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Archive for March, 2014

Doubling up

Monday, March 31st, 2014
Current high school juniors cannot sign binding letters of intent for a little over 10 months, but the Iowa football program has already doubled the size of its recruiting class from the state of Illinois. Linebacker Jack Hockaday's verbal commitment over the weekend gives the Hawkeyes two 2015 recruits from the Land of Lincoln, joining quarterback Jack Beneventi in accepting early offers from Iowa coaches. The large number of Division I players typically produced in the state's high schools and the proximity of the fertile recruiting turf makes it a natural for Iowa. However, the Hawkeyes landed just one recruit from Illinois in its incoming 2014 class, linebacker Ben Niemann of Sycamore. So, the commitments from Hockaday, a quarterback/safety from Maroa-Forsyth in central Illinois who will play linebacker in college, and Beneventi, who quarterbacks Lisle Benet in Chicago's western suburbs, are significant. On signing day this year, coach Kirk Ferentz addressed the need for good recruiting results in Illinois for the Hawkeye program. "I'm confident we'll be strong in there and we need to be,'' Ferentz said. "Same old deal, you can go to the Chicagoland area and back in the time it takes for you to get up to a high school in northwest Iowa. ... We need to be strong in there and that's something we're working hard on.'' Illinois, and the Chicago suburbs in particular, have been good to the Hawkeyes over the years but the area is a competitive one for talent. That won't change - the proximity of O'Hare makes the suburbs of Chicago an easy landing spot for recruiters from across the country - but an expanded presence by Iowa coaches in that area only benefits the Hawkeye program.

A legacy of giving

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
The Iowa Board of Regents today approved the naming of new football facilities at the University of Iowa, recognizing a legacy of giving to the Hawkeye football program. The 76,000-square foot football operations building, currently under construction and scheduled for completion, will be named the Richard O. Jacobson Football Operations Building. The combined operations building and attached two-year-old indoor practice facility will be known as the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center. The Hansens have been season ticket holders at Iowa for more than 25 years and made a gift of $8 million to the Iowa Football Legacy Campaign which raised money for construction of the Hawkeyes' new practice areas, strength and conditioning and training facilities as well as office spaces in a building located west of the UI Recreaton Building. The Hansens also contributed to Iowa's recent arena improvement effort. Jacobson's generosity extends well beyond the confines of the corner of Melrose Avenue and Evashevski Drive in Iowa City. His gifts have benefitted football programs at Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa. The chairman emeritus of the Jacobson Companies, Jacobson's name was on Iowa's previous football office and training facility because of a gift he made to fund construction of the Jacobson Athletic Building in 1995. Elsewhere on the Iowa campus, he contributed $3 million to the Tippie School of Business in 2007 to establish the Richard O. Jacobson Institute for Youth Entrepreneuership. At Iowa State, the Jacobson Athletic Building sits beyond the north end zone of Jack Trice Stadium, housing offices, locker rooms and training areas for the ISU football program. In Cedar Falls, Northern Iowa athletes train in the Jacobson Human Performance Center, which houses not only strength and conditioning facilities for the Panthers but also student recreation space. Elsewhere on the Cedar Falls campus exists the Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy, a program based at UNI which works with Iowa schools to ensure improved literacy of youths. In today's announcement of his latest recognition at Iowa, the Belmond, Iowa, native who made a living in businesses ranging from warehousing and logistics to renewable energy, Jacobson explained the genesis of his generosity. "I am extremely proud to be an Iowan, and I have a deep appreciation and admiration for our state. This state has been very good to me. I enjoy giving back to the place where I grew up,'' said Jacobson, a 1958 graduate of Iowa. "I also have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to support all of our Regent institutions. I believe strongly in what they do and how they do it.'' The depth and range of generosity shown by Jacobson illustrates that he also knows how to do it, something all Iowans can learn from.

The nick of time

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
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.