IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - In the summer of 2006, Iowa kept Kirk Ferentz away from the NFL by making him one of the nation's highest-paid coaches.
The Hawkeyes haven't gotten much in return.
Iowa (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten) hasn't won a Big Ten game in over a year and is in danger of missing out on a bowl for the first time since 2000. The program's recent woes have raised questions about how a coach making close to $3 million a year can see his team fall so quickly from national prominence.
Granted, nobody's talking about firing Ferentz - save for a few fans with short memories. But Iowa, ravaged by injuries and a woefully inept offense, has lost eight straight league games and carries a four-game losing streak into Saturday's game against No. 18 Illinois.
``Where we're at right now is not where we wanted to be certainly,'' said Ferentz, who led the Hawkeyes to Big Ten titles in 2002 and 2004. ``It wasn't by design. But nobody is panicking here, and I don't think anybody in our house is at least on the ledge. I hope not.
``We're just going to work through it.''
The biggest reason for Iowa's fall is fallen players. Injuries have hurt the Hawkeyes' depth, which, despite strides in recruiting over the past four years, still pales in comparison to Big Ten heavyweights like Ohio State and Michigan.
Iowa started 5-1 in 2006, before nagging injuries to key performers led to a 1-6 finish.
It's worse this season.
The Hawkeyes haven't been able to do anything on offense. They lost their top receiving threat, sophomore Dominique Douglas, in August after he was suspended and charged with unauthorized use of a credit card. Wide receiver Andy Brodell and tight end Tony Moeaki, who were 1-2 on the team in receiving yards in place of Douglas, both went down with injuries against Wisconsin on Sept. 22.
Throw in an inexperienced and injury-plagued line and a first-year quarterback, Jake Christensen, throwing to backup receivers, and it's easy to see why Iowa's offense is ranked 114th in the nation at just 17.3 points a game.
``When it comes to injuries, there's absolutely no way to predict those things. When they occur, you just deal with them the best you can,'' Ferentz said. ``We've had years where we've sailed through pretty clean and we've had other years where it's been a little bit more challenging. It just makes the equation a little bit tougher to solve.''
That Ferentz is even hearing grumbling over the team's direction is a marked change from the bulk of his tenure.
Some thought Ferentz was an uninspired choice to take over for Hayden Fry in 1999. Four years later, the Hawkeyes were one of the nation's top programs.
Kinnick Stadium was sold out every Saturday and Ferentz, the AP's coach of the year in 2002, began drawing interest from several NFL teams.
He was respected nationally and beloved locally for a humble, hardworking approach that produced big-time results.
Iowa began to slip in 2005, finishing 7-5 after three straight top-10 finishes. That didn't stop the NFL rumor mill from churning out his name nearly every time a job became open.
In June 2006, former athletic director Bob Bowlsby stepped in and made Ferentz one of the richest coaches in college football, bumping his annual salary to $2.84 million.
Ferentz's revised contract runs until 2012 and includes a hefty buyout. Athletic director Gary Barta, who took over for Bowlsby in August 2006, gave Ferentz and his staff a vote of confidence Thursday, adding that he doesn't feel hamstrung by Ferentz's contract.
field, we've got to find a way to get better.''
Most opposing coaches will say that the Hawkeyes don't try to trick them - they just plan to execute better. That approach worked for years, but it hasn't lately.
Ferentz, though, doesn't sound ready to change.
``I think we're just trying to follow the blueprint we've been using,'' he said. ``It worked pretty well in the past. I don't think there's anything wrong with our blueprint.''
Ferentz is also resigned to the fact that his salary, fair or unfair, will be forever tied to Iowa's performance.
``There's a certain percentage of the population - and I knew that when I signed the contract - I certainly knew for a certain segment that that would be a factor, sure. That's part of the territory,'' Ferentz said.

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