Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Drake Football Deserves Better

It’s a shame that Drake football gets consistently pushed to the back pages of the newspaper.

But there’s nothing new about it.

It’s been going on for as long as I can remember. I’ve been reading the paper since 1945 and living here since 1959.

Chuck Shelton, who coached at the school from 1977-1985, would often complain to me that news stories about the Bulldogs were always buried “back by the tire ads.”

Obviously, ol’ Chuck never minced words. As the last Drake football coach to be able to offer athletic scholarships, he wasn’t into sugarcoating anything.

And Shelton, an interesting guy who has also coached in the Arena League and written a novel, often backed up what he said with what he did.

His 1981 team went 10-1, his 1979 and 1980 teams scored shocking victories at Colorado, and his 1985 squad won at Iowa State, 20-17, three weeks after losing at Iowa, 58-0.

After the victory at Ames, blue-and-white bumper stickers with the numbers 20-17 began showing up all over the state.

That loss helped hasten the departure of Iowa State coach Jim Criner. He was given his walking papers before the 1986 season was over.

Rob Ash is in charge of the Bulldogs’ program now, and is the school’s winningest coach with a 102-57-2 record in 16 seasons. Drake is 2-2 this year.

There’s plenty of news surrounding this year’s Bulldogs, starting with Saturday’s game against Jacksonville.

It will be the first trip by an Iowa collegiate team to Florida in the wake of the recent horrible hurricanes. It’s difficult to believe that the state is recovering from its fourth hurricane in less than six weeks.

Jacksonville’s season opener at Florida International on Sept. 2 was cancelled because of Hurricane Frances.

Jacksonville is 0-3 after last week’s 54-38 loss at Valparaiso.

“We played well enough to win offensively and defensively, but special teams really let us down,” Dolphins coach Steve Gilbert said. “We made great strides as a team and we certainly feel good about the remainder of the league schedule.”

Gilbert was right about his special teams. Jacksonville missed four extra points, and a field goal. The center snapped the ball over the punter’s head and a blocked Valparaiso punt ended up as a Crusaders touchdown.

Adding to this scenario is the fact that Drake has lost nine straight road games dating back to the 2002 season. The Bulldogs were 0-5 on the road last season.

Something else that’s interesting centers around the University of San Diego, which is Drake’s next home opponent on Oct. 9.

Jim Harbaugh, who was a quarterback at Michigan and played in the NFL for 15 seasons, is in his first season as San Diego’s coach. The 1-3 team snapped back from a 61-18 loss to Penn on Sept. 18 to beat Princeton, 24-17, last week.

Jack Harbaugh, who coached Western Kentucky to the 2002 NCAA Division I-AA national title, is an assistant coach on his son’s team.

Jack was on Frank Lauterbur’s ill-fated staff at Iowa in the early-1970s. Lauterbur was fired after the Hawkeyes went 0-11 in 1973.

Of Jim Harbaugh, San Diego executive director of athletics Ky Snyder said, “He has played for and learned from some of the biggest names in college and professional football, and I believe that will transcend into a very long and successful career as a head coach.”

Before signing off on Drake football, I’d like to mention that there was a time when the Bulldogs clearly were front-page stuff.

In the 1920s and early-1930s, they played Notre Dame. The 1927 game—when Ossie Solem coached the Bulldogs—was played at Drake Stadium. The 1929 game—a 19-7 Drake loss—was played at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

In those years, the Bulldogs also had occasional games against Minnesota, Nebraska, Illinois, Oklahoma, Oklahoma A&M [now Oklahoma State], Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri.

The same 1927 Drake team that played Notre Dame in Des Moines also played at Navy—a week after opening at home against Simpson--played Pittsburgh here, at Minnesota and at UCLA.

So how did the Bulldogs do in their season windup at UCLA? They won, 25-6. Hopefully, that got ‘em away from the tire ads in the paper.

Vol. 4, No. 262
Sept. 28, 2004

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Orton The Leader in My Heisman Clubhouse

The question: How long does it take to get from Altoona, Ia., to the Downtown Athletic Club?

The answer: Eight more weeks.

