I can’t say it fast enough – thank goodness.
A day before the NCAA’s 11-member Playing Rules Oversight Committee was scheduled to vote on a 10-second rule it has been tabled.
For once, logic, reason and sanity have seemingly prevailed.
For those of you who have been busy shoveling the driveway – which includes nearly everyone in the Midwest – the panel threw out the notion three weeks ago that it was contemplating the implementation of a 10-second rule in college football.
The rule would have given defenses a 10-second window to substitute and would have prevented offenses from snapping the ball until 29 seconds remaining on the play clock.
A handful of coaches lobbied for the idea, touting it as necessary for player safety. They expressed the notion that the inability to move fresh defensive players onto the field against the growing number of rapid-fire offenses left those players fatigued and thus, increased their risk of injury.
I don’t buy it and wisely, the rules committee didn’t either.
The dirty little secret is that a number of coaches simply don’t like dealing with the proliferation of spread offenses that have become more commonplace in the college game.
There is no question the change in tempo has created headaches for defensive coordinators and has resulted in higher-scoring games that when run effectively provide more entertaining contests for fans than a 10-3 slugfest.
I enjoy a good pitcher’s duel as much as anyone, but at $75 a seat, fans expect more for their three-hour investment and while defenses do win championships, offense still sells tickets.
Iowa has never been accused of playing basketball on grass, but offensive coordinator Greg Davis wants the Hawkeyes to continue to push the pace and increase the tempo.
Iowa increased its average number of plays per game from 67 to 72 last season and Davis indicated prior to the Hawkeyes’ Outback Bowl game that he would like to see that number continue its upward trend.
He threw 79 out as a workable number, something that would allow Iowa to do what it truly wants to do on offense — control the tempo, sometimes playing fast, sometimes playing at a more measured pace as dictated by time and score.
The proposed rule would have altered the Hawkeyes’ ability to do that as they desire and frankly taking that out of the hands of coaches managing games on the sidelines was a bad idea.
Fortunately, the decision to table the proposal means that it will either receive another year’s worth of thought and study or hopefully, it will simply be filed away as an idea that was discussed but deemed unworthy of implementation.
I can’t say it fast enough – thank goodness.
Several years ago, Jim Delany apologized when the Big Ten was forced to move a Minnesota home football game to a Friday night because of Major League Baseball playoffs.
That was then.
This is now.
The Big Ten commissioner is testing the waters, attempting to gauge public opinion about the possibility of scheduling a handful of conference football games on Friday night.
There are already some college games being played on a night traditionally reserved for high school football, but nearly all are made-for-TV match-ups that are being playing by outside of the power conferences.
What Delany is attempting to learn is how interested Big Ten institutions and the fans of those institutions might be about attending an occasional game on a Friday night in the fall.
He’s not talking about the Friday before Labor Day where the prep season has not started in some states or the annual Iowa-Nebraska game played on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
His curiosity has more to do with late September and October and the possibility of providing the Big Ten Network with live game action on those Friday nights.
He’s not talking about doing this anytime soon. It’s more of a thought as the Big Ten prepares for its next round of negotiations with its TV partners once the current contract with ABC and ESPN expires following the 2017 season.
Among his reasons?
With the addition of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten beginning this fall, the conference will have more product than ever to peddle to television networks including its own.
Delany is wise to test the marketplace and attempt to learn if there is an appetite for Big Ten football on a Friday or if even a small taste of that would be unappealing to fans.
The idea was first floated yesterday through writers who work for the Big Ten Network. It’s been a launching pad for other ideas in the past, including the geographical division names that will be used in football starting this fall.
There are risks involved in playing on Friday nights during the heart of the high school season, a spotlight traditionally reserved for high school heroes throughout the heartland.
There are logistical issues as well in bringing thousands of fans to a campus on a workday when in many cases parking is already an issue.
Delany appears ready to take his time with this idea, weighing the positives of added exposure and potential additional television revenue against logistical challenges which would impact every campus once every handful of years.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of the idea and in states like Iowa where a number of fans travel a great distance to attend Saturday games, even an occasional Friday home date will be a difficult idea for many fans to swallow long before they face the prospect of getting tangled up in 5 o’clock traffic on a Friday on the Coralville strip.
