Friday, December 21, 2001

OK, Everybody. Give Me The Good Stuff From 2001

It all started one day at lunch. Our group had already settled the latest football and basketball controversies, and we had completed the usual review of the goings-on at the morning newspaper.

So I had a suggestion.

“Can someone mention five good things that happened in Des Moines in 2001?’’ I asked. “I thought about asking for 10 good things, but figured that would be too tough a challenge. If you have trouble coming up with five, we can extend the area to Des Moines and the suburbs.’’

For a few seconds, there was complete silence.

“Can I have a couple of days to think about it?’’ one guy asked, with at least partial seriousness.

Finally, another man said, “Well, Ryerson quit. And so did Townsend. Those are two good things right there.’’

As far as I know, that guy was totally serious.

Keep in mind the lunch group that day was made up mostly of (a) people who are retired from the Register newsroom and (b) people who often wish they were retired from the Register newsroom. All were, or are, very intelligent reporters and editors.

I guess it came as no surprise that the names Dennis Ryerson and Mike Townsend were immediate nominations to the list. Mary Stier, the Register’s publisher, made a lot of people happy in the newsroom Sept. 17 when she announced to the staff that Ryerson, the paper’s editor, would soon be leaving town.

While referring to the “Five Good Things That Happened in Des Moines’’ list, someone pointed out that Ryerson’s exit from the paper could maybe be counted as two things.

“His mismanagement of the news staff was one,’’ the guy said. “But now readers no longer have to fall asleep reading Ryerson’s ‘Editor’s Notes’ on Saturday mornings.’’

Townsend, the managing editor, preceded Ryerson out the door earlier in 2001.

Townsend, you will recall, was the man who, unbelievably, asked, “Who is that old guy laying on the floor?’’ when retired sports columnist Maury White collapsed in the newsroom, then later died.

But enough of that. We’re in the holiday season, so let’s quit talking about former editors of the paper, and turn this into a more upbeat project.

After our lunch that day, I sent e-mails to people who regularly read this website, asking them to give me their lists of good things that happened around here in 2001.

It turned out that a number of folks had thoughts on the subject.

The Iowa Barnstormers (they shut down operations), the Kruidenier Trail around Gray’s Lake (it’s new) and certain sports talk-show announcers who had their microphones taken away from them turned out to be popular nominations.

Bob Modersohn, a veteran writer and photographer in the Register’s newsroom, turned in this list:

1. The new Kruidenier trail around Gray’s Lake is popular with lots of folks of all ages and types.

2. The Des Moines Menace hosted the PDL Final Four tournament and announced plans to build a soccer-specific stadium in Urbandale (it will be one of only four in the U.S. and should draw teams from the around the world). In the first month that skyboxes were offered for sale, 14 of 18 were sold.

3. Riverfront development is again on city planners’ agenda. Folks want to be on the water. Let’s put them there.

4. Progress on the Des Moines Events Center was stalled. I don’t think we need it.

5. Arena football is gone, if only temporarily.

Steve Deace, a sports talk-show host at KJJC/KLRX-FM, submitted these five:

1. Marty Tirrell getting booted out of town.

2. Vision Iowa approving the funding of the Iowa Events Center.

3. The Jock (radio station) getting rid of Jim McBride as its owner

4. The Register adding a voice of sanity (see that as the end of the lunacy that was Rekha Basu) to its editorial page in David Yepsen.

5. (tie) Des Moines leading the nation per capita in pregnant women who smoke, and
The 89-year-old woman on Fleur Drive who stood up to the City Council last spring by throwing her leaves into the street in protest of the city’s high waste removal prices.

[Note: Tirrell’s sports-talk career in this area started at KJJC (The Jock), and ended at KXTK. I hear Tirrell now “does the Boston Celtics’ halftime and postgame call-in shows. A spy tells me Tirrell “flies under the radar in Boston—unlike here, where people actually paid attention to him.’’]

Deace added, “The item about Des Moines leading the nation in pregnant women who smoke is pure sarcasm, that’s all. I had a hard time coming up with five.’’

I asked Deace if, because Basu is coming back to town, he wanted to revise his list in any way. No, he said, leave her name in there.

At first, Alberta Hansen said, “The only good thing I could think of about Des Moines that happened this year is the opening of the Gray’s Lake walking bridge, park and beach area.

Then she thought more about it.

“I have quizzed all of my friends about the good things that have happened in Iowa in 2001,’’ she wrote. “They couldn’t come up with much, either. I am glad that Hickman Road is four-lane to Adel, but that opened last Thanksgiving, and it is personal because I drive it frequently.

“I think it was nice that our capitol was revitalized with gold leaf. Finished this year, I think. Of course, both teams (Iowa State and Iowa) going to bowls is good news, probably everyone said that.