I’ll bet you think I’m going to write about Kyle Orton, right?

I’ll bet you’re right.

Orton is the kid – well, if you want to call a 6-foot 4-inch, 226-pound quarterback a kid – who played high school football at Southeast Polk High School and now is in charge of a high-octane offense that’s piling up yardage in enormous numbers for Purdue.

If Orton can keep it going and if the Boilermakers can keep it going, he’s going to win the Heisman Trophy.

Call me a homer if you want, but he’s certainly my leader in the clubhouse right now.

Orton completed 35 of 50 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns yesterday in Purdue’s 38-30 victory over Illinois.

That performance so moved the folks who handle the Heisman Watch on ESPN.com to write today:

“Do you believe in Kyle Orton yet? He had another monster game and has yet to throw a pick this year. He’s beginning to make people forget about ol’ Drew What’shisname.”

Drew What’shisname is Drew Brees, a previous passing wizard at a place in West Lafayette, Ind., that has been producing standout quarterbacks for decades.

Orton has completed 74 of 96 passes for 982 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. He’s also run for two touchdowns—including one against Illinois.

ESPN.com has Orton listed behind Jason White of Oklahoma, who won the 2003 Heisman, and Matt Leinart of No. 1-ranked Southern California.

Let’s face it, a team must be good—usually very good—for one of its players to stay in the Heisman hunt all season.

So let’s look at Purdue’s schedule the rest of the way to see if Joe Tiller’s Boilermakers have a decent chance of remaining good.

At Notre Dame this week—Could be trouble. Orton and his teammates had better be at the top of their game. I’m saying Purdue wins, 35-31.

At Penn State on Oct. 9—Purdue should win. Football has passed the Nittany Lions’ Joe Paterno by. Boilermakers go home 42-28 winners.

Wisconsin on Oct. 16—It’s a good thing for Purdue that this game is at West Lafayette. Purdue escapes, 28-21.

Michigan on Oct. 23—The schedule-makers remain kind to the Boilermakers. In a classic matchup of Purdue’s offense and Michigan’s defense, Orton sends the game into overtime with a touchdown pass in the final minute. Then the Boilermakers prevail in overtime, 31-28, and Detroit sportswriters ask Michigan coach Lloyd Carr afterward why he can’t win the big one.

At Northwestern on Oct. 30—No problem. Purdue wins, 51-21, as Orton passes for six touchdowns.

At Iowa on Nov. 6—This is one for the ages. [Oops, settle down, Maly. Don’t get too excited. People might think you’re still working with deadlines!] Well, at least one for 2004. Orton returns to his home state to face the team that didn’t recruit him. Orton plays well, but Iowa’s defense plays better. The unbeaten Boilermakers go into the game ranked 8th in the AP poll and 9th in the coaches’ poll, and Iowa’s players are complaining they get no respect. The Hawkeyes play their best game of the season and win, 27-24.

Ohio State on Nov. 13—Another schedule break for Purdue. Another tremendous game. The Boilermakers win, 32-27. After the game, the skies rumble overhead. “Run the damn ball and quit throwing it!” Woody Hayes roars over a special sound system piped into the Ohio State locker room.

Indiana on Nov. 20—Orton closes the regular season the way a guy who’s going to win the Heisman should close it. He passes for 335 yards as Purdue locks up the Rose Bowl bid with a 51-20 romp.

Ten days after accepting the Heisman in New York City, Orton will be honored in Altoona. At the last minute, Des Moines will try to get the ceremony moved to Veterans Memorial Auditorium.

“Not so fast, Des Moines,” Orton says. “We’re having this party in Altoona—preferably at the Southeast Polk gym.”

“What if the gym is being used?” Orton is asked.

“I’d rather have the ceremony at the Casey’s parking lot in Altoona before I’d agree to move it to Des Moines.”


Don’t give up on the Hawkeyes—or the “HOCK-eyes” as TV announcer Brent Musburger calls ‘em--yet.

Obviously, we haven’t been looking at Nile Kinnick and the 1939 Ironmen, and we haven’t been looking at Forest Evashevski’s 1958 juggernaut, but this Iowa football team isn’t finished winning.

