IOWA CITY, Ia. - Tyler Sash stopped by the hospital to see Norm Parker on Monday. Other than Iowa’s defensive coordinator being in a bed, nothing much had changed, the junior safety said.
The longtime coach wanted the attention on this weekend’s game at Arizona, not on him.
“He’d be upset with us,” Sash said when asked what Parker would do if he knew the players were losing focus because of worrying about him. “When I went and saw him at the hospital, I said, ‘Coach, how are you feeling?’ He said, “I’m fine.” And then he started talking to me about football.
“He’s not into all that feel-sorry-for-me stuff. He’s all about business and taking care about what needs to be done.”
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said on Tuesday that Parker would not travel to Arizona. His return to the Hawkeye team was not known. He remained on the hospital after being admitted on Friday.
“We will know more as we go along,” Ferentz said. “He is diabetic and that is a very serious disease. I think everybody’s interest and approach right now is what do we need to do today to make sure we are not making things worse.
“That is the reason he was hospitalized and they are going to make sure we are staying on top of it. Football is secondary in this equation. I don’t know if we are talking days or weeks. No one does. Whenever he is ready to come back we will get him back and go. In the mean time, we will proceed without him.”
Parker put together Iowa’s game plan for last week’s 35-7 victory against Iowa State but missed Saturday’s game. Linebackers coach Darrell Wilson called the Cyclones game. Ferentz was evasive on Tuesday when asked who would formulate the game plan and call the game for Arizona, saying that it would be a team effort from his defensive staff.
Complications from diabetes increased for Parker last season following Iowa’s 15-13 win, Oct. 24 at Michigan State. He struggled with bleeding after having a toe removed and has coached from the press box since that game.
Parker began his coaching career 45 years ago. Ferentz and Iowa players said that he will be missed. They also said that he’s tutored the defensive staff and Hawkeye athletes well enough to make for a relatively seamless transition in his absence.
“We’re obviously going to run a lot of the same things that Norm preaches about every day,” Sash said. “I know for a fact that the other coaches have met with Norm. He’s had his input on the game plan. Now it’s up to the assistant coaches and the players to go out and execute.”
Parker remains one of the most well-respected defensive coordinators in the country. His players share that opinion about the man, on and off the field.
“When you’ve been in (the game) for 43 years or something, you know about the defense, a lot about football in general and life in general,” Iowa defensive lineman Christian Ballard said. “He’s a guy we look to just for answers. He makes us better players and better people.
“We just try to stay as well connected with him as we can through these times. We want him to be out there with us but he has to take his time and get back. We love him and we don’t want to see him (making it worse).”
As Sash said, Parker expects his assistants and players to go on with business as usual.
“He’d say you just have to keep going,” Ballard said. “He’d probably get mad at us. He wouldn’t be sad. He tell us to keep working.
“We can’t be sad. We know he’s working as hard as he can to get back. We can’t be sulking over it. We know he wants us to play our best. Us worrying about him isn’t going to make us play any better. We’re going to play harder for him. We hope he’s back with us soon.”