“Iowa had the Quad Cities voted on the most polite list in the U.S. What were they thinking when they made N.Y. best? They finished the HouseBarn in Manning, Ia. I believe it dated from the 1700s in Germany. It was dismantled and shipped over and is now open in Manning. They brought three young men over to lay the thatched roof. It is huge.

“Iowa State did a play on the lives of about nine men and one woman who served in World War II. One of the men was black, and of course everything was segregated then. The men all were from Iowa farms and small towns. Students spoke the words of these men and women. My grandson, Jeff Hansen, portrayed Robert Houser, who retired as head of Principal. The play was very interesting.“

”The lodge at Jester Park was rebuilt after their fire. The small towns of Perry, Marshalltown and Storm Lake are working on assimilating their ethnic populations, with some success.

“The government continues to buy up land when it becomes available in the Loess Hills, with the plan to make it a National Park sometime in the future. Valley West Mall updated and Von Maur built garages to add parking to the overcrowded lots during shopping periods. No doubt it is partly because of the new mall slated for West Des Moines.’’

Chuck Offenburger, former “Iowa Boy’’ columnist from the Register who now lives in Storm Lake and writes columns on his website, submitted this list:

1. The 2-mile Kruidenier Trail, with that wonderful bridge that swoops out over Gray’s Lake, was completed.

2. Construction was completed and the scaffolding was removed on the State Capitol building.

3. The Iowa Barnstormers folded.

4. Sally Rezabek, former basketball starter and student newspaper editor at Buena Vista University, got hired in the Register sports department and, will be the best player on the department’s hoops team.

5. My wife’s sister, Chris Burt, the prettiest unmarried woman in Des Moines, got hitched to Tony Woods, the best-dressed clothing salesman at Badower’s.

Rev. David Mumm, pastor at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Des Moines, wrote: “The top of my list would be that Mt. Olive Lutheran Church purchased the Johnston Ev. Free Church facilities, built a new child-care center and opened the Open Arms Child Development Center.

“Another on my personal list would be Dowling winning a second consecutive state football title. Beyond that, I’m not sure what I’d put on my list.’’

A high-profile sports administrator from Central Iowa submitted this list:

1. The autumn weather was unbelievable.

2. “Sports experts” Jack and Alex were taken off afternoon drive-time on KXNO.

3. The downtown Farmer’s Market….good in any year.

4. The re-opening of the Fleur and Sierra Theaters.

5. Energy costs dropped and so did the Barnstormers II.

This list is from a man who has worked in big-time university jobs around the nation:

1. Our son completed his first year of sobriety—in a long time—as a member of the Des Moines AA organization. Des Moines is blessed with one of the finest AA groups in the nation, and we really appreciate that very much.

2. I played golf on Dec. 3 and 4, 2001 in Des Moines. One day of golf in December in Des Moines is worth six months of golf in Florida.

3. We saw Iowa win a football game in the stadium when the Hawks beat Indiana. The fans were unbelievably courteous and enthusiastic. The same day we saw Randel El play—and he is very special, a lot of fun to watch.

4. A member of our family who lives in Des Moines came through very dangerous surgery at the University of Iowa Hospitals because they had surgical expertise without equal in the midwest, and that includes Mayo. Terrific!

5. So far (Dec. 5) every day in 2001 in Greater Des Moines (all of Iowa) reaffirms the fact that this is a great place to live. Not because of corn production, soybean yields, pig farms or downtown rehabilitation projects, but because it has more nice people, on a per capita basis, than any other state in the nation. The only state that is close is Hawaii—provided you don’t count tourists.

Here’s my list:

1. Megan, our granddaughter, has responded wonderfully to medication and is making outstanding progress after being diagnosed with leukemia on Jan. 1, 2001. She gets healthier and prettier every day.

2. My mother celebrated her 89th birthday, and is still going strong. She will turn 90 in two months.

3. The 132nd Fighter Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard had a perfect record over the skies of Iowa, Iraq and Kuwait.

4. The oncologists, ophthalmologists, cardiologists and endocrinologists in Greater Des Moines were, again, special people in 2001.

5. Any restaurant with a “No Smoking’’ sign on the wall in 2001 was my favorite.

[Happy holidays to everyone].

Vol. 1, No. 12
Dec. 21. 2001

Monday, December 17, 2001

O'Leary, Borsellino, Basu And More

Face it, folks. For some people, lying is part of living.

It happens everywhere. Even in sports.

We learned that sad fact again the other day when George O’Leary caused some of the glitter to fall off the Golden Dome at Notre Dame.

Ol’ George told enough tall stories over the years to get himself dumped after five days as football coach of the Fighting Irish.

Not five seasons. Not five games. Five days.