Look for the HOCK-eyes to handle Michigan State, 21-14, in Saturday’s homecoming game. One of these days they’ll quit making mistakes and be able to pull a surprise or two [like beating Purdue].

Iowa fell out of the coaches’ top 25 today with its 30-17 loss at Michigan. But I seriously doubt that Kirk Ferentz plans to slash his wrists because his team dropped from No. 24 to No. 34.


This e-mail comes from Al Schallau:

“My name is Al Schallau and I live on the West Coast. But I am NOT your ‘West Coast Correspondent’ who chose to trash the Iowa Hawkeyes in spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs. I agree with you that Kirk Ferentz did not suddenly become a dumb football coach.

“It does hurt badly to lose to the Arizona State Scum Devils. I loathe the Scum Devils even more than Michigan OR Ohio State. On the two occasions that ASU played in the Rose Bowl game, I thought it was like letting the bastard child be the Belle of the Ball.

“But I have two alma maters—B.A. from Iowa and law degree from USC. I am thrilled that on Oct. 16, the Scum Devils will be playing the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Coliseum. By that time, Pete Carroll’s new ‘Sack Attack’ will be fully developed. USC will beat the Scum Devils about 45-14, and the Trojan defense will put at least two touchdowns on the board.

“I will continue to support Coach Ferentz and the Hawkeyes. Your other ‘West Coast Correspondent’ predicted that Michigan will beat the Hawkeyes, 25-14. Based on his recommendation, I will be betting my money on the Hawkeyes. If your correspondent is right, I will win because the point spread is Michigan by 13.

“Al Schallau”

[Great hearing from you again, Al. Actually, don’t blame my West Coast Correspondent for picking Michigan to beat Iowa, 25-14. Sorry to say, that was my pick. All I can do is call ‘em the way I see ‘em. But, don’t forget, I’m predicting that Iowa will beat Michigan State, 21-14].


Question Lloyd Carr’s coaching all you want—and I’ve done it plenty.

The man who is in his 10th season at Michigan may not be the second coming of Fielding Yost and they probably won’t be naming the stadium after him any time soon, but evidently he can recruit talented high school players.

The Wolverines have forced 19 turnovers—three fumbles and two interceptions in the Iowa game—to rank No. 1 nationally.

“Our defense was absolutely magnificent,” Carr was quoted as saying in today’s Detroit News by Angelique S. Chengelis [try saying that name 10 times very quickly!].

Carr also told reporters, “We’ve had some great defenses, but we’ve never had a defense that has caused this many turnovers.”


No black cats were seen coming out of either dugout at Shea Stadium in New York over the weekend.

No fans tried to take a foul ball away from the Chicago Cubs’ Moises Alou.

All I can tell you is that the Cubs had a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth against the Mets on Saturday, and some no-name Mets player who had two strikes on him when there were two outs tied the game with a three-run homer.

Then the Mets won the game in the 11th on a home run by another no-name guy.

Then today, the Cubs got three hits in another loss to the Mets—this time 3-2.

This must be why they call the Cubs’ Dusty Baker a genius manager.

Vol. 4, No. 260
Oct. 26, 2004

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Iowa 'Not a Real Strong Team Now'

Kirk Ferentz isn’t trying to fool anyone.

“We’re not a real strong football team right now,” Iowa’s football coach said as the countdown continued toward Saturday’s Big Ten Conference opener at Michigan.

More than a few of us began wondering if Iowa might be headed for trouble after it survived Iowa State, 17-10, a couple of weeks ago.
Then reality came last week at Tempe, AZ.

Lightning struck more than once in the game against Arizona State.

The Sun Devils won, 44-7, and there was nothing pretty to report from the Iowa sideline.

The Hawkeyes have been sliced and diced every way possible in the days since. We’re back to hearing that Ferentz can’t coach his way out of a paper bag to offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe couldn’t get a game plan together that would score a touchdown against Solon High School.

I didn’t realize Ferentz, who won 11 games in 2002 and 10 in 2003, got so dumb in such a hurry.

