The Iowa Hawkeyes may be without a recent championship trophy in their trophy case, their most recent Big Ten championship was achieved in 2002. That season the Hawkeyes were forced to share the trophy with the Ohio State Buckeyes as both teams finished the Big Ten regular season with an unblemished 8-0 record. That year also saw the Hawkeyes then-quarterback Brad Banks finish runner up in the Heisman trophy race to Carson Palmer. And also saw the Hawkeyes fall short of beating the National Champion to the USC Trojans in the Orange Bowl.
The Hawkeyes have not stood atop the podium collectively as a team even though they have had many individuals awarded for their excellence at their particular position. Big Ten schools do not have ocean front property or beautiful weather to attract recruits, so what can they offer?
A great education and a competitive environment in which to hone their skills in preparation for a potential NFL career. Still, those factors alone may not be attractive enough to get the recruits necessary to keep a college football team competitive in today’s game.
So what else can the Hawkeyes offer in particular? The Hawkeyes can offer a history of dependability. The Hawkeyes can hang their hat on consistently and competitiveness. It may sound unattractive to some, but look at the list of very valuable NFL players the Hawkeyes have produced. Players like Robert Gallery, Nick Kaeding, Dallas Clark, Chad Greenway, Shonn Green, Mitch King, Karl Klug and Tony Moeaki are proud Hawkeye alumni who would not be where they are today if not for their time in Iowa City.
So how do the Hawkeyes achieve this consistency? They have the longest tenured head coach in the Big Ten in Kirk Ferentz. Coach Ferentz arrived in Iowa City in time for the 1999 college football season replacing legendary coach Hayden Fry. When Ferentz supplanted Fry as head coach he brought in a defensive coordinator to ensure that the Hawkeyes could compete in the rough and tough Big Ten. 1999 was Kirk Ferentz first year as the Hawkeyes’ head coach and it was Norm Parker’s first year as defensive coordinator.
For a quarter of a century Norm Parker was defense in the Big Ten. He began coaching in the Big Ten in 1972 at Minnesota. Aside from a stint as East Carolina’s defensive coordinator and at Vanderbilt from 1995-97, Parker was coaching defense in the Big Ten. In addition to Iowa and Minnesota, Parker also coached at Illinois and with the Michigan State Spartans.
When Ferentz had the opportunity to secure Parker as his defensive coordinator prior to the 1999 season, he may have made his best decision as a head coach in doing so. The only individual who may have seen more in the Big Ten is the late Joe Paterno.
Parker was suffering from an illness but a specific cause of death may be unknown. What is known is that a great man and contributor to the Big Ten is no longer with us. Parker resigned in 2011, but remained highly respected for his contributions to the game and particularly at Iowa for helping to stabilize the program after Fry retired. It is fair to say that it most likely would have been very hard for Kirk Ferentz to do it alone.