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Archive for January, 2013

A day of their own

Thursday, January 31st, 2013
As fans continue to debate whether Iowa and Nebraska should face each other on the football field on the Friday after Thanksgiving, officials from both schools will proceed with plans to continue what was initially a two-year experiment. Nebraska has played on the date for years, meeting old Big Eight rival Oklahoma on the date and following that with games against Colorado once the Big Eight became the Big XII. When Iowa officials were asked to consider a move from a Saturday date to a Friday date, they wisely chose to agree to a two-year deal with a promise they would review the situation after that point. Their reasoning was sound. Iowa had never hosted a game on the Friday after Thanksgiving in the modern era and officials wanted to see from a logistical standpoint if what worked on Saturday would work on a Friday when many businesses are open and when nearly every student is away from campus. There is no question that the post-holiday date can make it tricky for some fans to make it to the venue, especially with the 11 a.m. kickoffs dictated by television the past two years. And for the first time in 30 games, Kinnick Stadium was not sold out and was far from full for the final game of a 4-8 season last Black Friday. A total of 69,805 tickets were sold and many were sold to Cornhuskers fans who wanted to watch their team attempt to play its way to the Big Ten title game. The previous year, Nebraska played in front of its usual full house in Lincoln. Both games attracted national network television, and although Iowa lost both (20-7 in Lincoln in 2011 and 13-7 last season in Iowa City) the ratings were solid and gave important exposure to both programs. As much as anything, the opportunity to have a somewhat unique window makes the Black Friday match-up away from crowded competition the following day a valuable commodity. Wisely, both schools are seeking Big Ten approval to continue the series on Black Friday. It gives the Hawkeye and 'Huskers programs a day of their own and allows both programs to build on the Heroes Game aspect of the event, a chance to honor individuals and provide charitable donations to worthy organizations. This is a rivalry in its infancy, but the past two years have given it a decent foundation to build on. Coach Kirk Ferentz has been no fan of extending the Big Ten schedule into Thanksgiving week - something I don't necessarily disagree with - but the outcome of that battle has been settled at a higher level and Big Ten teams will continue to play on the weekend into the foreseeable future. It makes sense that the Hawkeyes and Huskers have a day of their own.

The big 10

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
Big Ten athletic directors are studying a multitude of proposals when it comes to future football scheduling, including growth of the conference schedule to nine or even 10 games. Both ideas are sure to meet with plenty of criticism from coaches, while many administrators have embraced commissioner Jim Delany's notion that more is better when it comes to conference competition. Their reasoning? The bottom line. As the cost of securing guarantee game non-conference opponents rises, teams that are willing to visit a Big Ten stadium without a return game, the profit potential shrinks no matter whether you are trying to fill Kinnick Stadium or the Big House or any of the Memorial Stadiums. Coaches like the eight-game arrangement. Fans don't like paying significant dollars to see their favorite team take on the directional or hyphenated opponent of the week. That does leave administrators in a tricky spot. Delany thought he had a solution in place with a scheduling alliance with the Pac-12, a deal which fell through that would have allowed for a schedule upgrade and maintained an eight-game league schedule. So, it's back to the drawing board and nine and 10 is the talk of the week. A nine-game schedule is far from perfect. Coaches loathe the notion of playing five league road games and four at home every other year and while Pac-12 schools have done that for years, there is some validity to the idea that it skews competitive balance. A 10-game schedule does preserve an even number of home and road games but with BCS-level teams needing seven home dates to fund a multitude of programs, that creates another problem. Without growth of the overall regular-season schedule from 12 to 13 games, that would likely mean an end to nonconference match-ups, such as the Iowa-Iowa State series and competition that a number of Big Ten school regularly enjoy against Notre Dame and that would irritate some fans without question. It remains to be seen if today's talk turns into tomorrow's reality, but don't be surprised if the eight-game conference schedule is a thing of the past in the not too distant future.