It’s the biggest embarrassment in the history of Notre Dame football. Nothing Bob Davie did, nothing Gerry Faust did, not even the the phony flopping on the field by Frank Leahy’s “Fainting Irish’’ to stop the clock in a 14-14 tie with Iowa in 1953 can match what O’Leary did to the school.

Things are so bad that Hollywood should maybe think of doing a remake of that movie where Knute Rockne tells his team to “win one for the Gipper.’’ Instead, the producers should have Rockne say, “Hurry, somebody go earn a football letter and a master’s degree for poor old O’Leary. The guy is killing us!’’

O’Leary, 55, is the guy who was sent out the door at South Bend after it was discovered he had phony academic and athletic credentials. It’s doubtful he’ll ever get another job in football.

So far, Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White still has a job. But he has certainly lost a considerable amount of respect for not doing a background check on O’Leary. He’d better hire the right guy for the football job the next time around or he may be the next ex-Notre Dame employee who’s looking for work.

“I dropped the ball on this one,’’ he now says, taking all the blame for the O’Leary fiasco.

But White certainly isn’t the first to do shabby job of hiring. He’s not the first athletic director to not do a background check on a coach.

Consider Gene Smith, the former Iowa State athletic director who now is at Arizona State. He hired Kerry Miller to coach the Cyclones’ volleyball team without doing a background check. Like O’Leary, it turned out Miller lied about both her academic and athletic achievements. She didn’t have a college degree and didn’t have the competitive background she claimed in her resume.

In 1999, Miller was charged with falsifying her resume. Smith survived, then went on to what he considered a better job at Arizona State, and is still held in high regard nationally in collegiate athletics.

It’s not always academic degrees and athletic prowess that generate lies among people in sports.

Military achievements, real or not, are big things with some guys.

Remember Tim Johnson, the former Iowa Cubs manager? I don’t know when he began making up stories about his military background, but he was fired as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1999 after telling his players lies about his combat days in Vietnam.

Dennis Dodd, who works for CBS, mentioned that former Kansas City Chiefs Coach Frank Gansz allowed exploits as a fighter pilot to be in his biography.

“Gansz never got closer than
a cargo plane and certainly never saw combat,’’ Dodd wrote.

More lies? Sometimes it starts at a young age. We all remember how Danny Almonte, the Little Leaguer from the Bronx, said he was 12 years of age so he could participate in the Little League World Series. Danny seemed big for his age. No wonder. He was 14.

I’d like to think that Almonte had some help in that farce. Somehow I get the feeling that an adult had a role in it, too.

Older baseball players than Almonte lie, too. Dodd outlined how Seattle Mariners outfielder Al Martin “told reporters this past season he played defensive back at Southern California. It never happened.’’

Because of what happened to O’Leary, it’s likely that a number of scared coaches and players are changing inaccuracies in their biographies right now. But you know and I know that the problems will continue.

The proper background checks won’t be done and coaches will get hired who don’t deserve to be hired.

It’s part of being human.


Rob Borsellino and Rekha Basu, his wife, have decided they like writing columns in Des Moines better than they like writing them in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. So they’re coming back to work for the morning paper here.

Some friends of mine--veterans of the news business in Des Moines--say the return of Borsellino and Basu will likely cause present Register columnists Marc Hansen, John Carlson and Shirley Ragsdale to wonder about their future roles at the paper.

Those folks, who observed the internal workings of newspapers for years and years, are wondering if this is the case: The publisher and the editors aren’t all that thrilled with the column-writing that’s been going on, so they’re bringing in heavyweights Borsellino and Basu to do it right.

Obviously, Borsellino and Basu are being brought back to be “stars.’’ Newsroom sources say they will each be paid $80,000. Compared to the salaries of some football and basketball coaches I know, that’s mere pocket money. But in the newspaper business—especially in the tight-fisted Gannett chain—it’s not bad.

However, don’t include me among those who think columnists Hansen and Carlson aren’t doing their jobs well. Both are intelligent, both write very well. I worked alongside Hansen for a long time in my previous writing life, and I will match his way with words and his journalistic style with anyone—and that certainly includes Borsellino and Basu.

Newsroom gossip had it that Borsellino and Basu had tried to get back to the Register a couple of previous times since their move to Florida. One rumor was that Borsellino even showed interest in becoming the editor, a job that’s been vacant at the paper for a number of years. Yes, years.

But nothing worked. So, finally, sources say, friends of Borsellino and Basu used their “influence’’ with publisher Mary Stier to help get the pair back to town.

“Rob and Rekha connected in a special way to Iowans,’’ Stier gushed in the paper the other day. “Their voices and insights have been greatly missed by Register readers since their departure last January. I am delighted they are returning to the Register and to Iowa. Welcome home, Rob and Rekha.’’


