He's a big fan of Kirk Ferentz.

The head football coach at the University of Iowa couldn't have been nicer.

But Mark Boettcher can't help the little wave of resentment that washes over him at the mention of Ferentz's name.

Boettcher has made more trips to Iowa City over the past few years than he can count. The Bettendorf man's son, Bryce, often needed to get to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics three times a week for treatment of his acute lymphocytic leukemia.

Boettcher's daughter, Judy, also was treated there for her thyroid cancer, which was detected in 2006 as she was being screened as a possible bone-marrow donor for her brother.

During the countless hours of waiting for his teenagers to see doctors and to get their treatments, Boettcher heard some sad tales.

"Some people were asked why they missed an appointment, and they said it was because they couldn't afford to get to Iowa City," he said.

And getting there just got pricier - not by much, but another hardship for people already struggling.

As of mid-March, the University of Iowa stopped validating parking passes for outpatients using the hospital parking ramps. The ramps are the only real option there, and a day-long pass costs $15.

"In the days of $4 gas, I actually heard people say they couldn't afford to get to their appointments," Boettcher said. "Now they're charging people to get the hell out of the parking lot?"

Hospital spokesman Tom Moore was quoted in one story as saying the fees are part of a hospital "expense moderation program."

And that's the part that chaps Boettcher.

"This is the college that pays its football coach millions of dollars a year, and they're charging cancer patients to park?" he asked. "I like Kirk Ferentz, but I think this is unfair."

In fact, he likes Ferentz a lot. The coach went out of his way, he said, to introduce Bryce to the football team. And he knows the second-longest tenured coach in the Big 10 was offered the

$2.8 million annual salary in a recent 7-year contract. Why would he turn it down?

Besides, Moore pointed out, the hospital campus is completely separate from university athletics.

Not entirely, said Boettcher.

"When I stayed at the Ronald McDonald House and there was a football game, I had to move my car," he said.

It's plain to see why a father would get upset. Insurance hardly ever covers all the expenses in cancer cases, and more of anything can seem like too much.

Moore was asked Thursday whether people with serious financial hardships can get a break on parking, and he said patients can call a parking hot line, adding, "assistance will be discussed."

He offered the number without any coaching:

(319) 467-5656.

Barb Ickes can be contacted at

(563) 383-2316 or bickes@qctimes.com.