IOWA CITY - The bad news Wednesday was that Norm Parker, the beloved defensive coordinator for the Iowa football team, had his right foot amputated a few weeks ago due to complications from diabetes.

The good news? Parker is far from finished as a college football coach.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said he expects Parker to rejoin his staff before the season is over, and he left open the very slight possibility that Parker might be back in time for the Hawkeyes' next game, a week from Saturday at Michigan.

"I'm very confident that he's fairly close now, and we'll just continue to push forward until Norm's back with us," Ferentz said. "We'll be better when he gets back here; we know that."

Ferentz said he doesn't just envision Parker, 68, finishing out the season.

"We're not talking about weeks or months," he said. "He has given no indication that he wants to retire. This is what he wants to do. We're trying to get him back for the long haul."

Parker, a member of the Iowa staff since 1999, has had ongoing problems with diabetes for many years and previously had a toe amputated. He began having severe problems in the middle of last fall and spent the second half of the season and the early part of this season getting around on a golf cart and coaching games from the press box.

He was hospitalized the day before the Hawkeyes' Sept. 11 game against Iowa State and had the foot amputated about two weeks ago, shortly after Iowa's game at Arizona. He checked out of the hospital late last week.

Ferentz said the decision to amputate was made by a team of physicians and was done only as a last resort.

"They're convinced that he is going to come back and have a much better quality of life than he has had," Ferentz said.

Parker now is in rehab and physical therapy, and Ferentz said he thinks he has "turned a corner mentally." He said Parker looked and sounded much better when he visited him Sunday, the day after the Iowa defense held No. 22 Penn State to a field goal in a 24-3 victory.

"He had a big smile on his face," Ferentz said. "That probably was the best medicine we could have given him."

In Parker's absence, other members of the team's defensive staff - Darrell Wilson, Phil Parker and Rick Kaczenski - have taken on additional duties. And Ferentz said he received permission from the NCAA to enlist extra help from LeVar Woods, a former Hawkeyes linebacker who is an administrative assistant with the team.

"He's no stranger to our defense and it was very fortunate for us that he was here and available," Ferentz said.

The head coach said he planned to tell his players about Parker's situation later Wednesday, although some of them seemed to know about it in conversations with reporters Wednesday afternoon.

Defensive tackle Karl Klug said that although the other assistants have done a good job filling in, it has been "different" not having Parker around.

"I love Coach Parker, even when he yells at us," Klug said. "That's his job. I love that he's so old school."

Like Ferentz, Klug said he can't imagine Parker retiring anytime soon.

"I think he'll be around for as long as he wants," Klug said. "I think they'll probably have to drag him off the field someday."