CHICAGO — About the only lists Kirk Ferentz concerns himself with are practice plans and depth charts.
The Iowa football coach shrugged off the list he made most recently, the one compiled by Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated which listed the 15th-year Hawkeyes coach as one of the five worst college football coaches in the country.
“I don’t lay awake at night worrying too much about what anyone writes,’’ Ferentz said at the Big Ten’s annual football kickoff event. “I worry about what we’re doing as a program and a team, and about how we can get back on the good list.’’
Ferentz once made the other list Mandel compiles, a list of the game’s top coaches, but after a 4-8 season in 2012 he joined Illinois’ Tim Beckman on Mandel’s annual “worst’’ coach list.
“The 2009 Orange Bowl proved an aberration in Ferentz’s otherwise unimpressive recent tenure,’’ Mandel wrote. “Take away that one 11-2 season and the Hawkeyes are 47-41 since 2005 under their $3.6 million-per-year coach.’’
The bluntness of Mandel’s words angered fans across the state. Three days after he posted his rankings on the Sports Illustrated website, Mandel was commenting about the unprecedented volume of responses he had received defending Ferentz.
The Iowa coach heard from many of those fans as well, and he appreciates the passion they displayed, even if he doesn’t like a 4-8 season any better than they do.
“It’s kind of ironic, but in our own state I probably read more good things about what we’ve done after that (ranking) than I had seen at any time in the past five years,’’ Ferentz said. “So, it had kind of a funny twist.’’
Iowa players aren’t laughing.
Linebacker Christian Kirksey is using it as motivation. Offensive lineman Brett Van Sloten takes it for what it’s worth.
“I take it personally. I think a lot of us do,’’ Kirksey said. “Something like that is a reflection on all of us, and I’m going to do my best to prove that he didn’t know what he was talking about when he put those rankings together.’’
Van Sloten said Mandel is entitled to his opinion, but said he reached the wrong conclusion.
“To suggest that coach Ferentz belongs anywhere on the list is ridiculous,’’ Van Sloten said. “He has a right to believe what he believes, but I don’t think there is any real substance to it. Did we have the type of season any of us wanted last year? No, but that doesn’t mean that coach is a bad coach. It means we had a bad year. We’ll get it fixed.’’
Ferentz views it all as a reflection of the times and considers both best and worst lists as little more than good fodder for coffee-shop talk.
“I don’t think you have to be a Rhodes Scholar to figure out if your team wins the Orange Bowl and you’re ranked seventh in the country, they’re going to think you’re a good coach and if you go 4-8, you’re not,’’ Ferentz said.
“It comes with the territory. It’s always more fun when you win than when you lose and if you can’t handle, it’s probably time to get out.’’