Iowa to hire Tim Lester, former Western Michigan coach, as offensive coordinator: Sources

tim lester western michigan

Iowa will hire former Western Michigan coach and Green Bay Packers senior analyst Tim Lester as its offensive coordinator, multiple sources close to the program confirmed to The Athletic on Sunday.

Lester replaces offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, whose contract was not renewed following the 2023 season by Iowa president Barbara Wilson and athletics director Beth Goetz. Brian Ferentz is the son of coach Kirk Ferentz and had served in that role since 2017.

In six years as Western Michigan’s coach, Lester went 37-32. From 2018-21, Lester supervised an offense that ranked in the top 35 nationally in total offense each year. In 2022, the Broncos had their first losing season under Lester at 5-7 and a new athletics director fired Lester. This year, Lester, 46, was a senior analyst with the Green Bay Packers.

Lester also worked as quarterbacks coach at Purdue (2016) and Syracuse (2013-15). Five games into the 2014 season, Lester took over as Syracuse’s offensive coordinator and served in that position through 2015. He coached at Division III Elmhurst (Ill.) College and set several passing records at Western Michigan as a collegian from 1996 to 1999.

Iowa ranked last nationally in total offense last season at 234.6 yards per game, the lowest output for a Big Ten team since 1984. But with one of the nation’s top defenses, Iowa also finished 10-4 and won the Big Ten West Division. In 2022, the Hawkeyes ranked second-to-last nationally in total offense at 251.6.

Football Scoop first reported the news.

What Lester brings to Iowa

Lester certainly is a polarizing candidate for Iowa fans, who had spent the last 90 days wondering who would replace Brian Ferentz. Lester isn’t a splash hire for the program and wasn’t on the radar until late in the process. Among the other coaches strongly considered include former Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst, former Duke offensive coordinator Kevin Johns along with several others who discussed the position with Kirk Ferentz along the way.

Comfort and fit matter with Kirk Ferentz, and Lester provides that. The Hawkeyes want to play complementary football built along the line of scrimmage with heavy use of tight ends. Iowa returns all five original starters on the offensive line plus brings back one of the nation’s top tight ends in Luke Lachey. Lester’s familiarity with the Midwest region gives him an edge in knowing how Iowa likes to play and how he can improve it within Ferentz’s structure.

What Lester can do is build a new passing system that has completely fallen apart in recent years. At Western Michigan, he used top receivers Skyy Moore and D’Wayne Eskridge and quarterback Kaleb Eleby to average more than 430 yards of total offense in four consecutive seasons. Those numbers are unlikely at Iowa, but any kind of boost should help Iowa contend for the Big Ten’s upper third.

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(Photo: Harry How / Getty Images)

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