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Ferentz, NFL rumors rife

Monday, January 9, 2006

Iowa coach again in NFL sights as vacancies mount

(AP) TAMPA, Fla. - It's January and Iowa has put together another winning season. It must be time for Kirk Ferentz to deal with speculation linking him to NFL coaching vacancies.

The Hawkeye head coach brushed off rumors Monday, specifically reports that the Green Bay Packers are interested.

The Packers fired Mike Sherman on Monday after six seasons and are one of seven teams searching for head coaches.

"I don't even know what happened in Green Bay today," Ferentz told reporters after No. 25 Iowa was beaten 31-24 by No. 16 Florida in the Outback Bowl. "I've had contacts the last couple of years, and I'm still here.

"You want to talk about the pink locker room?" he joked, referring to the controversy that erupted this fall over the pink visitors' locker room at Kinnick Stadium.

In his seventh season at Iowa, Ferentz guided the Hawkeyes to a 7-5 record this year and a school record fourth straight trip to a January bowl.

In the last four years, Iowa has won two Big Ten titles, tied a school record with 38 victories and finished in the Top 10 three times. He was voted The Associated Press Coach of the Year in 2002 and has twice been named Big Ten Coach of the Year.

He signed a contract extension in 2004 that pays him a base salary of $1.2 million a year and would keep him at Iowa until 2012. He is eligible to earn more with bonuses and incentives.

But in each of the last three years, Ferentz _ a former offensive line coach at Cleveland under Bill Belichick then briefly at Baltimore _ has been among the leading college coaches considered prime candidates for NFL jobs.

He's acknowledged receiving offers in the past, including meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars in January 2003.

But each time, Ferentz has said he and his family prefer the quality of life in a small, Midwestern college town and coaching at the college level.

Several Iowa players said their coach told them nothing about his future at the school after Monday's defeat.

"It goes on every year," said Ferentz's son Brian, the Hawkeyes' starting center. "I really think it's a non-issue. Whatever he does will obviously be in the best interests of our family."

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