Stier must have been overcome after reading Borsellino’s profile in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The profile, obviously written shortly after Borsellino and Basu arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, says Borsellino’s previous columns were “considered one of the 10 best things about living in Des Moines.’’

I don’t know who got that list of 10 things together, but whatever the profile says must be true.

I believe all profiles. I even believed that George O’Leary played football for three years at New Hampshire and that he earned a master’s degree in education from New York University.

Hey, listen, I’m trying to take the high road on this—for a day or two anyway. Borsellino and Basu have their strengths. But so do Hansen, Carlson and Ragsdale. Maybe all of these columnists--new and old--will make the paper better.

Everyone knows, with circulation plummeting by the day, it needs all the help it can get.


Some recent developments are very good for collegiate basketball in the state of Iowa.

I’m speaking of Northern Iowa’s victory over Iowa and Drake’s victory over Iowa State.

You can’t beat the Little Guy-Beats-Big Guy thing. Missouri Valley Conference over the Big Ten and Big 12—what more can fans of the underdog ask for?

“I think our league is good,’’ Drake Coach Kurt Kanaskie said after his team rolled past Iowa State, 72-58, last week. “Sometimes it’s under-estimated or under-appreciated, but I think we have an excellent league.’’

Saturday’s game drew a boisterous crowd of 6,910 at the Knapp Center. That meant all but 92 seats were sold.

Kanaskie was impressed.

We were really jacked up,’’ he said. “I’ve never seen our student body like it was (in this game). That makes a huge difference.’’

Drake’s victory came 11 days after Northern Iowa jolted Iowa, 78-76. Considering that the Hawkeyes have since beaten Iowa State by 25 points, Drake by 42 and Missouri by 18, I’d like to suggest that Northern Iowa Coach Greg McDermott be given a special award at Iowa’s postseason banquet.

It was the victory engineered by McDermott that served as a big-time wake-up call for Iowa. Now no team is playing better than the Hawkeyes. If they can continue with the intensity they’ve displayed in the past three games, they’re my choice to win the Big Ten title.

Iowa State Coach Larry Eustachy, whose team is struggling with a 5-6 record, was gracious after the loss at Drake.

“We’re not to the point where we can come down here (and win),’’ he said. “Our Elite Eight team couldn’t do it. I thought we played the best Drake team (Saturday) that I’ve seen so far….It was a nice win for Drake.’’

The Elite Eight team Eustachy was referring to was his group two years ago that finished with a 32-5 record—with one of the losses early in the season at Drake.
One other thing I’d like to say about the major-college basketball competition in the state.

I think it’s wonderful that Iowa and Iowa State agree to play games at Drake and Northern Iowa.

In not all states does such cooperation take place.

The games in Des Moines and Cedar Falls give fans a chance to see teams they would not normally see, except on television. I hope the policy never ends.


Given the choice, most college football coaches prefer that their teams are slight underdogs rather than slight favorites in big games.

Being underdogs makes for strong motivation for the players.

That being the case, Iowa State and Iowa would appear to have their bowl opponents right where they want them.

Alabama is favored by about a touchdown to beat Iowa State in the Independence Bowl, and Texas Tech is a one-point favorite over Iowa in the Alamo Bowl.

Vol. 1, No. 11
Dec. 17, 2001

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Looking for Opinions? You're in the Right Place

After watching basketball games involving Iowa, Iowa State and Drake in the space of about 20 hours, after seeing how Nebraska flew BCS Airlines into the Rose Bowl and after noticing that a guy named George O’Leary became Notre Dame’s football coach, here are some opinions on the things going on in sports:


I wish he’d change his mind.

I wish Tim Floyd would say adios to the Chicago Bulls and return to college basketball. That’s the game he knows so well.

Floyd is a very good coach and a very good man. In the four seasons he was at Iowa State, he had records of 23-11, 24-9, 22-9 and 12-18 before becoming coach of the Bulls.

Why he continues wanting to hang around that zoo known as the Bulls and why he wants to work for Jerry Krause, the clown who is called operations chief, is beyond me.

“Money – that’s why he’s still there,’’ people keep telling me.

Well, sure, Floyd has already made a lot of bucks and would earn about $6 million if he coached the Bulls for the three seasons that remain on his contract after this one.

But how much kicking, how much embarrassment can one man take? Floyd won’t quit and Krause says he won’t fire him. Frankly, I think the Bulls should pay him the $6 million, then let him decide his next coaching assignment because management hasn’t given him the players necessary to compete in the National Basketball Association.

I covered Floyd’s first three games as Iowa State’s coach – they were played in Hilo, Hawaii -- and I covered most of the games in his final season with the Cyclones. I know he’s a proud man and a man who is not a good loser.