After spending a week at sea with fans on the 28th annual Hawkeye Cruise, Iowa football coaches and administrators returned to land Sunday to a changing landscape.
As the group soaked up the warm Carribean sun from San Juan to St. Thomas to Aruba, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald found himself defending under oath how his program operates in response to testimony from one of his starting quarterbacks who is attempting to unionize college football players, Minnesota coach Jerry Kill received a nice salary increase and Iowa basketball players found out what Kirk Ferentz has known all along that social media can work in multiple ways.
Not exactly smooth sailing on the college athletics homefront.
The Northwestern situation is an interesting one although an outcome will not likely be determined until all sorts of appeals have been exhausted.
At a National Labor Relations Board hearing, lawyers for the College Athletes Players Association have argued that the player-coach relationship is more of an employee-employer relationship since coaches control their compensation by scholarship.
Fitzgerald spent part of his Friday on the witness stand, presenting testimony that frequently opposed what quarterback Kain Colter had said earlier in the week.
Their words illustrated the multiple sides of this issue.
Colter talked about an inability to get into the classes he needed in hopes of leading him to a career in medicine.
Fitzgerald countered with a scenario that played out last fall when a player asked to sit out a practice to catch up on course work. Fitzgerald obliged, and the player did not travel to a game at Nebraska that week because he had not gone through a full week of preparation.
Northwestern attorneys argued that situation supported the notion that the school made its football players students first and athletes second.
Fitzgerald was not initially expected to testify at the hearing, but the hearing officer insisted that if neither side called him in to testify that he would do so and thus, Fitzgerald testified.
The hearing continues this week, resuming Tuesday, and Northwestern will be given time call more witnesses. Once that concludes, the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board will reveiw the case and a ruling is not likely until after the tans from that cruise have faded.
Also in the neighborhood and also illustrative of the dollars at play in the college game today, Minnesota has extended Kill’s contract through the 2019 season.
Kill was paid $1.2 million last season, the lowest salary of any coach in the Big Ten.
After leading Minnesota to a second straight bowl game, his compensation will average $2.3 million over the five-year life of the contract.
That puts him in the middle of the pack among his peers in the conference, although Kill’s salary is expected to slip from sixth to seventh in the league once Michigan State finalizes its deal with Mark Dantonio.
The Spartans coach made $1.95 million last season, but has been told by university officials that they expect his salary to rank among the top four in the Big Ten when the Rose Bowl-winning coach’s new deal is complete.
That would put him in the $4 million range, with Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($4.61 million), new Penn State coach James Franklin ($4.5) and Michigan’s Brady Hoke ($4.15) currently leading the way.
Closer to home, Hawkeye basketball players have been told to shut their Twitter accounts down after a weekend war of 140-characater words between irritated fans and frustrated player Zach McCabe.
Coach Fran McCaffery said this morning he wants his team to focus on basketball and will allow his players to Tweet away once the season ends but he doesn’t want any more of the distractions that he had to deal with Saturday when a handful of fans – it’s always the 5 percent that ruin things for the 95 percent – lobbed hate- and profanity-filled tweets in the direction of Zach McCabe, who missed an open late-game shot and didn’t have one of his better games in a close loss to Wisconsin.
Already frustrated by his performance, McCabe returned the favor on fans and lashed out in his own hate- and profanity-filled tweet.
The tweet was shortlived, removed from his Twitter account and followed by an apology which preceded the shutting down of McCabe’s account.
It was an example of why some coaches – including Iowa’s football coaches – don’t allow their players to express their feelings on social media.
It’s simply a way to avoid unnecessary distractions.
Might it be a bit too controlling? Perhaps.
Certainly the attorneys representing players at the hearing in Chicago last week would see it that way.
With the 2014 recruiting class nearly in the books — Iowa expects to receive its 19th letter of intent Thursday from snowbound running back Markel Smith of St. Louis Vianney — coach Kirk Ferentz and the newest Hawkeyes begin a new chapter in the program’s history.
Signing day also provides coaches with a chance to catch their breath and enjoy a little time off of the snow-covered roads of the upper Midwest.
That doesn’t preclude them from taking a look ahead to future recruiting needs.