Suddenly, the guy who was supposed to be able to turn a bunch of stiffs that played tight end two years ago into offensive linemen like Robert Gallery, Eric Steinbach and Bruce Nelson doesn’t know Drew Tate from Drew Brees.

It wasn’t long ago that Iowa was ranked 12th nationally. Now guys who think they know football say the Hawkeyes won’t win another game.

ABC quickly jumped on the Iowa-Michigan game for one of its regional telecasts Saturday. After all, Michigan is….well, Michigan.

The fight song, “Hail to the Victors.” The winged helmets. Tom Harmon. The 105,000-seat stadium aka the Big House. Fielding Yost. Fritz Crisler. Bo Schembechler. Gary Moeller. Lloyd Carr.

Well, delete Gary Moeller.

Lloyd Carr, too.

Carr, whose Michigan teams have lost two straight games to Iowa – 34-9 at the Big House in 2002 and 30-27 before 70,397 unbelieving spectators last season in Iowa City – is somehow still doing the coaching.

Consequently, Iowa [overrated or not] will always—repeat, always—have a chance.


To illustrate that emotions are running high when it comes to Hawkeye football, my West Coast Correspondent just checked in with his latest thoughts via special delivery.

Well, special e-mail delivery anyway.

Here goes:

The Hawks weren't the only ones to suffer a total breakdown last
weekend. I left L.A. for Tempe on Friday with a planned stop in Palm
Springs to see a gal friend. I didn't step foot out of the beautiful
Coachella Valley until departing for L.A. at 2:30 a.m. Monday. It
turned out to be the best decision I've made in a while.

Needless to say, I didn't see a stitch of the game Saturday night. So
as far as the reaction of Iowa fans and friends in the media, I can't
say, although I have been in contact with numerous witnesses to the
carnage. I finally got the courage to view the tape Monday night and
have a few comments.

I didn't understand Ferentz calling a timeout with 20 seconds left in
the first half. Like Iowa was going to block a punt or something, maybe
even score an offensive touchdown? Koetter threw it in his face, having
Walter throw yet another long pass that resulted in a field goal.
Nobody saw this coming from Arizona State. Northwestern had more yards
than the Sun Devils did when the teams played the previous Saturday.

That's the same Northwestern that gave up 525 yards and 48 points to
TCU, a member of Conference USA, an odd collection of BCS wannabes that
includes Southern Mississippi, which brazenly treaded upon the Tiger
Hawk copyright and hired former Iowa public enemy No. 1, Larry

In a nutshell, I'm not sold on the ASU defense, but they might begin to
think they are good with the way they handled Iowa. Little do they know
it has more to do with Iowa's inept horizontal offense than anything
ASU did. But hey, they're kids and you can make them believe almost

Walter is the real deal if not pressured. He couldn't beat you or I in
a five-yard dash, but Iowa didn't get close to touching him. Arizona
State made sure of that. Koetter resists the urge to flood the field
with receivers and keeps Walter surrounded by blockers. Given time,
Walter will pick apart a defense.

Jovon Johnson was Walter's primary victim. He looked like a fool out
there. But the good news: Jovan and the rest of the Hawkeyes won't be
seeing a thrower like Walter the rest of the season. Orton will be the
closest thing.

If this sounds like an indictment of the defense, it's not. They will
respond and clean up their tackling. My concern rests squarely with the
offensive line. They can't knock anybody off the ball. If Walter Payton
ran behind this rag-tag bunch, his NFL career would have been over in a
season or two. At this point, they couldn't sustain a block to save
their lives.

Expect more of the same in the coming weeks: teams stacking the box and
blitzing from all corners, challenging Iowa to beat them with the pass
because they can't run. The problem here is that it's difficult to pass
with rushers making a beeline to the quarterback. To add to the mix,
the running backs are lousy blockers. Countless times I watched an ASU
defender run through or over an attempted block by a back to pressure
quarterback Tate. Unacceptable. Rest assured that Hawkeye opponents
will be viewing this tape like it's "Passion of the Christ."