I recall how he chased the officials off the floor after an overtime loss to Purdue in the championship game of the Big Island Invitational at Hilo. That was his first defeat with the Cyclones, and he didn’t like how it happened.

I also recall, before he’d talk about what went right and what went wrong in games, how he’d pace up and down the corridor outside Iowa State’s locker room—consumed by frustration--following emotional losses.

I also recall how he fought verbally with Gene Smith, who then was Iowa State’s athletic director, and other administrators at the school concerning things he felt strongly about.

No, sir, Floyd didn’t mind voicing his opinions. I was sitting in a hotel room in Manhattan, Kan., one winter night when the telephone rang. It was Floyd, calling from Ames. He wanted to talk about a number of things, but primarily he wanted to second-guess something Mark Hansen, then the Register’s sports columnist, did or didn’t write.

“Don’t you think it’s up to your columnist to write something about that?’’ Floyd asked of some issue I have since forgotten.

However, Hansen and I had a wonderful working relationship. I didn’t tell him what to write and he didn’t tell me what to write.

None of the problems at Iowa State, though, can compare with what’s happening to Floyd now.

Every day has been hell,’’ he said earlier this season when talking about his job with the Bulls.

Floyd’s record in his first three seasons with Chicago was 45-169. This year, he’s 4-15 and the team is in its familiar last place in the Central Division. One of the early losses was by a franchise-record 53 points to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Afterward, Floyd called it a “pathetic effort.’’

Marcus Fizer and Fred Hoiberg, who played for Floyd at Iowa State, are doing all they can for this hapless team. Fizer is averaging 10.9 points and 4.7 rebounds, Hoiberg is averaging 4.8 points and 2.3 rebounds.

Not only has Floyd had to endure the ridiculous Krause. He’s also had to put up with the behavior of forward Charles Oakley, who was fined $50,000 by the club for criticizing the coach and the rest of the Bulls’ management following the 53-point thrashing at Minneapolis. There’s also been heavy criticism by Chicago reporters.
This is some of what Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti wrote recently:

“He is the biggest fool in sports, a naïve pawn in a rich man’s shell game. I’ve warned Tim Floyd all along that he doesn’t get it, that he was set up to lose, that Jerry Krause is just incompetent enough to bring down the Bulls, that (chairman) Jerry Reinsdorf cares only about keeping payrolls low to recoup the big salaries he paid during the dynasty….

“I’m not sure of much in the world these days, but I am sure of these three dominoes: (1) Krause should dismiss Floyd immediately for being an amateur coach, a constant whiner and a sneaky adversary; (2) Reinsdorf then should dismiss Krause for chronic buffoonery...and (3) Reinsdorf then should unload his dog-breath team, his only way to save face after failing to build ‘our own dynasty’ without Michael Jordan and allowing his franchise value to slide from $310 million to $249 million—‘and falling,’ according to a published study….’’

I wish Mariotti would tell us what he really thinks.

Larry Eustachy, who succeeded Floyd as Iowa State’s coach, said he talks daily with Floyd.

“I’ve never been prouder of a guy,’’ Eustachy said. “He’s taken on challenges all of his life. There’s talk of him quitting, but he’ll never quit—I promise you. He’ll never give in to the players. He’s doing what he thinks gives his team the best chance to win.’’

I believe all of that. But take my advice, Tim. Call a meeting with Reinsdorf and Krause, get them to pay you all or most of that $6 million, blame them for the team’s problems, then walk out the door with all the dignity you can muster and wait for the offers to come in from colleges. There will be plenty.

College basketball needs you. You sure don’t need the Bulls.


Hey, this is an exciting Bulldog basketball team.

The 2001-2002 season was expected to be the best in Kurt Kanaskie’s six years as coach, and it’s starting that way.

The Bulldogs, who were preseason picks to finish eighth in the 10-team Missouri Valley Conference, were impressive in their victory over Indiana State, which was tabbed to finish third.

By the way, I quit paying much attention to preseason predictions a long time ago. Don’t forget, Northern Iowa – which was picked to finish last in the Valley – jolted a talented Iowa team last week.

I asked Indiana State Coach Royce Waltman, who is in his fifth season, to compare Drake with previous Bulldog teams he has seen.
He was impressed.

“I have a certain feeling about Drake all the time,’’ Waltman said. “Coach Kanaskie is not only one of my favorite people in the league, I think he’s one of the best coaches. It’s hard for me to compare (his teams) because they play the same all the time. They take care of the ball, they recruit shooters. They’re a rare team that has good shooters, but they don’t take wild shots.

“With the two Solas, I think they’re maybe a little more mobile, athletic and maybe more skilled than in the past.’’

One of the more interesting guys on Drake’s roster is Andry Sola, who was listed as questionable for the Indiana State game because of an ankle sprain. However, he came off the bench to score a team-high 21 points—drilling four of seven three-point field goal attempts in the process.