Career opportunity

Thursday, January 24th, 2013
Iowa hasn't announced which football assistant coach or coaches will not be returning for the 2013 season - although a recruit has indicated that receivers assistant Erik Campbell was leaving the program - but the Hawkeyes are in the market for an assistant. A job posting for an assistant football coach surfaced on the university website on Wednesday, indicating that applications will be accepted through Feb. 6. Salary will commensurate with experience, and the full-time, 12-month position includes full university benefits. As for responsibilities, here's the breakdown: "NCAA Countable Assistant Coach. Position coaching responsibilities TBD. Recruiting including determining eligibility of prospective student-athletes and coordinating on-campus visits, assist in development of game plan for each opponents, assist in the development of playbook materials, handle personal counseling needs of players directly supervised, public speaking and promotion, other duties as assigned by head coach.'' A bachelor's degree (or international equivalent) is required and in addition to searching for an assistant with "excellent technical and tactical knowledge of the sport of football,'' the ability to recruit national-caliber student-athletes and an ability to adhere to Iowa, Big Ten and NCAA rules is desired. In its new assistant, Iowa is seeking a candidate with five years of successful intercollegiate or professional football coaching and or NCAA FBS/NFL playing experience or the combined equivalent. A demonstrated knowledge and/or experience working with defensive and offensive strategies/positions is important as is successful coahcing experience at a BCS automatic qualifier-level institution. A cover letter, application and three professional references are required as part of the application process. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has not publicly announced changes within his staff, or even confirmed the change in Campbell's status for that matter. Unless 2012 assistants are being hired elsewhere, don't expect that to change until after the application deadline has passed.

Words that mattered

Sunday, January 20th, 2013
Before and following Iowa's 70-66 win over Wisconsin tonight, a pair of Hawkeyes listened to heartfelt words which mattered. Before the game, freshman guard Mike Gesell had the chance to meet and talk a bit with Mike Street, the father of Chris Street. After the win, Aaron White paused and talked with Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, who took time during the handshake line to compliment the Hawkeye sophomore on his play. Both players took the words to heart. Gesell said his conversation with Mike Street provided some perspective on the player whose life was being honored at tonight's game. "It was an honor to talk with him and get to know more about his Chris,'' Gesell said. "In listening to what he had to say, I've learned not to take things for granted, to make the most of every opportunity that I have.'' The words resonated with Gesell, as did Ryan's conversation with White. The sophomore had just finished a 17-point, 7-rebound performance which finished Wisconsin's perfect start in the Big Ten. Ryan worked his way down the handshake line in normal fashion, but paused when he reached White and complimented him on his game. "He said he wished he wouldn't have overlooked me in Ohio,'' White said. "He had recruited out of Drexel, which is near my hometown, and he said he wished he would have looked a little more in that area.'' White's story has been well documented. Iowa was the only Big Ten program to offer him a scholarship. "He talked to me for longer than I thought he would. He said 'Good job shooting your free throws. How did I let you get out of Ohio?''' White said. "That's high praise coming from a guy like that. His resume speaks for itself. ... For him to stop and means a lot to me, especially after a big game like that.''

A different era

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
Tom Davis believes the University of Iowa is doing the right thing by celebrating the life and the contributions of Chris Street on Saturday, recognizing them at Saturday's home basketball game against Wisconsin 20 years to the day after a traffic accident took the life of the forward. "Chris' death impacted so many people across the state and I think it is good that people will have a chance to remember how special he was and the values he had,'' Davis said. "He died so young, but he had accomplished a lot. I think the way it impacted people says a lot about Iowa and what kind of state this is and the goodness of its people.'' That tragedy, as much as anything during his tenure as Iowa, illustrated to Davis the strength of the bond between fans and players in the Hawkeye program. It was a different era, a time when Iowa had three radio networks broadcasting each game, when the coach's weekly show on Sunday drew solid ratings across the state on local television and when fans could count on virtually every game being shown on the same television channel. "There weren't as many cable channels, there wasn't Twitter or Facebook and people's lives were different 20 years ago,'' Davis said. "People felt a real connection with the players. I don't know if the situation would be the same today.'' Time and the shock of the situation have blurred Davis' memory of what transpired in the hours and days following Street's death. He recalls being informed of the accident in a telephone call from long-time Iowa trainer John Streif. "A lot of what happened after that, the details, they're gone. The shock and trauma of such a tragedy, all I can recall is wanting to do anything I could.'' Davis believes his entire team, from the coaches to the managers to the players on the floor, gained strength from Mike and Patty Street, the parents of the Hawkeye who committed to the program he always wanted to be a part of prior to his junior year of high school. "I think our players thought so much of Mike and Patty, and of Chris' sisters, that the respect they had for them helped all of us move forward,'' Davis said. Davis believes the character that Street displayed, from his roots as a standout multi-sport athlete in high school to his willingness to interact with fans, especially youngsters, had a lot to do with the way Hawkeye fans respected Street. Davis, who still calls Iowa City home in his retirement, said he still fields questions about Street when he makes rare speaking engagements. He said it remains difficult to this day to speak about the tragedy that claimed a young player who had such a promising future ahead of him. "He was your typical good Iowa high school kid and I suspect that is one reason so many people relate to him the way they do,'' Davis said. "Everybody felt a loss.'' Davis remains unsure if he will attend Saturday's game, which will include a halftime ceremony remembering Street. "We'll see,'' Davis said.

