Monday, March 08, 2004

Wrong Season for Website

I hate to say it, but the guys running the website picked the wrong season to do it.

It ain’t going to happen for a while.

The firing I mean.

Not after Iowa’s basketball team finished with a 9-7 record in the Big Ten – the best in Alford’s five seasons in the conference. Not after he had a 16-11 regular-season record despite playing most of it with only seven scholarship players.

The way I look at it, Alford is doing his best coaching job this season. However, I think he’s going to need not just one, but at least two victories in the upcoming Big Ten postseason tournament to get the Hawkeyes a spot in the NCAA tournament.

If it’s one-and-done at Indianapolis, figure Iowa will again go to the NIT, where it will eventually be matched up against Iowa State.


Speaking of, it’s sad to see my friend Randy Peterson getting raked over the coals on that website.

Peterson, a veteran reporter who has written about everything from high schools to bowling to collegiate sports, made an attempt at explaining the Alford situation in a recent story in the local paper.

But the site ripped him with something called The Crawford Column. The piece was headlined "Dissecting the Fluff."

It said:

"Many of you by now have read the Des Moines Register article on Coach Alford with the caption, ‘He’ll be back.’ And I’m sure like me most of you are astonished that the pro-Alford article was written by Randy Peterson….yes, that’s sarcasm. The article is almost laughable and portrays Alford as a victim of poor luck. I couldn’t let this absolute cover-up of the facts go unnoticed and let the athletic department and Bob Bowlsby try and pull the wool over your eyes…."

The column goes on to poke holes in what was said and written about Alford in the local paper.


Back to Iowa State’s basketball team for a minute.

After a promising start, it turned out to be a disappointing first season with the Cyclones for Coach Wayne Morgan.

Iowa State got off to a 7-0 start and won 11 of its first 13 games, but then caved in during the Big 12 season. Overall, the Cyclones take a 16-11 record into their conference postseason game Thursday in Dallas against Kansas State.

The thing that made the season such a travesty was that Iowa State went 0-8 on the road in the Big 12, and now has lost its last 25 conference games away from home. The Cyclones should have done much better with such veterans as seniors Jackson Vroman and Jake Sullivan and freshmen Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock.


For years, I’ve been wondering about the wisdom of Iowa, Iowa State and other major colleges using female students loosely referred to as "recruiters" to help football prospects make up their minds on where they’ll continue their education.

Now, after this mess in Iowa City involving a high school quarterback from Kansas whom Iowa didn’t even get and a University of Iowa female student he says he had sex with, I’m really starting to wonder about the sense of it all.

I don’t know if the woman was one of Iowa’s designated "recruiters" or not, but even if she wasn’t, why are any major colleges involved with having coeds available to help prospects decide where they want to play football?

The women are pictured in game-day programs that are sold to fans on some college campuses.

I’d like to know what’s expected of the women when they are assigned to "recruit" high school and junior college players. And I’d like to know all of their responsibilities with the football program.


This e-mail is from former Iowan Al Schallau, who now lives in California:


When will college basketball referees realize that a regulation game is 40 minutes long? A game is NOT 39 minutes and 50 seconds long.

Everyone with the gift of sight has observed that college basketball referees just "swallow the whistle" for the last 10 seconds of every game. A player can be dismembered in the act of shooting and no fouls will be called.

The "no call" at the end of Sunday’s game between Ohio State and Illinois was one of the worst officiating "non-decisions" that I have ever seen. The Buckeyes’ player was hammered as he went up for a last-second shot in the paint. It doesn’t bother me that Ohio State lost, but I would really like to see the referees work the entire game.

[COMMENT: I wasn’t able to watch the game because I went to see the movie "Miracle." I guess some Illinois fans might be calling it a miracle that the Fighting Illinois survived the no-call. Right or wrong, it’s an unwritten rule that the officials forget to blow their whistles in those final few seconds. And Illinois coach Bruce Weber says, "Thank you." By the way, retired Iowa sports information director George Wine agreed with Schallau’s comment on the no-call. "You are right about the no-call at Columbus," Wine said in an e-mail to Schallau. "If you watched Iowa’s win at Purdue Saturday, you saw some awful calls in the first 39 minutes. It was getting very close to another Jim Bain fiasco."]


The following is a column I originally wrote for the February edition of the Local Sports Connection. After you read it, check out the e-mail that follows.

You’ve heard all the names.

