Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker set to become state's first $1 million assistant coach

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz chuckles as his mind flashes back to the mid-2000s, when South Carolina offered then-defensive backs coach Phil Parker a two-year contract to leave Iowa and join the Gamecocks.

“Pretty sure Lloyd Carr was trying to get Phil out of here,” Ferentz said of Michigan’s head coach at the time. “I think he’s the one who recommended him to (Lou) Holtz.”

Parker smartly declined that opportunity following Iowa's 10-3 season of 2003. Holtz wound up retiring from South Carolina following the 2004 season.

An original member of Ferentz's Hawkeye staff in 1999, Parker has been a loyal and productive fixture in Iowa City for 22½ years. Thus, it's fitting that Parker is poised to become the first $1 million assistant football coach in the state of Iowa.

According to documents obtained by the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Sports via an open-records request, Ferentz and athletics director Gary Barta signed off on a rolling two-year contract for Parker, 58, that will be worth at least $2.2 million through the 2022 season. (Iowa State's offensive and defensive coordinators are also scheduled to reach the $1 million mark, but not until July 1, 2023.)

Ferentz conceded that it's fair to assume that other teams have continued to bid for Parker's services. He’s the mastermind of an Iowa defense that has ranked in the top 20 nationally in scoring average the last six years. Iowa has been among the top 12 among FBS programs in each of the last three years in scoring defense, total defense and rushing defense. The Hawkeyes were No. 5 nationally in fewest points allowed in 2019 (14.0) and No. 6 in 2020 (16.0). They have played 21 straight games without allowing more than 24 points, the longest streak in FBS.

“We’ve had several coaches this year be approached, actually. It’s part of the routine," Ferentz told the Register in a wide-ranging interview Tuesday. "(Parker) has done a really stellar job. He’s always been a great secondary coach. I think it’s fair to argue that he’s done a pretty good job at coordinator as well."

Iowa's scoring defenses under Phil Parker have finished sixth nationally in 2020 (16.0 ppg), fifth in 2019 (14.0) and 11th in 2018 (17.8).

Assuming Parker remains employed by the University of Iowa as of June 30, 2022, the Hawkeyes’ defensive coordinator will receive a one-time longevity payment of $210,000 to go with this $890,000 base salary. As of July 1, 2022, Parker’s base salary then increases to $1.1 million — a 23.6% raise — "plus any additional percentage increase awarded" per the terms of Ferentz’s contract.

Per the terms of the contract Parker signed March 3, Iowa can wait as many as 60 days after June 30, 2022, to deliver that $210,000 longevity payment.

MORE:Leistikow: Sizing up the proposed 12-team College Football Playoff from a Hawkeye angle

Bottom line: This was a creative way for Iowa to reward what is arguably its top assistant coach while having the option to pay a large portion of the money in fiscal year 2023 (July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023). The athletics department is taking a $50 million loan from the main campus to cover the budget shortfalls as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to additional documents obtained via the freedom of information act, Iowa isn't giving any of its on-field assistants (except Parker, factoring in the longevity bonus) a salary increase for fiscal-year 2022. Under Ferentz, it's been common for assistants to receive an annual raise in the 8% to 12% range, based on Iowa's season finish. 

The following coaches’ base salaries will remain the same as they were last year, as part of contracts they signed earlier this year:

  • Brian Ferentz, offensive coordinator, $860,000.
  • Ken O’Keefe, quarterbacks coach, $685,000.
  • Seth Wallace, linebackers coach/assistant defensive coordinator, $560,000.
  • LeVar Woods, special-teams coordinator, $440,000.
  • Kelvin Bell, defensive line coach, $425,000.
  • Kelton Copeland, wide receivers coach, $340,000.
  • Jay Niemann, assistant defensive line coach, $340,000.

Strength and conditioning coach Raimond Braithwaite, who took over in June 2020 on an interim role, signed a contract on Feb. 25 that will bump his base salary to $450,000 for FY2022. That is an increase from last season's $310,000. Before being removed from the program in a $1.1 million separation agreement, previous strength coach Chris Doyle had a base salary of $800,000.

New offensive line coach George Barnett will earn a base salary of $400,000. Barnett was hired to replace Tim Polasek, who was making $440,000 last year and took the offensive coordinator job at Wyoming.

New running backs coach Ladell Betts will earn a base salary of $250,000. Previous running backs coach Derrick Foster, now with the Los Angeles Chargers, was at $290,000 in his final year at Iowa.

USA TODAY Sports' Steve Berkowitz contributed to this story.