Veteran’s day

Sunday, January 13th, 2013
Three freshmen may be in the starting five for the Iowa basketball team this season, but today was clearly a veteran's day as the Hawkeyes collected their first Big Ten victory of the season. Aaron White, Josh Oglesby, Melsahn Basabe, Zach McCabe and Eric May led Iowa to its 70-50 win at Northwestern. The Hawkeyes' largest win over the Wildcats since 1998 was a collective effort led by players who have been there and done that. They've competed on the road, dealt with the rigors of a Big Ten schedule and learned that dwelling on bad outing can lead to a pair if a player cannot move on. Sunday, White, Oglesby, Basabe, McCabe and May moved on from Iowa's previous struggles to earn a win. They did it on a day when Adam Woodbury went 1-for-7 from the field, Mike Gesell went 1-for-8 and Anthony Clemmons finished 0-for-2. The work of Iowa's veterans did not go unnoticed by Northwestern coach Bill Carmody in his postgame remarks. "Their veterans were the difference in this game, they won it for them,'' Carmody said. "That's the way it has to work in the Big Ten and that is something I've been telling my veterans. They have to get it done if we want to be successful. Anything you get from the young guys is gravy. It's the veterans who win games in this conference.'' Iowa's veterans proved that point today.

Tough talk

Friday, January 11th, 2013
Iowa basketball players have heard a steady diet of tough talk from their coaches this week. That won't change after tonight's 62-59 loss to 22nd-ranked Michigan State. The Hawkeyes gave coach Fran McCaffery only half of what he wanted when he criticized his team's toughness following Sunday's blowout loss at Michigan. "We didn't play with any toughness, and that's disappointing,'' McCaffery said following the loss to the Spartans. "Offensively, we played with no toughness whatsoever. Defensively, we did. On the glass, we did. But you have the other end of the floor, OK?'' He pointed to Iowa's 18 turnovers and a lack of offensive execution as examples that the Hawkeyes have room to grow in developing the mental toughness it takes to compete in the Big Ten on that end of the floor. McCaffery found an example in the way the Hawkeyes coughed up the ball against Michigan State's defense, which turned 18 turnovers into 24 points and a road win. "They don't change defenses. They don't press. You can't turn the ball over 18 times because when you do, it's dunks and lay-ups. He we are working hard to stop them, and then we're giving up lay-ups off of turnovers. Can't do it.'' McCaffery was unhappy with his team's ability to run the offense that was called. He concedes that the Spartans' typically-stout defense had something to do with that, but he points to an inability to consistently run what has been called as another area Iowa needs to shore up. "What you have to be able to do is execute your offense whether you are running motion or set plays,'' he said. "We worked a lot in the last three days on that, and we didn't do it. What we ended up doing was having some good players make some good plays at times.'' The Hawkeyes' inability to execute in critical situations came back to haunt Iowa, which watched the Spartans do just that as they overcame a four-point deficit in the final two minutes to move over .500 in Big Ten play. "A little bit of what happened is because of how they play. You know, there is going to be a little bit of that,'' McCaffery said. "The X is going to be on the O. So your screening action is going to be a little different, they're going to knock you out of your timing and spacing and things of that nature, but you've got to be able to get the ball to where it needs to get to and space the floor accordingly and run a set play if you need to. We couldn't do that today.'' Guard Mike Gesell said the Spartans made it tough on Iowa, but in some instances the Hawkeyes made it tougher on themselves. "We did a lot of good things on defense, especially coming off of the Michigan game, but on offense, that didn't carry over. We've got a lot of work to do. We've got to get tougher and we know it.'' In case they forget, they will likely be reminded a time or two over the next couple of days as Iowa prepares for Sunday's game at Northwestern. "It's a mental toughness, an understanding of how you're going to run certain things offensively,'' McCaffery said. "We know we have to execute effectively because the team we're facing next is one of the best at that.''

