With news that two-year Iowa Hawkeyes starter at quarterback Jake Rudock would be transferring coming Wednesday morning, it appears there will be one less quarterback controversy in the Big Ten this fall. If there ever even was at Iowa to begin with.
After a blowout loss to Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl in January, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz claimed that sophomore C.J. Beathard, who finished the bowl game and started a Sept. 27 win over Purdue, had supplanted Rudock on the depth chart. However, most still expected the two to compete in a heated position battle that would likely last throughout the spring and into the fall.
Yet, with news of Rudock’s transfer (Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman tweeted that he’d be visiting Michigan this week and as a graduate transfer he’d be eligible to play immediately), it appears as if the job is now solely Beathard’s. Ferentz’s choice to anoint the sophomore likely led to Rudock’s decision, and now the two may be linked forever as Ferentz tries to earn his way back into the fanbase’s good graces.
The 2014 season was a disastrous one for Ferentz, as the Hawkeyes lost five of seven down the stretch after a 5-1 start. To make matters worse, that disappointing 7-6 record came in a season when many assumed that Iowa could compete to win the Big 10 West.
The Hawkeyes lost all four of their trophy rivalries (to Iowa State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska), with the most embarrassing of which coming in a 51-14 loss at the hands of the Golden Gophers.
In that game, Minnesota gashed Iowa on the ground to the tune of 291 rushing yards and outgained their rivals more than 2:1 while limiting the Hawkeyes to just 84 yards rushing of their own. At the time, with the West still largely up for grabs, that loss was essentially the breaking point for Iowa and Ferentz.
Since 2010, Iowa has paid Ferentz in the neighborhood of $20 million for a 34-30 record. However, his massive buyout number and a contract that lasts through 2020 make him nearly unfireable, as far as most are concerned.
Yet, after a mid-September loss to Iowa State, Forbes published an article that claimed Iowa could afford to fire Kirk Ferentz and that it would save roughly $7.7 million over the life of Ferentz’s deal in unpaid salary and longevity incentives. And, given that Iowa has managed to build one of the most profitable athletic departments in the nation (second only to Alabama), now is probably as good a time as ever to part ways with Ferentz if that was what the administration thought best.
Needless to say, it didn’t, and Kirk Ferentz will return with 2015, but the financials of his obscene contract no longer work in his favor. Iowa would take a hit, but if the mediocrity continues and the fanbase’s weariness does as well, Ferentz’s buyout will no longer protect him.
With Beathard now being tabbed to run the offense, many will eye 2015 as either a year that seals Kirk Ferentz’s fate or reestablishes him as one of the more popular figures in the state. That’s a lot of pressure to place on the rising junior who has started just one game in his career, but now that the reliable Rudock is no longer with the program, it’s Beathard or bust for Ferentz.
The Iowa Hawkeyes have won seven games or less six times in the past decade, and chances are that’s not going to cut it anymore for Kirk Ferentz. That’s why, in lieu of the predictably average play of Rudock, they opted to go with the potentially spectacular Beathard.
We’ll see how it plays out.