Leistikow: At no cost, Iowa football taking advantage of ex-Wisconsin coach's influence
IOWA CITY — One of the Iowa football program’s most interesting and key staff additions this spring is coming at quite the bargain, earning $0 for his services.
Jon Budmayr officially joined the Hawkeye staff as a volunteer on March 1, according to a document obtained via an open-records request under the freedom of information act (FOIA) by the Des Moines Register. The University of Iowa’s compliance office said in a follow-up e-mail that Budmayr was added as a "special consultant to the head coach (Kirk Ferentz) and coaching staff" on a volunteer basis.
During spring football interviews over the past month, Budmayr’s name has come up frequently as being helpful to the Hawkeyes’ efforts to improve their woeful passing game, as sixth-year offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz transitions to taking charge of the quarterbacks position.
Budmayr previously served as Colorado State’s offensive coordinator for one season, which included a 24-14 loss at Iowa on Sept. 25. But he was left without a job after Colorado State fired head coach Steve Addazio in early December. (Interestingly, former Hawkeye safety Jay Norvell was hired as the Rams’ new head coach.) According to USA TODAY Sports, Budmayr earned $325,000 in his lone season as the Rams’ offensive coordinator.
According to the volunteer authorization form Budmayr signed at Iowa, his responsibilities include self-scouting, opponents’ scouting, injury reports, depth-chart projections and “other analytics needed by (the) head coach and assistant coaches.”
Budmayr, 31, had been familiar to the Hawkeye program prior to his arrival. He is a former Wisconsin quarterback and spent six years on the Badgers' coaching staff under Paul Chryst, including as quarterbacks coach from 2018 to 2020.
Brian Ferentz said recently that he met Budmayr years ago and followed his career at Wisconsin — Iowa’s chief rival in the Big Ten Conference's West Division. With Budmayr certainly looking to stay relevant in the coaching world after the Colorado State job fell through, showing he can help Iowa resuscitate an offense that struggled in 2021 (despite a 10-4 campaign) was a sensible transitional role.
"If you bring people in the building, do they provide value? That’s it. We’re all trying to win, right?" Brian Ferentz, 39, said. "How are we helping the football team? So, (Budmayr) has been a tremendous resource."
Hawkeye players have also either directly or indirectly referenced the contributions of Budmayr’s work behind the scenes.
Iowa fifth-year senior quarterback Spencer Petras has been looking very good in practice, I've been told. He said on March 29 that he’s been helped by a "matrix" style of learning that Budmayr introduced to the program, where an offensive concept is broken down against any possible defensive look the QB could get at the line of scrimmage.
“It’s, ‘OK, I’m getting Cover 2, my progression is this, this and this. Or if I’m getting Cover 3, my progression is this, this and this.’ It’s a way for us to play faster,” Petras said, “and also make sure we’re playing the right routes on a concept on any given play.”
On Tuesday, sophomore wide receiver Keagan Johnson said the offense — which ranked 121st out of 130 FBS teams in total offense last season — has been focused on simpler concepts. An emerging theme this spring is that Iowa's offense has looked better and different.
“We’ve had new people come on that have been helping us out,” Johnson said. “Not really revamping the offense, but just adjusting some of the things we were doing.”
NCAA bylaws don’t permit volunteer assistant football coaches at the FBS level, so Budmayr’s contributions must remain largely behind the scenes. According to Iowa’s compliance department, Budmayr "is unable to provide technical or tactical instruction to Iowa football student-athletes" in his role.
A March 2021 article from The Athletic — after Budmayr took the Colorado State job — outlined how he was entrusted with Wisconsin’s game-planning on third downs. He noted that if a play design had any flaws, Chryst was a master at finding them … and sending him back to the drawing board.
"That’s one thing that I took from him, was just continuing to dissect and continue to peel back every which way to make sure that the guys had an unbelievable chance to be prepared for no matter what they were going to see," Budmayr said in that interview. “That was part of the preparation that he was phenomenal at, and I took that from him."
The Hawkeyes would be wise to take advantage of any time and information that Budmayr can provide this spring in Iowa City, literally at bottom-dollar cost. (And, hey, uncovering information about how to counter Chryst's Wisconsin power offense would certainly be valuable intel, too.)
Brian Ferentz said the Budmayr fit has been a good one in Iowa City. Wisconsin and Iowa (and Colorado State last year) are among the few FBS teams that still deploy a fullback and multiple tight ends.
“Similar offensive background. Asks similar things out of the quarterback position,” Ferentz said. “He’s been a tremendous addition. A lot of good ideas, a lot of good input.”
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 27 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.