The Hawkeyes already have two verbal commitments for their 2015 recruiting class, 6-foot-6, 190-pound quarterback Jack Beneventi of Glen Ellyn, Ill., and 6-2, 271-pound offensive lineman Jacob Newborg of Inwood, Iowa.
Newborg won’t be the last offensive lineman to be part of the Hawkeyes’ next class.
Ferentz said today that the offensive line is an “area that really needs to be addressed” in Iowa’s next recruiting class.
“I think we have a good opportunity to do that,” Ferentz said.
Depth on the offensive line has been a concern of both Ferentz and offensive coordinator Greg Davis, with Ferentz saying today that the number of line recruits Iowa has added in recent recruiting classes has led to that issue.
“I don’t want to say that we’ve been stealing from our offensive line pool (to fill other needs), but we’ve been cutting it pretty close,” Ferentz said.
He calls offensive line “a critical area” for Iowa in its 2015 class.
The Hawkeyes signed two instate offensive linemen today – Lucas LeGrand of Dubuque Senior and Keegan Render of Indianola – and Ross Reynolds of Waukee is expected to join the group either as a grayshirt next January or for fall camp if a scholarship opens up.
Iowa is involved with some several other top offensive line prospects close to home as well for 2015, a group led by 6-6 twins Landan and Levi Paulsen of Woodbury Central High School in Moville, Iowa.
Beyond offensive line, Ferentz expects more balance by position in next year’s recruiting class.
“:We’ve gone pretty hard with the defensive positions the last few years. I’m not saying we won’t take players, but I don’t expect us to sign five at each position,” Ferentz said.
When the dust settles on Wednesday’s signing day for Big Ten football programs, Iowa’s 2014 recruiting class will have a familar look.
The 19 players expected to sign this week with the Hawkeyes – junior college transfer defensive end Torey Hendrick isn’t expected to sign until June – are part of a class which mirrors many of the ones Kirk Ferentz has signed in his previous 15 recruiting classes.
Instead of loading up on five-star recruits, something you won’t find in this year’s class, the Hawkeyes’ class is loaded with potential.
Four-star prospects Jay Scheel and Tyler Wiegers — an instate athlete from LaPorte City Union and and a quarterback from Detroit Country Day in Michigan, respectively — headline a group consisting primarily of three-star prospects which fit both Iowa’s needs and its system.
From the bruising potential in running back Markel Smith to the quickness recent addition Miles Taylor brings to the defensive backfield, this has the appearance of being a typically-solid Iowa class.
And as it typical, it won’t rank among the elite in the Big Ten.
The usual suspects – Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State – have classes which are expected to rank as the league’s best.
Rivals.com ranks the Buckeyes’ recruiting class as the second best in the country, trailing only Alabama. Ohio State, which is expected to sign at least 15 four- or five-star recruits in its 22-player class, has a group that includes the nation’s top-rated inside linebacker prospect in Raekwon McMillan, a Georgia prep who has already enrolled at OSU after picking the Buckeyes over Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Flordia and Georgia.
Ohio State also will add five offensive linemen, five-star cornerback Damon Webb from Detroit Cass Tech and Johnnie Dixon, a Florida wide receiver who opted for the Buckeyes over Alabama and Miami.
Michigan’s class makes up for a lack of numbers with talent. High school teammates at Paramus (NJ) Catholic, cornerback Jabrill Peppers and offensive tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty, are among the top-rated players in the Wolverines’ 16-player class.
Penn State and Nebraska have both made significant gains in recent weeks.
The Nittany Lions’ recruiting class has benefited from the hiring of James Franklin from Vanderbilt. Five players who were initially committed to the Commodores have followed Franklin to the Big Ten. Wide receiver Saleed Blacknall, one of number of players who were initially committed to B1G newbie Rutgers, is now among the Nittany Lions’ top preopsects.
Nebraska added six commitments to its 2014 recruiting class over the weekend and joins Wisconsin and Michigan State among Big Ten programs also likely to rank among the top 30 nationally in this year’s recruiting ratings.
The Cornhuskers have commitments from former Vanderbilt running back commit Mikale Wilbon as well as several highly-regarded offensive linemen, a group led by four-star prospects Tanner Farmer and Nick Gates.