Michigan is no great shakes, starting a freshman quarterback, but I'm
not sure Iowa is going to score. Outside of Illinois -- maybe --
there's not an easy game left on the schedule. You are probably looking
at a 4-7 or best-case 5-6 unless the offensive line has a sudden
transformation that baffles all. I suspect by the seventh or eighth
game they will get it together, but at that point, what will be left to
play for?

I fear for Tate's health. Unless, of course, the three-and-outs
continue, which translates into fewer opportunities for him to get
seriously injured. If that's the case, they better get punter Bradley's
backup ready. At this rate, Bradley is likely to suffer leg fatigue by

Amazing, isn't it? A program wins 21 games in two seasons, then falls
-- as Johnny Cash would say -- into a burning ring of fire at Tempe. I
suspect Ferentz will start playing kids the second half of the season
to build for the future. And why not? Without hope, what do you have?
Unfortunately, longtime Iowa followers know this drill far too well.
I'm glad the use of alcohol was OK'd in the luxury suites they are
building at Kinnick Stadium because if this continues, expect record
sales. Maybe it's not too late to turn that planned plaza just south of
the Kinnick into a vineyard or something to help meet the swelling

The Hawkeyes come West about once every six years, it seems. I guess
some Iowa fans had last weekend circled for years. What a
disappointment for such great people. I remember that humbling 1994
loss at Oregon. That summer in Autzen Stadium, the Grateful Dead sold
out the joint. A forgettable 3-8-1 Hawaii team visited Oregon two weeks
before the Iowa game and humbled the Ducks, 36-16. Then Utah roared
into Eugene and shredded the hometown team, 34-16. Realtors were
badgering Coach Rich Brooks for the expected sale of his house when he
was fired at season's end. What is a floundering Pac-10 team to do?
Play the Hawkeyes.

Autzen was half-empty that Saturday, and half of the crowd donned the
black and gold. But true to the formula, the Ducks had their way with
the Hawkeyes with a 40-18 victory. And like Saturday's game against
Arizona State, Iowa's best play was a punt return for a touchdown, this
one punctuated by a questionable 15-yard penalty for excessive
celebration (a nice touch when you are getting drilled). The sleepy
campus, known best for being the backdrop of "Animal House," suddenly
had something to celebrate other than John Belushi's seven years of
college down the drain. The given-up-for-dead Ducks used the victory as
a springboard to the Rose Bowl.

And who could forget that 1998 game against Arizona in Tucson? Dick
Tomey was on the hot seat and not much was expected of the Wildcats. In
come the Hawkeyes and the Wildcats ran them over, 35-11, leading to
Hayden Fry's exit at season's end. The Wildcats? Tomey's troops
finished a school-best 12-1, including a victory over then-powerful
Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.

Given Iowa's follies on trips West, Pac-10 teams should be lining up to
play the Hawkeyes.

If memory serves me right, Iowa's next journey to Pac-10 territory will
be in 2010 to Tucson. Oh joy! The Wildcats are the only Pac-10 team to
have never played in the Rose Bowl, despite Iowa's mighty contribution
to the cause in 1998. If Stoops doesn't have Arizona in the Granddaddy
before then, Wildcat fans certainly have something to look forward to.
And Iowa fans know what to expect on that Saturday. I hope to be in
Palm Springs that weekend.

A tad harsh? Perhaps. But after 44-7, the 2004 Hawkeyes won't find a
shoulder to cry on in L.A.


Michigan 25, Iowa 14

Vol. 4, No. 259
Sept. 23, 2004

Monday, September 20, 2004

An Old-Fashioned Butt-Kickin'

It’s too bad it wasn’t Hayden Fry who was meeting with reporters after the Iowa-Arizona State football game, or football debacle, late Saturday night or early Sunday morning—depending on which time zone you happened to be falling asleep in.

Fry, who coached the Hawkeyes from 1979 through 1998, would have handled the postgame quotes the right way.

First of all, he’d have said, “We took an old-fashioned butt-kickin’.”

Then he’d have gotten into the good stuff.

He’d have blamed Pat Harty of the Iowa City Press-Citizen or Randy Peterson of the local paper for Iowa’s embarrassing 44-7 loss. Maybe he’d have even tossed some blame at Jim Ecker of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, who isn’t even covering the Hawkeyes these days.

