Rick Brown: Ferentz comment epitomizes rivalry with Rhoads

Rick Brown
Kirk Ferentz, left, and Paul Rhoads

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Once the Brandon Scherff and Drew Ott subjects had run their course at Tuesday's weekly news conference, Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz started fielding some softball questions about Saturday's game with Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium.

Ferentz answered them with patience and aplomb. Then came this question: "Is it more difficult recruiting in-state kids since coach (Paul) Rhoads took over there (at Iowa State)?"

Ferentz, a master at taking the high road, broke character with his response.

"The answer is no," Ferentz said. "When I got here, it was tougher. Dan McCarney did a wonderful job, and Paul was on his staff. Dan's a bulldog of a recruiter, always has been. Worked with him for nine years. So it's been difficult for a long time, quite frankly, for 15-plus years."

Was that praise for McCarney or a shot at Rhoads? Maybe both. Maybe neither.

Only Ferentz knows for sure. But all I could think about was Rhoads at his signing day news conference in February, talking about wide receiver Allen Lazard of Urbandale. Rhoads used that soapbox moment to accuse Notre Dame and Iowa of tampering with Lazard before he signed his letter of intent.

"He's not going to a school in northern Indiana," Rhoads said. "Boy, they wasted a lot of time and money. He's not going to another school in the state who feverishly tried to call him about a half dozeMn times in the last week."

That was not a politically correct approach, either, calling out the other Division I head coach in your state. Maybe Rhoads doesn't care for Ferentz. This is a small state, after all, with not a lot of elbow room.

It's not hard to tell when Ferentz doesn't have the warm fuzzies for someone. When Urban Meyer rode into Ohio State on his Scarlet and Gray chariot to be the Buckeyes' savior, I don't think Kirk was among those applauding his arrival. Especially after Meyer challenged other Big Ten coaches to recruit better in an attempt to keep up with the Southeastern Conference before he coached a game in Ohio Stadium.

Part of me wonders if those other Big Ten coaches were privately cheering after the Buckeyes lost their home opener Saturday to Virginia Tech 35-21, even though it reflected negatively on the conference. (Hey, Urban, recruit better.)

But back to Iowa-Iowa State ...

According to Rivals.com, Lazard was the No. 1 player in Iowa in the class of 2014. And yes, the Hawkeyes wanted him. The Cyclones also have a commitment from the state's top-ranked player in the Class of 2015, Bryce Meeker of Cedar Rapids Prairie. Iowa didn't offer him a scholarship.

Iowa State didn't offer the Paulsen twins, Landan and Levi, from Woodbury Central. They rank second and third in the class, and they're headed to Iowa. Of the state's top nine players, according to Rivals, six are committed to Iowa, three to Iowa State. None of the nine was offered by both in-state schools. So much for head-to-head recruiting.

Ferentz was clearly irritated Tuesday. He didn't appreciate KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids reporting that Scherff had knee surgery and would be sidelined for a while. And the Ott news probably had him in sour spirits. Ott was named Big Ten defensive player of the week Monday morning, about the time he was taken to the hospital in an ambulance after his moped was hit by a Buick.

Maybe the fact that this week's opponent is Iowa State affected Ferentz's mood, too. Ferentz and Rhoads will shake hands like gentlemen, before and after the game. Beyond that, all bets are off.

Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.