Per usual, major-bowl success isn’t reflected until the following year’s recruiting class but Michigan State’s Rose Bowl victory over Stanford isn’t hurting the Spartans.
Coach Mark Dantonio’s class is filled with three- and four-star prospects, typical of the classes MSU has had in the past three-to-four years. Montae Nicholson, a Pennsylvania safety, and defensive tackle Enoch Smith Jr. top the list of prospects although the Spartans join Ohio State among teams still vying for the services of five-star offensive tackle Jamarco Jones of Chicago De La Salle and are battling Michigan and Florida State for defensive end Malik McDowell of Southfield, Mich., the top-rated player in the state of Michigan this year.
The first full recruiting class Gary Andersen has had at Wisconsin is expected to include three heralded four-star prospects, with quarterback DJ Gillins and offensive lineman Jaden Gault among incoming players who are already on campus. The Badgers’ class also includes athlete Dareian Watkins, an Ohio prep who once committed to Northwestern who was recruited by the Badgers as an athlete.
Minnesota’s top recruits are running back Jeff Jones, a Minneapolis native who selected the Gophers nearly a year ago and has been recruited heavily by Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State and Missouri since. Receivers Melvin Holland Jr. and Isaiah Gentry also rank among coach Jerry Kill’s top recruits.
Illinois’ class is led by Matt Domer, a running back from Mount Carmel in Chicago, and Nick Allegretti, one of the most highly-regarded centers in the country.
At Purdue, defensive line has been a priority and Gelen Robinson, the son of former Boilermakers basketball player Glenn Robinson, is the most highly-regarded prospect. He is ranked among the top-15 defensive end prospects in the nation.
Indiana added three players to its 2014 recruiting class over the weekend, but two of the Hoosiers’ top-rated prospects may already be on campus. Offensive lineman Tim Gardner enrolled early, as did Indianapolis Pike receiver Dominque Booth, who initially committed to Tennessee before opted to stay in his home state.
Big Ten newcomers Maryland and Rutgers will rank in the bottom half of the league’s recruiting rankings.
The Terrapins’ class includes several highly-regarded players, a group led by defensive end Jesse Aniebonam of Good Counsel High School in Olney, Md., and offensive lineman Derwin Gray from Fork Union Military Academy recruited by former Illinois assistant Mike Locksley.
At Rutgers, the search for new offensive and defensive coordinators has led to recruiting issues including the loss of four-star receiver Saeed Blacknall to Penn State. Joshua Hicks, a running back from Palmetto, Fla., and cornerback Andre Boggs are the top prospects currently expected to sign with the Scarlet Knights.
One of the byproducts of the College Football Playoff Committee’s meetings the past few days has been some answers to frequently asaked questions about the selection committee which beginning this fall will determine which four college football teams will get a chance to play for the national championship.
The Q&A, which has been posted on the organization’s website, provides some insight to the process and how everything will work.
It starts by detailing a mission which involves ranking the top 25 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision and selecting and seeding the best four teams for the playoff as well as assigning other teams to selected other bowl games.
Remember, no conferences have automatic berths in the playoffs and there is no limit on the number of teams from a conference which can participate.
It also details that criteria used to rank teams will be up to the 13 individuals on the committee.
From the Q&A: “Selection committee members will have flexibility to examine whatever data they believe is relevant to inform their decisions. They will also review a significant amount of video. Among the many factors the committee will consider are win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents and conference championships.”
A series of ballots will then take place to determine the top four teams, beginning with a ballot to select a pool of teams to be considered.
Once formulated, that pool of teams will be ranked and individual ballots will be compiled to form a composite ranking.
The selection committee has set as a goal to be as transparent as possible and a structure which sets forth a defined set of procedures used in setting the teams will be made public.
The selection committee’s rankings will be publicized throughout the season, beginning at some point midway through the season. Those so-called interim rankings will be released four times before selection weekend.
The 13-member group will meet on the weekend of Dec. 6-7 to select its playoff participants and teams which will play in other bowls.
Five conferences — ACC (Orange), Big Ten (Rose), Big 12 (Sugar), Pac-12 (Rose) and Southeastern (Sugar) — have negotiated individual bowl contracts for their champions.
