Apparently, I’m in the minority in this debate, but that doesn’t matter. I’ve always thrived as a member of the fringe group.

Kirk Ferentz should become Michigan’s next football coach.

OK, he’s gone 6-6 the past two seasons, with an embarrassing home loss to Western Michigan to keep the Hawkeyes in Iowa City for Winter Break. Yeah, he hasn’t done the best in recruiting the top-of-the-line athletes to play for the Hawkeyes, but should that really count against him?

His quarterback this year was Jake Christenson, a redshirt sophomore in his first year as a starter. Michigan fans, remember what it was like with Ryan Mallett under center? Add to that the suspension of Iowa’s top receiver Dominique Douglas just a few games into the season, and at that point, who wouldn’t have written off Iowa?

But Ferentz rallied the team around a defense that finished third in the Big Ten in scoring (two spots ahead of Michigan), and the Hawkeyes pulled off three straight wins to almost salvage a disastrous season with a bowl-game appearance. Ferentz also beat Illinois this year. Only Michigan can say the same in Big Ten conference play.

On to recruiting. Yes, Ferentz hasn’t fared so well in recent years, especially with Illinois coach Ron Zook dominating in the Chicago area, a geographic area Ferentz used to call a home away from home. But if everyone is so convinced Zook is a shady recruiter, who could blame a classy guy like Ferentz for losing out? Plus, it’s Iowa. Give Ferentz the recruiting tools Michigan boasts, and I’m more than confident he can pull in top talent year after year.

What’s that? He’s not classy? He sets his son up in government housing designed for the poor? His players have a nasty habit of getting in legal trouble?

I’ll give you the latter two, but wasn’t Michigan coach Lloyd Carr considered a classy guy? Didn’t he have recent problems with players spending more time in the courtroom than on the practice field?

Yes, he did.

I’m not blaming Carr. It’s college football. These athletes are still college kids, and they’re going to get into trouble. The key to coaching is how you handle it, and Ferentz hasn’t wavered in his decisions. He needed Douglas this season, but after the wide receiver stole some DVDs from Wal-Mart, he was suspended for the year. Period.

Don’t forget, just two short years ago, Ferentz finished a streak where he took the Hawkeyes to four straight New Year’s Day bowl games with wins against Louisiana State and Florida.

Ferentz is a winner, a competitor, a standup guy and someone who will succeed at Michigan.

But go ahead and doubt Ferentz. Pine over Les Miles. I really don’t care. A few years from now, I’ll have four words for all of you: I told you so.

– Wright can be reached at kpwr@umich.edu.

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