Norm Parker Addresses Media for Final Time in Iowa City

By Marc Morehouse, Reporter

Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker speaks during a news conference, Friday, Dec. 16, 2011, in Iowa City, Iowa. Parker announced he will retire after Iowa's Insight Bowl NCAA college football game against Oklahoma scheduled for Dec. 30. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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By James Steward

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Norm Parker has swung a golf club twice since losing the lower half of his right leg last year. As you might imagine, balance is the problem.

This would be the only place in the longtime football coach and Iowa defensive coordinator’s life where balance is a problem.

Parker, 70, announced his retirement Sunday and gave what likely will be his final press conference in the Hayden Fry Football Complex on Friday. The topics ranged from what went behind his decision to some of the faces he’ll remember during his 13 seasons at Iowa to the changes he’s seen in the game since first putting on a whistle in 1965, as head coach at St. John’s High School in Ypsilanti, Mich.

“As much as anything, as much as anything, I think you got to be fair to the team, you got to be fair to the program,” said Parker, who missed seven weeks in 2010 after having part of his right leg amputated because of diabetic complications. “When it’s time to go, it’s time to go. I’ve always said, I never want to coach just to have a job. When you can’t do it and do it right, do it the way it should be done, then it’s time to let somebody else do it.

“So, I think in all fairness to the team, the players, the other coaches, myself, it’s time to get out. It’s time to go bounce some grandkids around on your knee.”

Head coach Kirk Ferentz introduced Parker, the only defensive coordinator he’s had in his 13 years at Iowa.

“I think everybody is aware of Norm’s expertise as a defensive coach,” Ferentz said. “The record speaks for itself and the numbers speak for themselves.

“I point this out every time I have a chance to talk about Norm, but I think his impact, the effect he had on this football program goes way beyond the football part of things. I don’t care if you’re talking to our staff, players, support staff, they’d all tell you the same thing: His impact has really gone beyond any defense he may have called or coached during the week. That’s something we’re real appreciative of.”

There’s some practical business to take care of. Iowa needs a new defensive coordinator.

Ferentz left the auditorium before taking questions. Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said he doesn’t micromanage and the ball’s in Ferentz’s court on this hire.

“He’ll talk with me as he goes through his process, but he’ll pick the person,” Barta said. “Time-wise, right now everyone is focused on the bowl game. . . . Whenever you go into the recruiting season and the next season, the sooner, the better, but no time frame set.”

Ferentz has established continuity as one of the tenets of his time at Iowa. When Iowa hires a new defensive coordinator, it will be just the seventh staff change in Ferentz’s 13 seasons. The last change was 2008, when running backs coach Carl Jackson retired. Of the seven changes, two have been retirements, three have left for jobs in the NFL and two took jobs at other schools.

Iowa’s next defensive coordinator will be just its fourth in 34 seasons. The value Ferentz places on continuity leads you to believe secondary coach Phil Parker, 13 seasons at Iowa, likely is the leader in the clubhouse for Iowa’s next defensive coordinator.

That wasn’t the topic at hand Friday. This was a setting for Norm Parker’s parting words as a coach.

If you’re considering a career in coaching, here’s advice from Norm Parker:

“I would tell him that it’s rewarding, but it’s long hours, and if you’re going to do it you have to do it the right way,” Parker said. “Don’t do it halfway. Don’t insult the game.

“To me, I think the game is a very important thing. If you do it half-assed, then you’re insulting the game. If that’s what you’re going to do, don’t go into it. If you’re going to go into it 100 miles an hour, full heart, then go do it, but don’t insult the game. Don’t insult the players and don’t insult the game.”
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