The highest ranked champion of the other five FBS conferences — the American Athletic, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt — as determined by the selection committee will play in one of the six New Year’s Day bowls. Others available berths will be awarded to the teams ranked highest by the committee, which will assign teams to bowls.
When three of the bowls — Fiesta, Cotton and Atlanta — are not hosting semifinal games, their participants will come from (1), the highest ranked champion among the five conferences without negotiated bowl tie-ins, (2) conference champions displaced when their contracted bowls host semifinals and (3) the remaining teams ranked highest in the committee’s rankings.
According to its Q&A, the committee will assign teams to non-playoff bowls to create the most compelling match-ups, taking geography, an avoidance of regular-season rematches and an avoidance of rematches of recent bowl games.
Retirement and Norm Parker were never comfortable companions.
Parker was a football coach and even after he ended a 48-year career in coaching in 2011 when he ended a 13-year run as Iowa’s defensive coordinator, the game was too much for Parker leave behind.
He was a regular around the Iowa football complex until the time of his unexpected death today.
Parker watched tape, talked to players, attended a few practices and continued to enjoy every minute he spent around the game he played in college at Eastern Michigan and coached at eight different institutions at the college level.
He once was a head coach — for three years at St. John’s High School in Ypsilanti, Mich., right out of college — but Parker returned to his alma mater in 1968 and never left the college game.
He coached everything from the offensive line, tight ends and receivers to defensive line and linebackers before first working as a defensive coordinator at East Carolina from 1980-82.
He filled similar roles at Michigan State and Vanderbilt before accepting the coordinator’s position on the staff Kirk Ferentz headed at Iowa in 1999.
Parker’s ability to teach, his insistence on excellence and a sense of humor which kept everybody in their comfort zone as they got their jobs done separated Parker from his peers.
He knew stepping away from the game would be challenging, saying at the time of his retirement, “I’ll probably end up volunteering at some high school just to be around the smell of the locker room.”
A cup of coffee was a constant companion as he watched Iowa games from a suite in the press box the past two years, but Parker told me following a 2012 appearance at the Davenport Grid Club that his preference was to simply watch the action.
“I like being able to sit and just watch. I like watching the formations, watching what guys are trying to do against a particular offense, that type of thing,” Parker said.
He was surprised at the number of experts he found himself surrounded by as he tried to watch what was taking place on the field.
“I sit up in those suites around people who think they know all the answers. I go to practice and hell, there are times when I don’t even know what’s going on, but others, they have all the answers,” Parker said. “It’s good to be around, though, I still enjoy that.”
Now, Parker will be around his best buddy.
He and his late son, Jeff, are together again.
Jeff Parker, born with Down syndrome, died in 2004 at the age of 33 because of complications following strokes.
The pair were constant companions, both around the football team and frequently sharing front-row seats at Iowa basketball games.
They’d joke, laugh, pal around, and put everything in perspective about what really matters to everyone they came in contact with.
That was Norm being Norm – but it was also Norm teaching us all about life whether we realized it at the time or not.
Ferentz always understood that, one of the reasons that Parker continued to work as his defensive coordinator in 2011 one year after complications from diabetes led to the amputation of one of Parker’s feet.
“I think his impact, the effect he had on this football program, goes way beyond the football part of things,” Ferentz said. “His impact has really gone way beyond any defense he may have called or coached and that is something we are real appreciative of.”
The top spot was easy.
Florida State earned its spot on the top of my final Associated Press football ballot with its work on the field. Jimbo Fisher’s team was impressive in the way it rallied for the win against a stellar effort by Auburn’s defense.
I did vote Michigan State, Auburn, Oregon and Oklahoma into my next four spots.
The teams I had in the fourth through seventh spots on my previous ballot on Dec. 8 all lost their bowl games and while I opted to keep Auburn in the top three, the teams in the fourth through seventh spots all dropped at least five spots in my final ballot.
Michigan State earned its way to No. 2. Its defense ranked among the nation’s elite from the time the Spartans first stepped on the field this season, but the growth of the team’s offense from start to finish and the its success vs. Stanford in the Rose Bowl led me to bump the 13-1 Spartans ahead of a two-loss Auburn team.
