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Former Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker dies

January 14, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Former longtime Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker has died. He was 72.

School spokesman Steve Roe told The Associated Press that Parker died early Monday at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. A cause of death was not released.

“Norm played a major and key role in any on the field success we experienced during his 13 years as our defensive coordinator,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

“More important and valuable, is the strong and positive impact that he had on our players, staff, support staff and fans — everyone he interfaced with during his 15 years in Iowa. Norm was an excellent football coach. Beyond that, he was a tremendous spouse, father and cherished friend to many.”

Parker began his college coaching career in 1968. He made stops at Wake Forest, Minnesota, Illinois, East Carolina, Michigan State and Vanderbilt. He spent his last 13 seasons at Iowa, where he developed a reputation as one of the country’s top coordinators.

Parker’s schemes were rarely flashy and often defined by a “bend but don’t break” style of play. But they usually worked, and the Hawkeyes identity was tied to Parker’s fundamentally sound defenses.

The Hawkeyes finished in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense in 2008, 2009 and 2010 under Parker, who retired following the 2011 season.

Iowa also finished in the top 10 in rushing defense five times during Parker’s tenure.

Parker battled health problems late in his tenure at Iowa. He had his foot amputated in the fall of 2010 because of diabetes and spent most of the season in rehabilitation and away from the team.

Parker’s easygoing manner and no-nonsense approach to football made him a favorite among Hawkeyes fans, and he was often seen at Iowa’s football facility and Kinnick Stadium following his retirement.

“Norm Parker was one of my all-time favorite people and coaches,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said.

“He was a brilliant defensive coordinator, and his players loved him. He knew how to win football games. But more importantly, he knew how to make you feel good and to laugh. He will truly be missed.”

Parker was a native of Hazel Park, Mich., and played at Eastern Michigan, where he began his collegiate coaching career in 1968.

Parker is survived by his wife, Linda, children Chelly, Joyce, Jim and Suzy, and six grandchildren. Funeral services were pending in Michigan for Parker, and a memorial service will be held in Iowa City at a later date.

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