Sola, a 6-8 forward from Oakville, Ontario, Canada, calls himself the “Croatian Sensation.’’ He was born in Canada, but lived in Croatia for two years as a teen-ager. He isn’t related to J. J. Sola, a 6-7 Drake forward from Mission Viejo, Calif.

The Indiana State game was the start of a big week for the Bulldogs, who are at Iowa for a Wednesday night game, then play Iowa State at the Knapp Center at 7:05 p.m. Saturday.

“This is college basketball,’’ said the Croatian Sensation of the Indiana-Iowa-Iowa State games. “These are the games you want to play.’’

Sola said it was important for Drake to win its home opener in the conference.

“When you come to our court at Drake University, this is where we have to make our stand,’’ he said. “No one comes into the Knapp Center and tries to push us around. We have to stay strong and get the ‘W.’’’

The only downside to the Drake-Indiana State game was that it drew only 3,894 fans in the 7,002-seat Knapp Center. Sure, the game was televised and, sure, there were lots of NFL games on the tube that afternoon. But get a ticket to the Bulldogs’ future games. They’re worth seeing.


Just when people were wondering if Iowa’s basketball season was going down the drain because Reggie Evans and Luke Recker were supposedly thinking more of their future NBA careers than about the Hawkeyes and because—as their coach said—they were “soft,’’ along came the 78-53 thrashing they put on Iowa State.

It’s a good thing Iowa State won’t have to play many – maybe not any – players with the with the size and talent of the 6-8, 245-pound Evans the rest of the season. The young Cyclones had no one to match a guy who scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.

Then again, it’s a good thing. Evans, Recker and the rest of the Hawkeyes got their act together just days after being embarrassed in a loss at Northern Iowa.
“Iowa is the best team we’ve played since I’ve been here,’’ said Iowa State guard Jake Sullivan.

Said Iowa Coach Steve Alford: “We punished a very good rebounding team. We beat them by 23 boards in their building. That’s a little bit of what this team can do if it keeps working.’’

It’s obvious the Hawkeyes have a wealth of outstanding players. If they can show up with the same emotion in most of the rest of their games this season, they will make a strong run for the Big Ten title. At this stage, I’d label them the best team in the conference, and that certainly means better than Illinois.

This figured to be a building year at Iowa State, and that’s what it’s going to be. Eustachy has proven he’s an outstanding coach, but any coach will tell you that the secret to a good record is talented players.

Right now, the Cyclones don’t have enough of them. They’re too young to handle some of the competition they’re facing now and what they’ll face in the upcoming Big 12 race. But count on it that Eustachy’s team will be better in February than it is in December.


Who’d you expect to coach the Fighting Irish, somebody named Wolfgang Soccerschmidt?
They don’t get any more Irish than someone named O’Leary.

Actually, O’Leary, who had a 52-33 record at Georgia Tech, was probably the sixth or seventh choice on Notre Dame’s list. But once guys like Jon Gruden, Bob Stoops, Steve Mariucci and Mike Bellotti said they wanted no part of the Notre Dame job, O’Leary’s name started looking pretty good to athletic director Kevin White.

At 55, O’Leary is the oldest coach ever to be hired at Notre Dame. I’m guessing he won’t do much better than Bob Davie, the guy who preceded him. Maybe he won’t do as well. Not because he’s 55, but because the Notre Dame job isn’t what it once was and because plenty of other collegiate programs have caught up.

By the way, I received an e-mail from a reader who didn’t want to stop with Notre Dame firing Davie.

“What they really need is a new athletic director,’’ the guy wrote.

Sounds like things will continue to be interesting in South Bend.


When Alabama plays Iowa State in the Independence Bowl at Shreveport, La., on Dec. 27, it will be the school’s 51st bowl game.

Normally, a 6-5 record under first-year Coach Dennis Franchione wouldn’t get many rave reviews at a school with a strong football tradition like Alabama. But it looks pretty good when compared with the 3-8 season the Crimson Tide had in 2000 under Mike DuBose.

However, there’s trouble on the horizon at Alabama, and that may explain why Franchione was rumored to be looking into the coaching vacancy at Kansas after Terry Allen was fired last month. When the news got out that Franchione might want to jump ship after one year at Alabama, he quickly put a message on his website that he really wasn’t interested in going to Kansas.

Sure, Dennis. And the yellow-brick road was really blue, right?

The Kansas job has since been filled by Mark Mangino, who had been Bob Stoops’ offensive coordinator at Oklahoma.

The NCAA has been investigating Alabama since the spring of 2000. However, the allegations don’t involve Franchione and his staff. The university recently offered self-imposed sanctions for 11 major violations and five minor violations, including the loss of 15 scholarships over three years. The school also said it was cutting ties with three boosters.