He could have said, “Y’all know I don’t read newspapers, but somebody told me those guys wrote articles that wound up on Arizona State’s bulletin board. I’d like y’all to know that I don’t appreciate it when y’all help out the opposition with your articles.”

Maybe Fry could have pulled that old line out of the Football Coaching Handbook about how “No wonder we didn’t fire a shot and took a big thumpin’. Somebody gave Arizona State our game plan last Tuesday.”

The idea, of course, would’ve been to get his players off the floor and into a frenzied mood for this week’s game against Michigan, Iowa’s opening Big Ten Conference rival.

That line of thinking goes like this: “It’s us against the world. Nobody gives us any respect now. We’re falling out of the rankings. We’re big underdogs going to Ann Arbor.”

Fry would have been right about some of that. Michigan is a 13-point favorite over an Iowa team that has slipped to 24th in the coaches’ poll and 28th in the Associated Press sportswriters’ poll.

I’ll tell you how bad things got late Saturday night and early Sunday morning. I fell asleep during the Iowa-Arizona State game.

That was a first. I’ve been in press boxes for some Hawkeye games in past years that I’d like to have fallen asleep at—who can forget UCLA 55, Iowa 18 in 1973 or Southern California 55, Iowa 0 in 1976?—but I’d never dozed off in my own family room during one of Kirk Ferentz’s games.

I’d like to blame it on Ken O’Keefe’s offensive game plan or the lousy defense in the absence of coordinator Norm Parker, who is fighting bigger battles with his health than those he faces on the football field.

Hell, one of my old sportswriting buddies got so upset with the loss at Arizona State that he e-mailed me early Sunday morning to say he doesn’t think Iowa will win another game.

Now, that’s pretty sad.

“It’s hard to remember a worse thrashing than Iowa took Saturday night,” he said. “There obviously have been many, but Iowa out-first downed, 20-2, at one point in the second half and had 38 yards to more than 400 for the Sun Devils at one point.

“I frankly don’t think Iowa can win another game. Northwestern had more than 400 yards against Arizona State, and outgained them. Iowa can’t move the ball against anybody. Obviously, now it looks like they were lucky to beat Iowa State.

"[Quarterback Drew] Tate is running for his life, and the defense can’t withstand having to be out on the field the time…..”

Well, the good news for that guy is that Northwestern isn’t on Iowa’s schedule this fall. Michigan, Purdue, Ohio State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the rest are enough.

Seriously, I don’t think Iowa has won its last game of 2004. Maybe earlier than all of us think. As long as Lloyd Carr is coaching Michigan, the Hawkeyes have a chance.

Even though I fell asleep in the third quarter of the Arizona State game, thank goodness my editor didn’t. My Editor volunteered to monitor the telecast and radio broadcast in the event I drifted off to dreamland.

“The sun came up in the east Sunday morning even after that embarrassing loss last night,” My Editor said in an e-mail. “I’d have to agree with Hayden [about the “old-fashioned butt-kickin’.] I’m sure there are a lot of Hawkeyes with sore butts now.

“Or, to put it another way, that game stunk. I’m sure the Hawkeyes’ daubers are down now. As always, Ferentz was very gracious in the postgame radio show on the Hawkeye Network, giving all the credit to ASU and blaming himself for the loss.

“He has many concerns: “We couldn’t run the football, and we could do nothing on offense. [Arizona State quarterback Andrew] Walter was very sharp, was never sacked. Our defense is not as good as last year, and theirs is better. Kind of tough to make anything good out of that game.”

My Editor said it was a “pretty short interview. He [Ferentz] did say Bradley did better at punting. You were the smarter one, snoozing until 3:30 a.m. The only thing you missed was seeing the kid whose name begins with ‘B’ score a TD with 18 seconds remaining in a painful game.

“So that’s that, and I know now that you need more excitement to keep you awake.”

[NOTE: The player whose name begins with ‘B’ is Walner Belleus of Immokalee, Fla., a junior transfer from Dodge City, Kan., Community College. Belleus returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown with 18 seconds left in the game].

