The Iowa head coach has been at the helm since 1999 and is due to make $7M this year. Boardroom breaks down the Kirk Ferentz contract.
There is only one FBS football coach who has been at his job for longer than Tom Brady has been in the NFL. That man is Kirk Ferentz, and since 1999, the Iowa head coach has led the Hawkeyes to 181 wins, 19 bowl appearances, two Big Ten championships, and three BCS or New Year’s Six bowl games.
This season, however, Ferentz’s squad is off to a shaky start. Iowa is 3-3 with an offense that’s failed to score double-digit points in half of its games so far. It doesn’t get easier from here, either, as Iowa gets set to face No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday in FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff.
While the Hawkeyes are coming off a 10-win season in 2021 and Ferentz has had plenty of success, it’s not unreasonable to think Iowa fans might want a little more. The program has been consistently good-not-great, and with the money Ferentz is making, some fans might think they can do better.
But before you kick the nation’s longest-tenured coach out the door, here’s a look at Kirk Ferentz’s contract, including his salary, buyout, and extensive bonus structure.
Kirk Ferentz Contract Overview at Iowa
Signed: Sept. 5, 2016 (extended in 2021)
Term: Through 2029 season
Base Salary: $500,000
Kirk Ferentz’s Additional Compensation:
Per the contract extension he signed in 2021, Ferentz will receive a monthly supplemental payment of $458,333.33 through the end of his contract. That comes out to $5,499,999.96 per year.
Note that the above number is not reflected in the contract he signed in 2016. From 2016-21, Ferentz earned just $1,480,000 per year in supplemental pay. This does not, however, mean that Ferentz nearly quadrupled his salary with that one extension. While his supplemental pay increased dramatically, his base salary dropped to $500,000, compared to a base that started at $2,370,000 in his original contract with yearly increases. At the same time, his annual longevity bonus increased from $650,000 to $1,000,000.
To get a better idea of what this extension did for Ferentz, here’s a look at his base + supplemental + longevity pay, from 2016 to present:
- 2016: $4,500,000
- 2017: $4,550,000 (Ferentz took a one-time base salary pay-cut in 2017-18)
- 2018: $4,700,000
- 2019: $4,800,000
- 2020: $4,900,000
- 2021: $7,000,000 (first year of extension)
- 2022: $7,000,000
So how does Ferentz’s salary compare to his peers? Here’s where his 2022 pay stacks up alongside other coaches whose contracts we’ve highlighted this season:
- Nick Saban: $9,900,000
- Jimbo Fisher: $9,000,000
- Jim Harbaugh: $7,050,000
- Kirk Ferentz: $7,000,000
- Bryan Harsin: $5,100,000
- Karl Dorrell*: $3,600,000
- Mike Norvell: $3,250,000
*coach has since been fired
Kirk Ferentz Buyout Details
Ferentz has been head coach at Iowa since 1999. That’s five US Presidential Administrations and three popes. Conference foe Nebraska has had seven different head coaches in that span. Such longevity comes with security for Ferentz. If Iowa decides it’s had enough of its head man, it can fire him without cause. But if that’s what the university decides, it will owe Ferentz 100% of his remaining base and supplemental salary, and he’s under contract through 2029. So, if Iowa wants to move on after this season, it would need to pay him $42,000,000, paid out in monthly installments.
OK, buckle up because there’s a lot going on here. We’ve already covered Ferentz’s million-dollar retention bonus, which applies every year for the duration. In addition, he is eligible for the following bonuses.
Based on where Iowa finishes the season in the Coaches’ Poll, AP Poll, or College Football Playoff rankings, Ferentz will receive the following:
- Top 25: $250,000
- Top 20: $275,000
- Top 15: $300,000
- Top 10: $375,000
- Top 5: $475,000
- College Football Playoff Runner-Up: $625,000
- National Champion: $1,625,000
In addition to final rankings, Ferentz will earn bonuses for taking the Hawkeyes to bowl games.
- Non-New Year’s Six Bowl Game: $100,000
- New Year’s Six Bowl Game: $250,000
- College Football Playoff Semifinal: $375,000
Ferentz will also receive another $50,000 if Iowa wins the Rose Bowl.
Big Ten Championships:
Ferentz will be subject to, at most, one of the below bonuses, corresponding with the highest title the Hawkeyes attain in a given year.
- Big Ten West winner but not invited to Big Ten championship game: $100,000
- Big Ten West winner, Big Ten championship loser: $200,000
- Big Ten champion or undefeated Big Ten regular season: $250,000
If the team earns a graduation rate of 80% or higher, Ferentz will earn an additional $100,000 for that season.
Got all that? This is the first season with Ferentz’s current bonus structure, but let’s use last season as an example to see how much he can earn in a year. In 2021, the Hawkeyes went 10-4, winning the Big Ten West, advancing to the Big Ten title game ($200,000), then lost in the Citrus Bowl. Their highest end-of-season ranking came in the College Football Playoff rankings, where they were 15th ($300,000). Unfortunately for Ferentz, finishing in the rankings means he can’t also get his non-New Year’s Six bowl bonus. Still, that would have been $500,000 in bonuses for a year that ended in a pair of losses — and we don’t even know exactly what the team’s graduation rate was.
As for the maximum bonus Ferentz can earn in a season under this structure, you’d have to assume Iowa does the following: wins the national championship ($1,625,000), wins the Rose Bowl to get there ($375,000 + another $50,000), wins the Big Ten championship ($250,000), and performs well in the classroom ($100,000).
The scholars here at Boardroom crunched the numbers and found that would give Ferentz a theoretical maximum bonus of $2,400,000 in a season.
Special Allowances & Perks
It’s fair to say if you’ve lived in the Hawkeye State long enough to see six Iowa Caucuses, then you pretty much run the university. Unless Caitlin Clark runs things there now, we can’t be sure. Regardless, Ferentz gets plenty of perks:
- He can take up to six guests on the team plane or bus to road games
- He and his wife are allotted two university-provided cars
- The university will pay for a country club membership for him, his assistants, and their families
- He can use a private jet for up to 35 hours per year for personal use and 50 hours per year for business use
- He is entitled to 20 complimentary tickets per home game and one viewing box
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