Iowa assistant football coach and Defensive Coordinator Norm Parker has built quite the reputation over the years as being one of the best defensive minds in college football.
Monday, Parker was named Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association.
“It’s truly an honor to be recognized by your peers,” Parker said. “There are so many other deserving assistants out there. I want to especially say thank you to (Iowa head coach) Kirk Ferentz, the other assistants I’ve worked with at Iowa, and especially the players I’ve had the good fortune to coach. All of those people are the ones that made this possible. I’ll cherish this award forever.”
The award for a career is warranted, but this year’s season was far from Parker’s best efforts. That was to be expected though as Parker has lost plenty of talent to the NFL the past two years. This year’s unit was young, inexperienced and just simply not as talented as his past units.
Parker’s defenses have been ranked in the top 10 nationally in rush defense five times and been ranked in the top 10 in scoring defenses in three of the past four seasons. In 2010, the Hawkeyes ranked fifth in total defense at 332.1 yards per game, sixth in rush defense at 101.5 yards per game and seventh in scoring defense at 17 points per game.
This season, Iowa gave up around 26 points per game and ranked near the middle of the Big Ten Conference as opposed to the top like in previous seasons.
“Norm has impacted our program in a very positive and significant way over the past 13 years. He is an outstanding defensive coach and has served as a great role model and mentor for our entire staff and all of our players,” Ferentz said.
The American Football Coaches Association is based out of Waco, Texas. The award was voted upon by his peers and Parker will be honored at the AFCA National Convention on Jan. 8-11 in San Antonio, Texas.
Hawkeye fans have certainly enjoyed watching Parker’s defenses over the past 13 seasons at Iowa. But this year seemed to be one of those years when the unit was overmatched. Has Parker’s time come and gone at Iowa? How much longer will the long-time football coach’s career last?
Winning this award Monday could hint to Hawkeye fans that Parker is close to retiring. And that this year’s award is more of a Lifetime Achievement Award than an award for the 2011 season.
Parker has battled through plenty of obstacles health-wise in the past few seasons. He has battled Diabetes for awhile and even had one of his feet amputated this offseason. That is why so many rumors have surfaced that this may be his final season in Iowa City.
It is evident at this point in the process that Ferentz is too loyal to his assistants to let any of them go, but many Hawkeye fans have expressed displeasure the past few seasons and think maybe that the coaching staff needs new blood.
If that is the case or if Parker decides to call it quits, then who are some top candidates that could replace Parker in Iowa City?
The obvious choice would be former Arizona head coach Mike Stoops, who was fired in-season as Wildcats head man. Stoops already has ties with Iowa and is friends with Ferentz. I think he would take this job in a heartbeat.
Current Ohio State interim coach Luke Fickell was reportedly high on Ferentz’s list of possible eventual replacements, but it was reported Monday that Fickell would stay at Ohio State as an Associate head coach for newly hired Urban Meyer.
Knowing Ferentz, he would be content on hiring within for the position, which would make assistant coaches Phil Parker and Darrell Wilson potential candidates.
On the offensive side of the ball, it is very unlikely that Ferentz will replace his best friend and long-time Offensive Coordinator Ken O’Keefe but new blood there also is needed in the program.
My top choices for that position right now with those available would be former Kansas head coach Turner Gill and former Kansas Offensive Coordinator and former Iowa QB Chuck Long, who were both fired this past week despite just being at the program for two seasons.
Former Illinois head coach Ron Zook has not been great as a head coach, but he can recruit and would be much better suited for a role as an offensive coach somewhere. That is why I think he would be great in O’Keefe’s role as well.
O’Keefe has done an admirable job in Iowa City, but someone has to pay for this year’s disappointing offensive performance. The 2011 team featured a QB with the most passing yards, a RB with nearly the most rushing yards, the most prolific WR in school history and a future first-round draft pick at LT and the Hawkeyes finished 7-5.
There were not a lot of expectations this season but the schedule should have allowed Iowa to win more than seven games. Is it coaching, players or a combination of both?
I am interested to hear what the fans think. Do you want changes to be made to the coaching staff? And if so, who do you want to see roaming the sidelines at Kinnick Stadium next season?
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