Posted by Adam Jacobi
Kirk Ferentz is the most tenured coach in the Big Team, and as long as he's been the head coach at Iowa, he's had Norm Parker as his defensive coordinator. Until now. On Sunday, Iowa announced that Parker, 68, would retire after the Insight Bowl, where the Hawkeyes are set to face Oklahoma.
"I would like to announce that the 2011 Insight Bowl will be my last game as a football coach at Iowa," said Parker in a statement released Sunday. "I would like to personally thank [Iowa athletic director] Gary Barta, Kirk Ferentz, the coaches, and players at Iowa, along with the fantastic fans. The entire Hawkeye community has been great. My wife Linda, and all the members of our family, were very pleased to be members of the Hawkeye family."
Parker's career as an assistant coach in the NCAA dates all the way back to 1968, when he was an offensive line coach for Eastern Michigan. Parker switched to the defensive side of the ball as a defensive line coach with Minnesota in 1972, and he's been a linebackers coach and/or defensive coordinator for the last 34 years with stops in Illinois, East Carolina, Michigan State, Vanderbilt, and finally Iowa.
"Norm's contributions to our team the past 13 years are deeply appreciated, as he has had a tremendous impact on our program," said Ferentz on Sunday. "Norm is a superb defensive coach and has served as a strong role model and mentor for all of our players and our entire staff."
Parker's health has been declining for the past few years, and in 2010 complications from diabetes forced doctors to amputate Parker's right leg below the knee. Parker was fitted with a prosthesis, and he coached games this year from the press box while using a golf cart to get around at practices.
The one aspect of Parker's defenses that he's best known for is a steadfast trust in his base 4-3 defense, and a blitz call was about as rare as a mooing steak in Iowa City. Still, the Hawkeyes were almost always in the Top 20 in total defense under Parker, and this year's mediocre numbers (eighth in the Big Ten in both total defense and scoring defense) were highly anomolous. And yet, Parker was still named the Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) after this season, and will be honored in January at the AFCA's annual convention.
Iowa has not hired a replacement for Parker yet, nor is it known whether the Hawkeyes will seek an outside candidate or promote a defensive coordinator from within, such as longtime Ferentz assistant Phil Parker. Kirk Ferentz has never had to replace a coordinator at Iowa (his OC, Ken O'Keefe, has also been in that role since Day 1), so there's no precedent from which one might glean an idea of what Ferentz will do here. Mike Stoops, the former Arizona head coach and Oklahoma defensive coordinator, is still available; Stoops played football at Iowa and was an assistant there for five years under Hayden Fry.
No timetable has been announced for the hiring of Parker's successor.