Iowa CITY, Iowa - Kirk Ferentz called himself an optimist on Wednesday. Iowa's head coach believed he could spark the program when he took over before the 1999 season. He did just that.
"I believe we can do that again," Ferentz said at his year-end press conference.
The Dean of Big Ten coaches said a lot of other things during the gathering. Short of firing offensive coordinator Greg Davis or resigning himself, none of what came out of his mouth was going to appease the portion of the fan base disgusted with a team that finished 4-8 on the heels of a 7-6 campaign.
Ferentz hasn't fired an assistant in 14 years. To think that was going to happen with Davis was foolish. At $4M annually through 2020, it would have been more nutty to think Ferentz would walk away.
The coach was well prepared for questions on Wednesday. He was somewhat contrite and continually offered up his standard answer of needing to work harder to get better results. Again, if you expected something else, you haven't been paying attention for the last 14 years.
Ferentz could have come out and sung the alphabet over and over. While more eyebrows would have been raised during than this almost 45-minute session, it would have delivered the same result.
The proof will be in the outcome of next season and beyond for Ferentz. Words do not matter.
It's up to each individual fan to decide his or her level of faith in Ferentz. Can he lead your Hawkeyes to a BCS bowl as he did three seasons ago or is he washed up? Opinions, most certainly, vary.
Asked how married he was to his philosophy of pro-style offense and bend-but-don't-break defense, Ferentz said he'd do whatever it takes to win. In other words, that's what he believes it will take to win at Iowa and he will continue to do it.
That's probably the smart approach right now. The roster is built that way and starting from scratch as he did in 1999 really isn't an option at his age, although he has the job security to do it.
Iowa fans have helped put Ferentz in the position he currently enjoys. The Hawkeye faithful have filled the stands at Kinnick Stadium and traveled well enough to lift their team, at times, into better bowl games than its on-field performance may have warranted.
Perhaps seats go empty in 2013. That's probably unlikely.
Iowa fans, like their coach, are optimistic. When tickets go on sale, they'll find reasons why things will be better on the field. Visions of tailgating on sunny fall afternoons with friends and family will dance through their heads. It's a proud tradition.
There's hope. Iowa loses just three starters on defense, four on offense and returns its two specialists. There aren't any saviors, however, and everyone on both sides of the ball will need to make major progress based on the '12 results.
The work already is taking place now with players training and coaches evaluating and recruiting. Most of it will go on out of the public eye with the next press conference scheduled for Feb. 5, national signing day. After that, we're looking at a late March press conference to kick off spring ball.
Some of the angst created by the last few seasons will wear off with time. A portion of that discontent comes from silly prognostications of Iowa competing for a conference title heading into this past season. That likely will seep into the consciousness as we move into next summer, although optimism most assuredly will be down.
Yes, we got what we should have expected from Wednesday's press conference. Ferentz said he isn't into "spin" or making excuses. There weren't any to give us, although he did throw out results from his body of work at Iowa as a refresher.
The well-paid coach's job is to win football games within the rules while not disgracing the university. Beyond that, there's nothing left to say.