For the first time since I was finishing my senior year of high school or 1999, the University of Iowa is conducting a search to fill a major coaching vacancy on its football team.
Beloved Norm Parker, who has coordinated the Hawkeye
defense for the past 13 seasons, has retired. Hawkeye fans knew in
the back of their heads that this day was going to come eventually,
just as someday the University will have to replace Kirk Ferentz.
However, as the case will likely be with Ferentz, there wasn’t a
lot of advance notice from Parker and the hope was that Norm would
have to be removed from his job on a stretcher someday.
So now the University of Iowa finds
itself certainly not in a desperate situation, the previous season
ended only a few days ago, but not wanting to take a step back
either. Parker earned his keep during his thirteen seasons. During
his tenure Iowa ranked in the top ten in rushing defense five times
and scoring defense three of the past four seasons. After this past
season he was named the Assistant Coach of the Year by the American
Football Coaches’ Association. Credentials like that are hard to
replace as well as Norm’s experience and familiarity with the rest
of the coaching staff. It is impossible to find another Norm Parker,
but the University will try to find another person with similar
credentials and experience.
Many companies have a policy of
promoting from within first. As far as this writer is aware the
University of Iowa football staff does not hold that policy but there
are benefits to giving the defensive coordinator job to someone who
is familiar with the staff and team. The two names from the current
list of position coaches that jump out are Phil Parker and Darrell
Phil Parker seems the odds-on favorite
to get the job. The first thing to be told about Phil Parker is that
he is in no way related to Norm Parker. Phil played defensive back at
Michigan from 1981-1985 and earned several accolades while there.
When Norm got the defensive coordinator job in 1999, he hired Phil to
coach the defensive backs for the Hawkeyes. During his tenure Phil
has seen eight of his players get drafted into the NFL. Also, Phil
has limited experience in the role of defensive coordinator for Iowa.
When health issues sidelined Norm in 2010, Phil filled in and
maintained Norm’s defense.
The other “incumbent” of sorts is
Darrell Wilson. Wilson played defensive back at UCLA and joined the
Hawkeyes as the linebackers/special teams coach in 2002. Wilson has
been named one of the best recruiters in the country by Rivals.com
and has turned out NFL products of his own such as Chad Greenway and
Pat Angerer. While these two make their cases, it would be foolish
of the University not to see what options lie outside Iowa City.
Other names that have surfaced include
former University of Arizona head coach Mike Stoops, Arizona
Cardinals’ defensive coordinator Ron Aiken and longtime collegiate
assistant William Inge. Hot names on the national scope of
up-and-coming defensive coordinators are Temple’s Chuck Heater,
Kent State’s Jon Heacock and Louisiana-Monroe’s Troy Reffett.
Whether or not Iowa will make a play for any or several of these
candidates remains to be seen but it serves as a short list of
Whether the University does as the
expectation suggests and promotes Phil Parker or they play a
wild-card and hire from elsewhere the person who gets the job is sure
to face comparisons to Norm Parker for the first few seasons of his
career. If the defense performs as well under that person as it has
under Norm Parker, all will be well in Iowa City.
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