The NCAA is expected to make its rulings on the case early in 2002.


With the Bowl Championship Series formula, anything can happen.

Anything happened this year.

So what if Colorado just happened to clobber Nebraska, 62-36, late in the season? So what if all those other goofy things happened to send the Cornhuskers to Pasadena.

Fix the system, don’t blame Nebraska.

[A MESSAGE TO READERS -- Lots of bad things happened in the world in 2001. So Ron Maly is looking for some good things. Good things in the state. Good things in Des Moines. Good things in the suburbs. Send him a list of five good things that happened. They don’t have to be serious things. They can be fun things. E-mail him at]

Vol. 1, No. 10
Dec. 11, 2001

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

'Well, I'll Be a Son of a Bitch!'

Let’s pretend that Woody Hayes, who died March 12, 1987, somehow showed up again in December, 2001.

Naturally, when a guy has been gone for more than 14 years, he has some questions.

The first thing the legendary Ohio State football coach asks is, “Did we beat that team up north?’’

The second thing he asks is, “What’s our record?’’

The third thing he asks is, “Who’s playing in the Rose Bowl?’’

When you tell Woody the answer to the first question is, yes, Ohio State beat Michigan, his face lights up with that approving, grandfatherly smile and he says, “Good, I still hate that team up north.’’

That’s how it went with Woody. Michigan was always just “that team up north.’’

When you tell him the answer to the second question is 7-4, Woody frowns and says, “What happened? Didn’t we recruit very well? Was our senior class a bad one?’’

Hey, don’t forget. Woody didn’t take kindly to any Ohio State team losing—his or somebody else’s.

Now for the third question.

When you answer that one with “Miami and probably Tennessee,’’ Woody roars, “Well, I’ll be a son of a bitch! Give me an explanation before I throw a damn water bottle at you. How come there’s no Big Ten team in the Rose Bowl?’’

“Calm down, Woody,’’ you say. “The reason there’s no Big Ten team going to Pasadena is because of the Bowl Championship Series. The national championship is being decided in the Rose Bowl this season.’’

By this time, Woody isn’t just throwing water bottles around the room. He’s throwing telephones, clipboards, assistant coaches, pulling guards, nickel backs and even a linebacker from Clemson.

“The Bowl Championship WHAT?’’ he asks. “The Big Ten has had a team in the Rose Bowl every year since 1947, and I think it’s bullshit that there won’t be one in it this time.’’

“Well, Woody, you might consider it a raw deal for the Big Ten, but there are lots of lousy things in football these days,’’ you counter. “Some coaches let guys play who don’t even go to class. Don’t get mad, but I hear it even happened at Ohio State in the 2000 season. Then they fired the coach.

“And you know what else, Woody? They fired Terry Allen, the coach at Kansas, when he still had three games left on his schedule this year. Know what else, Woody? The Iowa crowd booed whenever the coach put his quarterback into the game against Michigan. That’s how bad things are in the college game now.’’

“Did all the booing help Iowa beat that team from up north?’’ Woody asks.
“No, Michigan won,’’ you answer.

“Well, I’ll be a son of a bitch!’’ Woody says.

Woody – stubborn guy that he is and was – still can’t be reasoned with about the fact that no Big Ten team, or no Pac-10 Conference team for that matter, will be in the 2002 Rose Bowl game.

“You can take Miami and Tennessee and tell ‘em to get their asses back to the Orange Bowl or the Tangerine Bowl where they belong!’’ he fumes. “The Rose Bowl is for the Big Ten and the Pac-10. Call Wayne Duke and get this straightened out.’’

“Woody, Wayne Duke is no longer commissioner of the Big Ten,’’ you say. “Even if he was, Duke couldn’t fix this problem.’’

Then call Bo Schembechler!’’ Woody says.

“Bo can’t help, either,’’ you say. “He’s retired from that school up north.’’

Well, I’ll be a son of a bitch!’’ Woody says. “I was hoping Bo was the guy who lost to Ohio State.’’


As much as some Iowa State and Iowa football fans would like to see their teams matched against one another in a bowl game, it’s never likely to happen.

The reason? Television.

Iowa State against Iowa in a rematch of their late-November regular-season finale at Ames might seem attractive to people in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Oskaloosa and Hawarden, but it sounds like a real turkey to the TV networks.

Can you imagine trying to sell an Iowa State-Iowa game on the tube between Christmas and New Year’s to people in New York, Miami and Los Angeles? What you’d have is what breaks the hearts (and the bank accounts) of TV executives whose jobs rely on the ratings.

Hey, you didn’t forget, did you, that college football is in the entertainment business?

