Thursday, April 01, 2004

Hornung Hit in Head Too Many Times

I realize that lots of people are coming down hard on Paul Hornung these days after the former Notre Dame football player went on the radio to say the Fighting Irish should lower their academic standards so more black players could be admitted to school.

I've never been much of a Paul Hornung fan, but I'm also not going to start lowering the boom on him, either. I mean, what did you expect from the guy?

After all, he was probably drinking when he said the things he said before the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame banquet. And he quite likely got hit it the head a dozen times too many when he played for Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers.

Besides, he's about my age and he gave me a great interview a few years ago when I called him to ask about Troy Davis' chances of winning the Heisman Trophy.

Hornung is the only player from a team with a record under .500 who won the Heisman Trophy. He did it in 1956 after Notre Dame went 2-8. By the way, Johnny Majors (who later was Iowa State's head coach) finished second in the Heisman voting that year.

I called Hornung late in the 1995 season when it appeared Davis had a chance to finish high in the Heisman voting. Davis' situation was somewhat like Hornung's was in 1956. Davis was playing for a team that eventually finished with a 3-8 record.

But there was one huge difference. Hornung played for Notre Dame, Davis played for Iowa State. When it comes to Heisman voters who pay attention to whether a university is high-profile or not in terms of football, there's no comparison.

Davis led the nation in rushing with 2,010 yards in 1995. He and his family thought he had a strong shot at winning the Heisman, but he finished a distant fifth. In 1996, when Iowa State went 2-9, he finished second after again leading the nation in rushing with 2,185 yards.

In his interview on WXYT-AM in Detroit this week, Hornung said of Notre Dame: "We can't stay as strict as we are as far as the academic structure is concerned because we've got to get the black athlete. We must get the black athlete if we're going to compete."

Horning's claim that Notre Dame's academic standards are too high for outstanding black players shocked heavy hitters at the university as well as a lot of other people, and Hornung has since backed off what he said.

Actually, what the poor guy said on the radio was probably something he's said in private conversations over a glass of something-or-other for many years. He just wasn't smart enough to know that was a microphone and not a glass when he began talking this week.

Hey, the guy might have won the Heisman Trophy, but he was never Phi Beta Kappa.

NBA Can Wait, Stinson Back at ISU

Curtis Stinson had something to say today. So did Wayne Morgan, his basketball coach at Iowa State.

"Despite a report from a newspaper, I am returning to Iowa State next season," Stinson said in a statement released by Iowa State's sports information office. "I am currently back in Ames, going to school and I am looking forward to improving my game and helping Iowa State basketball be successful. I will be back at ISU next season."

Gee, I wonder which newspaper carried THAT story?

Whatever, here are the comments from Morgan:

"Curtis heard of media speculation about his being at Iowa State next season and called me to tell me that he will be at Iowa State for his sophomore year. Curtis told me that there is no truth to any report suggesting the contrary. It is always flattering when there is speculation about the NBA future of student-athletes in your basketball program. We're all excited about the future of basketball at Iowa State University."

Bringing Mom and Dad, Too

I think Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz surprised a few sportswriters at the first of his spring press conferences this week by saying he'd like to see a prospect's parents be allowed to make recruiting visits.

"I think it would be real advantageous if a parent could go," Ferentz explained. "I know as a parent that I would want to go with my son or daughter if they were a student athlete. I can't imagine any of us sending our kids off to a school without us going there and at least getting a chance to see it...."

Ferentz made his comments during a time when an independent investigator is winding up research on an investigation of possible football recruiting violations at Iowa.

There's one major barrier in Ferentz's noble request to have parents accompany their kids on recruiting trips.

It's called money.

Ferentz admitted he doesn't know who would pay for it.

Well, I know who will eventually pay for it. The people who buy the tickets to the games that are played in Kinnick Stadium and every other collegiate stadium around the country.

Don't they pay for everything?

Gopher Women Take Town by Storm

A friend of mine watches a lot of women's collegiate basketball, and has some thoughts on why it's growing in popularity.

By the way, the reader is talking about women's collegiate basketball in places other than Iowa City. Even though Lisa Bluder has brought success to the Iowa women's program, it's still treated as a foreign object by most fans. Unlike the situation at Iowa State and Drake, women's crowds are slim and interest is low.

The reader writes: "I still can't get over how the Star-Tribune has fallen in love with the Gopher women. I'm glad for that, but the paper didn't even know they had a women's program until (former coach) Brenda Frese arrived....."

Seventh-seeded Minnesota has reached the Final Four by upsetting teams that were seeded Nos. 1, 2 and 3. The Gophers have taken the Twin Cities by storm.

