the top 15, it’s $175,000.) If Iowa gets to the four-team national playoffs, he’ll get another $375,000 — or $500,000 if the team is runner-up or $1.5 million if Iowa is the national champ.

If they miss the playoff series but end up in a major bowl, the payoff for the coach is $250,000 — plus $50,000 if it’s the Rose Bowl. He gets another $50,000 for being Big Ten Coach of the Year, and he’ll get another $100,000 if he’s coach of the year in any of 14 other rankings.


All of this is in Ferentz’ contract with the University of Iowa. The contract also codifies the raises and bonuses for 12 others on his staff. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis and Defensive coordinator Phil Parker each had base pay of $515,000 as of July 1, according to state records. They are guaranteed a raise of at least 8 percent for next year, but the increase — based on final poll rankings — will more likely be 14 or 16 percent. Those increases are added to their base salaries.

In addition, the nine assistants, the director of football operations, the strength coach and chief assistant strength coach are assured bonuses equal to at least two months’ salary — though the final number is more likely to be three-and-a-half to four months’ pay. It depends on how the rest of the season goes.

While most academic and non-academic employees at the university have seen their salaries go up one to three percent in recent years, the assistant coaches have had much bigger raises because of the clauses in Ferentz’ contract. In the past three years, for instance, Davis’ and Parker’s pay has gone from $325,000 to $515,000, not including bonuses.

Brian Ferentz, the coach’s son who oversees the offensive line, had base pay of $218,000 three years ago; now, it’s $317,500. Strength coach Chris Doyle now makes $515,000; three years ago, it was $325,000. Bobby Kennedy, who coaches the wide receivers, makes $305,000 a year now; two years ago, he made $270,000.

The governor of the state of Iowa, Terry Branstad, makes $120,000 a year. He’s also undefeated. …

Another sports note: The Des Moines Register last week named 13 coaches Iowa State should hire to succeed the fired Paul Rhoads. Matt Campbell of Toledo was hired for the job over the weekend. He was not on the list. CV

Comment: Rox Laird

The Iowa Supreme Court last week held a nice ceremony honoring Drake Professor Kathleen Richardson, who just stepped down as head of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, and Rox Laird, who just retired from The Des Moines Register. Michael Gartner was asked to speak about Laird. Here are his remarks.

The editorial page is the soul of a newspaper.

It is the community’s conscience, its priest and its rabbi, its teacher and its cop, its mom and its dad.

It is one of the few places — like the classroom and the courtroom — where thought can be pure, where ideas can be debated, where viewpoints don’t have to be tempered. It is full of passion — and compassion.

The burden on an editorial writer is great. He, or she, labors in anonymity (which was probably a good thing for an editorial writer in 2002 and 2004 when someone at the Register had to write those editorials endorsing Steve King) — but he or she speaks for an institution. He, or she, has the luxury of spending his, or her, days investigating issues — and the burden of framing and explaining them.

The editorial writer must be a reporter who can gather facts — opinions are worthless if not based on facts gathered. And the editorial writer must be a writer who can command attention — for the easiest thing for the reader to do is to quit reading.

The editorial writer must be persuasive — but honestly so. It is one thing to push a thought; it is quite another to pull a punch.

The editorial writer must be insatiably curious — and must have a great affection for his community.

And, above all else, the editorial writer must have an unbending faith in freedom — and an unending readiness to fight for it. He, or she, must be passionate about the truth.

Rox Laird learned reporting — and the value of facts — as a young reporter on the Des Moines Tribune, probably the best newspaper in the history of this state. He learned how government works, how communities operate. He learned where this town’s levers are — and who was pulling them. And he learned how to explain all that to the reader.

By the time the Tribune closed 10 years later, in 1982, he was half way to becoming an editorial writer. He knew how to get the facts. When he later moved to the editorial page of the Register — some 30 years ago — he quickly learned the other half — how to use those facts to make a point.

The point, often, was about justice — and fairness — and openness. He became a champion of open meetings, open records, and an open society. He talked of the dangers of secrecy in government — be the government a school board or a legislature — and the perils of the backroom.

He kept an eye on the Legislature, on Terrace Hill, and on this court.

Over the past 30 years, Rox has taught a couple of generations of readers about the workings of government — about how the textbooks say it works and about how it really works. He has written about municipal deeds and misdeeds, about the value of preservation and the importance of innovation.

He has written almost with reverence about the constitution of this nation and the constitution of this state.

And now he has left. He walked out of the building with 43 years of institutional memory and 43 years’ worth of knowledge about how this city and this state work. We are all the better for having had the benefit of his wisdom, and we will all be the worse from his retirement. He has been our rabbi and our priest, our teacher and our cop, our mom and our dad. He has been our conscience — even when we didn’t want one.

Rox Laird has been among the men and women who have understood that democracy can’t be taken for granted and who have fought — some by sword and some by pen — for the blessings of liberty. CV

Comment: The NCAA

Let’s say, just for the sake of discussion, that Paul Rhoads quickly lands a head-coaching job at another Division I school. Good for him. He can start tomorrow.

Let’s say, too, that his sons, Jake and Wyatt, who are on the Iowa State football team, want to follow their dad so they can keep playing for him. Bad for them. They can start in 2017.

So say the rules of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, that most dictatorial and arrogant — and powerful — of organizations. Time and again, it shows disdain for the athletes whose lives it governs. The NCAA, with “its petty rules and its cartel nature,” is “designed to protect a lucrative business model that [works] for everybody except the athletes,” says Joe Nocera, a New York Times columnist who regularly writes about the NCAA.

The transfer rules are yet another example.

If a football player or baseball player or hockey player or basketball player — man or woman — transfers from one Division 1 school to another, he or she generally must wait a year before being eligible to play again. Why? The rules, says the NCAA, “safeguard the process and help student-athletes make rational decisions about the best place to pursue an education and compete in their sport.”

Also, the rule “protects student-athletes who have chosen a school from ongoing recruiting attempts and third-party interference.”

Or maybe it’s to enslave the players. If the rule were as noble as the NCAA says, why doesn’t it apply to college golfers or tennis players or swimmers or lacrosse players or runners? Those athletes can transfer at will without having to sit out a year. But those sports aren’t money-makers or image-makers for the schools, so who cares who is on the team? A good team loses as much money as a bad team.

The rule becomes egregiously unfair in cases where a coach recruits an athlete and then, a year or two later, moves on. The new coach might have a different style, prefer a different type of play, be a different type of personality — but no matter. If the recruited athlete wants to follow his old coach, or go to any other Division I school, he or she must sit out a year or seek a waiver.

While the old coach moves merrily on.

So good luck, Coach Rhoads, wherever you end up. Sorry the boys can’t join you, at least not right away. CV

— Michael Gartner


  1. Ed O'Neill says:

    Worth every penny! All compensation is from contributions and Athletic department revenue- no taxpayer money is utilized!

  2. Gary says:

    The Governor of the State of Iowa should receive the same amount of salary as the highest paid football coach in the State of Iowa.

  3. Tonja Richards says:

    Say it’s not so! What will our fine city do with Rox Laird? Without the editorial experience and long-term wisdom of an accomplished editorial writer, a daily loses the easence of what at city was and is.
    Rox Laird will be so very missed.

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