Iowa defensive coach Parker to return
Was hospitalized early in season, then had right foot amputated
The Associated Press
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Nearly all the struggles that came to define Iowa's regular season were there for everyone in the Hawkeye state to see. Defensive coordinator Norm Parker, sidelined because of diabetes, was the most painful loss the program had this year. It was largely kept private until Friday.
Iowa's defensive mastermind was hospitalized less than two weeks into the season. Parker, 69, had his right foot amputated a few weeks later, and he spent most of the year in rehabilitation and out of the spotlight.
Parker, 69, met with reporters Friday for the first time since August as Iowa (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) prepared to face Missouri (10-2, 6-2 Big 12) in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28. Parker used a walker and needed help getting to the podium, but said he plans to return full-time in 2011.
Parker's return will be fully supported by head coach Kirk Ferentz, who has stood by him through the ordeal. "There's no book for this, no drill,'' Ferentz said. "Over the long haul, we're better with Norm. There's no question about it. So it'll be good to get him back.''
Parker looked more frail than he did in the summer, but his mind and wit were as strong as ever. He has a fresh perspective on the game he's been involved with for decades. "Before, when I was coaching, it was all about wins and that kind of stuff. Now it's about being around the guys,'' Parker said. "I like being around the young guys. I like being around the coaches. I like being out of the house.''
Even when Parker did return to Kinnick Stadium, it was largely in an advisory role as the Hawkeyes split his duties among the rest of their defensive staff. Iowa's defense racked up an impressive season, ranking seventh nationally with 16.4 points allowed per game. Still, the Hawkeyes crumbled down the stretch, losing their last three games and landing in a minor bowl when many thought Iowa had a chance to reach the Rose Bowl.
Iowa's five losses came by a total of 18 points -- but the Hawkeyes let their opponents rally for game-winning TDs in the fourth quarter in every defeat.
The most memorable plays in the regular season were the ones Iowa didn't make, such as Terrelle Pryor's 14-yard scramble on 4th-and-10 in a 20-17 Ohio State win; a fake punt that caught the Hawkeyes napping in a 31-30 Wisconsin victory; and Dan Persa's 20-yard TD pass with 1:22 to go in Northwestern's 21-17 home win on Nov. 13.
Many wondered if Parker's absence played a major role in Iowa's fourth-quarter collapses. From Parker's vantage point, it was more of a case of the Hawkeyes facing talented, play-making quarterbacks every week than anything else.
"That's football. Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you,'' Parker said. "If you ask me to explain this year in the Big Ten, I'd say it was the year of the quarterback. I think we got beat and we had trouble controlling some really, really good quarterbacks.''
Parker's been in the Iowa football office for the past few weeks studying film. He's attended Hawkeyes practices, which have been limited because of final exams. Though it's unclear just how much Parker will be involved against Missouri, he has no plans to let diabetes slow him down.
"I really realized what I am and who I am and, this is what I really like doing,'' Parker said. "I've seen these pictures of guys on artificial legs snow skiing. So if they can do that, why can't I coach?"