IOWA CITY, Iowa — So it turns out Kirk Ferentz is a numbers guy after all.
The Iowa football coach revealed during a press conference on Wednesday that the program is working with an analytics company. The Hawkeyes use the information to help with game management situations.
“It’s a way to stay sharp, really hone your skills a little bit, everything is open to interpretation,” Ferentz said, “but it promotes great discussion, great banter back-and-forth.”
A few years ago, Ferentz and analytics probably didn’t go together, but it’s just another wrinkle in the new Kirk persona that seems to be taking hold in the football office in recent years.
Ferentz saw an analytics presentation in the spring and was intrigued. The Hawkeyes now go through a weekly meeting. It will last 30 to 45 minutes and will go over a handful of plays and coaching decisions from the last week.
They may discuss crucial situations and the thought process that should go into it, like what’s the best way to run down a clock in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Ferentz listens to the debate and tries to find a way to apply the lessons learned from the conversations to Iowa.
“You have to transfer those things to your given situation, your given team, all those kinds of things,” Ferentz said. “It’s been really good, really thought provoking, and something I’m glad we took the time to invest in.”
The topic came up when Ferentz explained why he chose to kick a field goal instead of trying to go for it on a fourth-and-5 from the Wisconsin 20-yard line when down eight points in the fourth quarter last week. Ferentz explains his decision for that call, which he stands by, in this video.
Ferentz is the first to admit all of this is new to him.
“In years past you never spent so much time thinking about it,” Ferentz said. “You do more so in the outer season.”
But analytics and game management are taking up more of his time. There is probably a correlation there and Iowa’s decision to start going for it more on fourth-and-short and choosing to defer when winning the opening kickoff.
Iowa is embracing the numbers revolution going on in sports, but that doesn’t mean old-school Ferentz is gone.
“It’s probably my least favorite meeting of the week, quite frankly,” Ferentz said.