"It's just an example of how a women's program can be a good draw in certain situations like Bill Fennelly of Iowa State has going," the reader says. "The fans fall in love with the players more than with men's players. Lindsay Whalen is a cute girl from Hutchinson, Minn., and that makes her appealing.

"(People) agree with me that Iowa State's lure is the love of the cute likeable players by the older fan base that goes to the game. I think the 3,000 or so fans who go to the Drake women's games have good feelings about the players, too. I don't think you have that aspect in the men's game. Fans just want to see wins.

"Another thing, in the Star-Tribune there was a little story that the Gopher game against Kansas State outdrew the Timberwolves by 2-1 in the TV ratings....."

Even Star-Tribune columnist Sid Hartman, who is so old that he is rumored to have been born even before James Naismith invented basketball, is caught up in Minnesota's women's program.

"A year ago at this time, the craze in town was the Wild,. who were headed for the NHL playoffs for the first time," Hartman wrote in today's paper. "Now it's the Gophers women's basketball team that has captured the imagination of everybody. Like the Wild, the Gophers have had terrific television ratings and are the talk of the town.

"A Gophers team that early in the season was drawing 6,000 fans to Williams Arena is now in the Final Four and will likely attract record TV ratings when it faces Connecticut on Sunday in New Orleans....I have been glued to that television set, watching every pass and shot of the Gophers in their drive to the Final Four. And I will be watching again Sunday...."

Reaching for the Sky

Still on the subject of women's basketball, Bud Appleby of Des Moines sends this in an e-mail:

"Remember Larry Parker, who played basketball at Iowa from 1972 to 1976?
"His daughter, Candace, has been named the Naismith Award winner as the top high school basketball player in the country for the second year in a row..

"She is a senior at Naperville Central High School in Illinois.

"Her brother, Anthony, played at Bradley and in the NBA.

"She is a 6-3 forward who is not only a good three-point shooter, but can also dunk the ball. She became the first high school girl to ever do that in a game when she was a sophomore.

"Unfortunately, she is going to Tennessee. Pat Summit, the Tennessee coach, said she is capable of playing any position from center to point guard, but will probably be a small forward."

Dan Offenburger Critically Ill

This is a tough time for the Offenburger family.

My friend Chuck, the former "Iowa Boy" columnist at the local paper, writes:

"My brother Dan Offenburger of Shenandoah is critically ill in an Omaha hospital. He had a coronary while golfing last Friday evening and has not regained consciousness." Later in his e-mail, Chuck writes: "Thanks for the thoughts and prayers about Dan. If his life is ending now, he's had a great one in his 68 years."

Dan, a good guy, is a former athletic director and sports information director at Creighton University.

This Guy Misses Iowa City My West Coast correspondent sends an e-mail titled, "I miss Iowa City."

So why does he miss Iowa City?

Because of the information he sent that was in an article in the Iowa City Press-Citizen headlined: "70 people involved in Sunday brawls."

The story reads in part:

"Police think about 70 people were involved in a series of fights early Sunday that started on the pedestrian mall and ended at the emergency room at University Hospitals.

"A total of 16 people, including six women, were arrested on charges that included disorderly conduct, interference with official acts, public intoxication, obstruction of justice and assault....."

Wine Fine on Leaving the Farm

I don't know if George Wine misses Iowa City or not, but at least he's moving closer to it.

Wine is the fellow author and retired sports information director at the University of Iowa. He and his wife, Barrie Anderson, have been living on a farm in Solon.

But that's about to change.

"A few weeks ago, Barrie and I purchased a condo in Coralville overlooking a golf course,." he writes. "I may have to dust off my clubs. We put our farm up for sale, and three days later we had an offer, which has been finalized.

"Barrie is retiring soon and we will be spending considerable time in other parts of the world. Too much responsibility on this property to be gone for long periods.

"My e-mail address will stay the same, but our mailing address will change June 1. I'll let you know what it is if you want to send money."

I saw Wine in Iowa City this week, and he told me former Hawkeye football coach Hayden Fry hasn't had the same kind of luck in selling his home near Iowa City.

Wine said Fry is asking $650,000 for the place. No takers yet.

Picking the NCAA Champions

It's time for the Final Four(s).

In the men's tournament, my heart is with Eddie Sutton and Oklahoma State. Sutton is proof that 68-year-old guys can be big winners.

I'm also trying to win a bet.

But I can occasionally be a realist. So I'm picking Connecticut to win. Adios, winning bet.

In the women's tournament, my heart is with Minnesota, and that's the team I'm picking to win the title.

Vol. 4, No. 228
April 1, 2004