If Iowa State and Iowa didn’t already play during the regular season, there might be a reason to send them against each other in a bowl, but no TV people want a game matching schools from the Big 12 and Big Ten Conferences representing a small-population state when they can get schools from larger states that can produce much better ratings.


Speaking of the bowls, the best team playing in them is Colorado, which has no chance of competing for the national championship in the Rose Bowl because of regular-season losses to Fresno State and Texas.

The Buffaloes’ victory over Texas in the Big 12 championship game was a made-for-prime-time-TV dandy that probably will get Coach Gary Barnett an interview for the Notre Dame job. Even if he doesn’t have an interview scheduled, he’ll say he does.


Also speaking of the bowls, Iowa’s appearance in the Alamo Bowl will give offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe a chance to quiet the Hawkeye fans who have been all over him for his questionable play-calling against Iowa State and other teams this season.

Iowa followers have been pouring criticism regularly on O’Keefe on the Internet sites, but O’Keefe’s supporters point out that the Hawkeyes led the Big Ten in scoring, third-down conversions and red zone efficiency. However, fans continue to be frustrated by the team’s close losses this season and in 2000 – the last seven by a total of 36 points.


It won’t surprise me to see new orders from the management at KXNO, one of several all-sports radio stations in Des Moines. Sometime soon, announcers can expect to see this message on the bulletin board: “Don’t bother bringing your lunch to work.’’

Job security at KXNO is about as stable as it is in the football offices at Notre Dame.

Ferentz and Notre Dame -- Speaking of Notre Dame, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz has been mentioned as a “longshot’’ candidate for the Fighting Irish coaching job. The reason? Because Kevin White, Notre Dame’s athletic director, hired Ferentz for the Maine football job when he was the AD there.

“Wouldn’t it be something if the Iowa job opened again?’’ one reader asks. “Bob Bowlsby (Iowa’s athletic director) would really be under the gun, but I don’t think he’d hire by committee this time.’’

Delays caused by the hiring “by committee’’ is one of the reasons critics say Iowa lost its chance to land Bob Stoops after Hayden Fry retired.

Of course, there are the usual names on the list of prospective candidates for the Notre Dame job – guys like Stoops, Jon Gruden of the Oakland Raiders, Tom Coughlin of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Mike Bellotti of Oregon, Tyrone Willingham of Stanford and Barry Alvarez of Wisconsin.

Whenever there’s a big job opening, you can figure all or most of those names will be mentioned as possibilities, whether they’re looking for new challenges or not.

What are the chances of Ferentz winding up in South Bend? Slim and none. But count on it that he wouldn’t turn down an interview for the job if he got a telephone call from the right guy at Notre Dame.

The same with Gruden, Stoops and the rest. Even though they say, “I’m happy where I am,’’ every coach listens whenever the phone rings. They’re like everyone else. They want to be wanted.


Back to Woody Hayes for a minute.

Despite anything guys like Steve Spurrier, Frank Solich, Stoops and others have done in coaching on a national scale in recent years, Hayes remains someone who can still stir emotional football talk long after his death.

I was in Pasadena, preparing to cover the Rose Bowl, when Hayes, then 65, was fired by Ohio State after he punched Clemson linebacker Charlie Bauman late in the Gator Bowl on Dec. 29, 1978. When news of the sad incident reached Pasadena, it overshadowed anything Shcembechler said or did while getting ready for the Rose Bowl game.

Woody’s firing in a lesser bowl was an even bigger deal than Bo getting ready for one of the biggest games of his career.

Hayes took eight of his Ohio State teams to the Rose Bowl, and had a 4-4 record there. He had a 205-61-10 record while coaching the Buckeyes from 1951-78. History is full of Woody stories. One of my favorites was when he and an Ohio State assistant coach were driving through Michigan on a recruiting trip, and the assistant noticed that they were running low on gas.

He thought he should fill up at a station, but Hayes ordered him to keep driving. Woody said he wouldn’t spend “a damn nickel’’ on anything in Michigan even if they had to push the car across the state line.

Woody’s temper tantrums were well known. He once threw a movie projector at Bill Mallory, then one of his assistants and later the head coach at Indiana. When Ohio State played a game at Iowa, Woody charged that Hawkeye officials deliberately let the grass grow high on the field to slow down his faster players.

So, as the story goes, he decided to get even. Woody – or someone from his staff – stole two heaters that Iowa had behind its bench on the cold day.

Maybe some of the stories were embellished, maybe not. But they were all part of the man.

[There was a time – after Forest Evashevski and before Hayden Fry – when it was not considered an official Rose Bowl unless Woody Hayes coached in it. White short-sleeved shirt, red necktie, baseball cap, red-hot temper….all were among Woody’s trademarks on the sideline. To comment on Hayes or anything else in this column, e-mail Ron Maly at]

Vol. 1, No. 9
Dec. 4, 2001