Willie McCarter and Willie Wise. Dolph Pulliam and Al Williams. Don Draper and Rick Wanamaker.

And, oh, yes.

Dave Wicklund.

Dave Who?

You’re right, Dave Wicklund wasn’t exactly a household name in the golden age of Drake basketball.

This was little Dave, the kid with the floppy hair who looked like a choir boy.

Little Dave, who could be mistaken for the team manager.

He wasn’t pulling a Rick Wanamaker and blocking Lew Alcindor’s shot in the NCAA tournament.

He wasn’t pulling a Willie McCarter and scoring 25 points in a key Missouri Valley Conference game.

He wasn’t pulling a Dolph Pulliam and making a sensational defensive stop or taking a theatrical flop and drawing a foul.

But Dave Wicklund did make a very big basket on a sensational and surprising play in a very big Valley game one Saturday afternoon in 1971 against Louisville.

I was there for the game. I remember it vividly.

I remember Wicklund’s excitement. I remember fans wondering if maybe….just maybe…..Drake had another team of destiny in what turned out to be Maury John’s last season as the Bulldogs’ coach.

I remember the big banner headline over my story in the Sunday Register the next day that said: DRAKE HERO: SUB WICKLUND!

Whether I remembered it or not, it was fun having Wicklund describe it when he was talking about a time when Drake basketball and big-time success were synonymous.

This was the scene on Jan. 23, 1971 at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, where Drake then played its home games. Two seconds remained in the game against Louisville. Face it, that really wasn’t enough time for the Bulldogs to set up a play under their own basket that might win the game.

But Maury John had a plan. He always did.

"Coach called us over," the 6-foot Wicklund explained. "We had practiced this play forever.

"Coach said, ‘OK, Wicklund, you’re going to shoot the ball.’

"And generally the play called for Jeff Halliburton to throw the ball to about the other team’s free throw line so I could shoot it from there if I had the time.

"But this time I had to catch up to the ball. And I went in for the layup that won the game."

Wicklund admitted he didn’t even know if the shot was successful because he was knocked to the floor.

"I was worrying about making the free throws," he admitted.

Wicklund was fouled on the play, but didn’t shoot the free throw that gave Drake an 81-78 victory until several minutes after the team had transferred its celebration from the court to the locker room. Someone had to finally tell him to go back onto the court.

The field goal was Wicklund’s only one of the game. Just as important, of course, was the football-style pass Halliburton fired to him nearly the full length of the court.

"Louisville wasn’t expecting it," Wicklund said. "And Jeff played a fabulous game."

I also recall what Wicklund told me when I asked him about the play 33 years ago.

"I’ve been dreaming about it for 21 years," he said.

Dreams weren’t fulfilled often in those days for 6-footers who spent most of their time on the bench.

Wicklund was one of a rare breed in 1971.

He was one of only three Drake players to be members of all three of John’s NCAA teams—the 1968-69 squad that went 26-5, almost beat UCLA in the Final Four and finished third nationally; the 1969-70 squad that went 22-7 and finished second in the Midwest Regional at Lawrence, Kan., and the 1970-71 squad that went 21-8 and finished second in the Midwest Regional at Wichita, Kan.

"The other two players who were in all three NCAAs were Jim Nordrum and Al Sakys," said Wicklund, who played his high school basketball at Abraham Lincoln of Council Bluffs.

"I remember my role on the 1968-69 team. Coach told me, ‘You’ve got to keep these guys working hard. So I tried to help out."

Help out he did. In a big-time way.

[Here’s the e-mail I received from a Central Iowa man after this column appeared in the Local Sports Connection: "Nice story in the Sports Connection. As a season ticketholder in those days, I will never forget the moment. I am sure you know, but it would have been fun to tell today’s readers the importance of the free throw after the melee. Drake was favored by two in the game. When Dave made the ‘meaningless free throw,’ those who bet on Louisville lost their shirt."]


And finally, I received an e-mail from a reader who was making fun of the local paper for calling syndicated movie columnist Roger Ebert, who writes for the Chicago Sun-Times, a "Register Staff Writer" recently.

Hey, does it surprise you? It’s no wonder the copy editors refer to Ebert as a staffer. He’s in the paper more often than a lot of the people who work there.

The same e-mail had something about My Very Good Friend and My Very Good Friend’s Wife in it, too. The e-mailer wasn’t kind to either person.

Vol. 4, No. 13
March 8, 2004