Four days before Iowa took the field to face Florida in the Outback Bowl, Greg Davis talked about an ideal conclusion to a lifetime coaching career.
“I think everyone would like to win the national championship, be 85 years old, get your cane and walk off the field,’’ Davis said. “But you know, it doesn’t work that way.’’
Four days after the Iowa offensive coordinator watched the Hawkeyes’ offense struggle in a 30-3 loss to the Gators, Davis called it a career.
The 65-year old Davis announced his retirement Friday, ending a 43-year coaching career in college football following his fifth season on the job at Iowa.
In a statement, Davis said the decision was his and his alone and he cited the desire of he and his wife, Patsy, to spend more time closer to the couple’s five grandchildren in Texas.
“This is my decision, but not a decision that was reached lightly. I remain passionate about the game of football and enjoyed teaching football to our players every day,’’ Davis said.
“Patsy has been a trooper through all these years. We have learned and enjoyed every step along the way. It’s time for me to get closer to our family.’’
Davis joined the Iowa staff in 2012, returning to football after one year away from the game following 13 years as the offensive coordinator at Texas.
He joined the Hawkeye program as part of a staff reorganization which followed the departure of long-time Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe for a job as receivers coach with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and Phil Parker’s promotion to defensive coordinator following the resignation of Norm Parker.
Ferentz welcomed Davis’ experience, which included being named the winner of Frank Broyles Award as the national assistant coach of the year in 2005 after Texas won the BCS national title.
The 18th-year Iowa coach Friday thanked Davis for his contributions over the past five seasons.
“Greg possesses a great football mind, and he brought a perspective and expertise to our program that made every one of our coaches and players better,’’ Ferentz said. “Greg’s coaching career spanned five decades, from high school to the biggest stage in college football, and each day he exemplified passion for the game while instilling character in his players.’’
Davis praised Ferentz for his leadership.
“I’m not sure the people of Iowa realize how special Kirk Ferentz is, and I am not talking about just the football part of the equation,’’ Davis said. “The men who lead this program are prepared for life, for careers, to be great husbands and fathers. Kirk is the total package for what anyone would want in a head coach.’’
Iowa has won 39 games and appeared in four January bowl games over the past five seasons with Davis orchestrating the Hawkeye offense, including 20 wins over the past two seasons.
His 2014 offense, quarterbacked largely by Jake Rudock, rated as the eighth-best passing offense in Hawkeye history with an average of 237 yards per game.
A year later, C.J. Beathard led the ninth-best scoring offense in Iowa history at 30.9 points per game as the Hawkeyes reached the Rose Bowl during a 12-2 season.
Injuries and a lack of experienced depth at the receiver and tight end positions led to struggles in the passing game during the recently-completed 8-5 season, with Iowa finishing 108th in the Football Bowl Subdivision with its average of 11.1 yards per completion and 114th nationally in completions per game at 13.5.
Iowa quarterback recruit Peyton Mansell said Davis’ decision caught him by surprise, but he understands the reasoning.
“He’s been in coaching a long time and he’s earned a chance to spend more time with his family and his grandchildren,’’ Mansell said. “I wish him the best and I am anxious to find out who the next guy will be and who I will be working with.’’
Mansell doesn’t anticipate the change will impact the way the Hawkeyes approach the offensive part of the game.
“Coach Ferentz is a pro-style guy, so I don’t see that changing a lot,’’ Mansell said. “I’m confident they will hire a good coach, though.’’
Davis began his coaching career at the high school level in Barbe High School in Lake Charles, Louisiana in 1973 and helped lead Port Neches-Groves High School to the Texas Class 4A state in 1975 before taking a job as the quarterbacks coach at Texas A&M in 1978.
He left to become the assistant head coach and wide receivers coach at Tulane in 1985 and was the head coach of that program from 1988-91.
Davis spent two seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arkansas beginning in 1992, was the passing game coordinator at Georgia in 1994-95 before joining Mack Brown’s staff at North Carolina as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 1998.
He followed Brown to Texas in 1998 and coached five Longhorns who were named as the Big 12 offensive players of the year, Ricky Williams in 1998, Major Applewhite in 1999, Vince Young in 2005 and Colt McCoy in 2008 and 2009.