You could probably flip a coin between the fourth through 11th teams on my final ballot.There are a lot of similarities between those teams. At the end of the day, I ended up with four SEC teams in my top nine, a recognition of the depth of the strength of the conference this season.
Ohio State landed in the 11th spot, one notch ahead of LSU. I’ve seen them both in person and without Zach Mettenberger at QB, which is where the Tigers were at the end of the year, the Buckeyes are the better of the two.
The only other Big Ten team to be rated on my final ballot is Wisconsin, which I dropped from 19th to 22nd following its loss to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl.
Here is my final ballot of the season:
1. Florida State
2. Michigan State
6. South Carolina
11. Ohio State
17. Oklahoma State
18. Texas A&M
19. Notre Dame
23. Fresno State
24. Northern Illinois
The win column isn’t the only place the Iowa football program is on the rise.
The Hawkeyes are also climbing in their value as a program among their Football Bowl Subdivision peers.
Iowa ranks 11th in the nation among the 119 FBS programs listed by Ryan Brewer of Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus in his annual ranking of the worth of collegiate programs, up four spots from a year ago and moving ahead of Big Ten rivals Nebraska and Penn State in rankings released Monday to the Wall Street Journal.
Brewer, an assistant professor of finance at the school calculates the intrinsic value of FBS teams by examining revenues, expenses, making cash flow adjustments and risk assessments and growth projections for each school.
Based on those areas, he calculates a dollar value to determine the comparative worth of each program if it were to be put up for sale in a mythical marketplace..
Texas continues to top his list with a worth of $875 million. Only one other school, Notre Dame at $811.5 million, tops the $700 million mark although two Big Ten powers fill the third and fourth spots in this year’s rankings.
Michigan rates third at $685.5 milion while Ohio State is fourth at $674.8 million. Florida is fifth at $660.8 million.
Iowa sits in 11th at $479.1 million, up from a worth of $315.6 million in his previous rating.
LSU, Iowa’s opponent at the Outback Bowl last week, is 10th at $529.8 million, whlie the Hawkeyes have moved past Big Ten peers Nebraska, in 12th at $432.5 million, Wisconsin, in 13th at $406.4 million, and Penn State, in 14th at $377.6 million.
No other Big Ten programs ranked in Brewer’s top 25.
His rankings value Rose Bowl champion Michigan State at 29th at $212.9 million, Minnesota at 36th at $179.7 million, Northwestern at 40th at $154.5 million and Iowa State at 41st at $152.1 million.
Indiana at $125.8 million and Purdue at $114.6 million also make his top 50.
Iowa’s football team probably deserved a better fate than the one it was handed in today’s season finale against LSU.
The Hawkeyes knew they needed one of their better efforts of the season if they were going to have a chance to defeat the only team in the country to defeat BCS title game finalist Auburn and the Hawkeyes were far from perfect at Raymond James Stadium.
Iowa lost the turnover battle 3-1, never a good thing, couldn’t help itself with a fake punt and struggled to get much going against the Tigers offensively.
The turnovers led to 14 points, more than enough for LSU to hold for a seven-point win over an Iowa team which made great strides this season.
The Hawkeyes’ defense is regaining the edge it has enjoyed throughout much of the 15 years Kirk Ferentz has coached the team.
Offensively, Iowa looked more comfortable in its cleats than it did in the first year of a transition at the coordinator position.
Depth there is improved and the future looks good as long as the redshirting freshman receivers that Greg Davis has raved about are ready to produce next fall.
Iowa needs continued growth in developing an ability to create separation in the passing game and Davis would like to see additional depth developed on the offensive line.
That’s a work in progress, something Iowa made this season in part because of the leadership of a 16-member senior class.
Ferentz has praised the group for the work it put in in leading the Hawkeyes on and off the field over the past 13 months.
The reward was a bowl bid and an 8-5 season and the knowledge that they helped push the program forward.
Before leaving the field today, the seniors organized one final swarm to lead the team to its locker room.
The sign of unity, of the ability to work together to right the ship, are significant in the legacy the group leaves behind.
“We came in together and we left together,” linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “That is Iowa football.”
And creating that bond they believe will stick as the Hawkeyes move forward is nearly as valuable as a ninth win would have been this afternoon.