For what it’s worth

Monday, January 7th, 2013
Iowa may not have had a memorable season on the football field last fall, but a 4-8 record hasn't diminished the value of Hawkeye program. In an annual analysis of the values of college football programs, Iowa ranks as the 11th most-valuable football program in the country and trails only Michigan and Ohio State among its Big Ten peers. The study compiled by Ryan Brewer, an assistant professor of finance at Indiana-Purdue Columbus, calculates the values of 115 programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision. It measures revenues, expenses and makes cash-flow adjustments, risk assessments and growth projections for each school. Compiled, the figures are meant to indicate what a team could bring if it could be bought and sold on the open market. The Wall Street Journal reported Brewer's complete findings today and this year's study placed a value of $384.4 million on the Hawkeye program. Texas tops the list at $761.7 million, while Michigan is second at $731.9 million, a valuation which rose 18 percent over the past year because of increased cash flow. Ohio State at $586.6 million ranked fifth, with Iowa sitting in 11th $70 million behind 10th-place Oklahoma. Among other Big Ten schools, Nebraska ranked 13th at $360.1 million, Penn State ($300.8) and Wisconsin ($296.1) ranked 16th and 17th. Michigan State was the only other Big Ten program in the top 30, ranking 21st at $224.8 million. Northwestern rated 35th, Purdue 38th, Indiana 40th, Minnesota 42nd and Illinois was 48th at $117.3 million. By comparison, Iowa State ranked 41st in the survey at $140.3 million - seventh among Big 12 schools - and Big Ten newbies Maryland and Rutgers ranked 56th and 63rd respectively.

Season of change

Friday, January 4th, 2013
Expect Iowa to remain silent in the short term, but the Hawkeye football staff is undergoing some offseason change following Iowa's 4-8 season. No personnel changes have been announced by the university, and with no employment openings posted on the university website don't expect any changes to be announced soon. But, the Hawkeyes will apparently have a new receivers coach and a new tight ends coach once the 2013 season begins. Recruit Damond Powell has said he has been told that receivers coach Erik Campbell won't be with the program next season and Miami (Fla.) graduate assistant D.J. Hernandez has indicated that he is headed to Iowa City to coach tight ends. Iowa has not announced the departure of Campbell, a five-year assistant, but he did thank well wishers on Twitter on Thursday evening for their support over the years. At about the same time, Hernandez announced on Twitter that he was headed for Iowa City. "Packin so I can move to Iowa ASAP to begin my new coaching position wit the Hawkeyes,'' Hernandez wrote. "Thx coach Golden n evry1 @ UM for gr8 experience.'' Iowa's tight ends were coached last season by David Raih, a former Hawkeye quarterback who was completing his third and final year as a graduate assistant on the Iowa staff. Hernandez, who previously coached quarterbacks at Brown before spending last season as a GA at Miami (Fla.), is a Connecticut graduate. He is also the brother of New England Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez, who was coached in the NFL by Iowa offensive line coach Brian Ferentz. Powell, a junior college prospect who grew up in Toledo, Ohio, is meeting this weekend with Brian Ferentz and Kirk Ferentz, who both spent today recruiting in Ohio. Brian Ferentz indicated that in a tweet of his own, wishing the Iowa wrestling team the best in its dual with the Buckeyes while indicating he was "behind enemy lines'' recruiting.