Some Iowa players put the loss in rather graphic terms.

I hear that, on John Campbell’s interviews on KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, one of the players said the Hawkeyes “got their asses kicked” and another said they “played piss-poor.”

Back in the old days, some of those words would obviously have been bleeped out on TV. And in the newspapers, the players would be quoted as saying the Hawkeyes “got their a---- kicked” and they “played p--------.”

But I guess when lightning delays the start of a game 38 minutes, anything goes.


Uncle Bob, who sometimes is known as Bob Nicholas, sent this e-mail to me today:


“I guess you saw or know about the Iowa-ASU debacle Saturday. Wow, what an ugly mess! A real test of see if I”ll become a baby or solidify as a real Hawkeye fan.

“Nobody on the team looked very good (including my nephew [tight end Scott Chandler]. Maybe bad food.

“Nathan [Chandler] got a call. I’m not sure how much I can say right now, but I’ll keep you informed after I find out.


Bob Nicholas, aka Still Proud Uncle Bob

[NOTE: I assume Uncle Bob means Nathan Chandler, his nephew and Iowa’s quarterback in 2003, has received a call from an NFL team. Chandler was released by the Buffalo Bills just before the start of this season].

Vol. 4, No. 258
Sept. 20, 2004

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Now, About That News Editor Job

A savvy former editor and reporter at the local paper is wondering about something.

“Maybe now that they have apparently hired an editorial page editor, they can devote more time to finding a news editor,” the man writes.

“Mia Bush left that job about nine months ago, and they still don’t have a replacement.

“I heard that they thought they had somebody hired, but he backed out at the last minute. I also heard that Bryce Miller of the sports department wanted it, but with some conditions that would permit him to have a life away from the office. They would not agree to that.

“In the meantime, they are saving all the money they would be paying a news editor.”

[NOTE: First things first. The paragraph about “they have apparently hired an editorial page editor” is in reference to the news you read here first—even before it was printed in the local paper—that Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette executive editor Carol Hunter has been hired as the local paper’s editorial page editor. She replaces Dick Doak, who was told more than a year ago that, after many years of loyal service, he was being dumped from the job. The joke now involves Hunter. She’s not scheduled to start working at Eighth and Locust until Nov. 22. That gives her plenty of time to change her mind. The news editor job is a thankless one that nobody wants. I’m surprised that Miller showed interest in it. He’s supposed to be in line to be the next sports editor, and I’m told he e-mails all the right people so no one forgets who he is].


Speaking of Carol Hunter, I’ve got another question.

When finally getting around to announcing that Hunter would be replacing Doak, the local paper had this sentence buried in the story: “[Hunter] is married [well, there’s the answer to that question] to Tom Perry, a Press-Gazette columnist.”

That will be cause for concern among those thin-skinned folks who now write columns for the local paper. They’ll be wondering which of them will be transferred to the mailroom to clear the way for Perry to become the newest columnist. You know the bosses will want to keep Perry and Hunter happy.

I tried to convince my very good friend Rob Borsellino that he should have taken that Los Angeles Times bureau job in Baghdad when it opened a while back. Now he may have to pay the ultimate price.


This news comes by way of Chuck Offenburger. He’s telling people that Chuck Bullard, a former reporter at the local paper, had a heart attack Aug. 29.

Bullard and his wife, Ann, now live in The Woodlands, Texas. They are the parents of Matt Bullard, who was a pretty fair basketball player for Valley High School, Iowa and in the NBA.


Poynter Online is a website for news people that says it’s “everything you need to be a better journalist.”

Well, our old friend Geneva Overholser, who always wants to be a better journalist, has a big-time issue with Poynter Online.

In the event you’ve forgotten who Overholser is, let me refresh your memory. She made some news herself when she was editor at the local paper a few years ago.

While Overholser was editor, the managing editor was Dave Westphal, Westphal had been one of the sports editors with whom I worked in my earlier writing life. I thought highly of the skills – the newsroom skills, that is – of both Overholser and Westphal.

They did what I thought was a good job of running the newsroom under some trying times. The parent Gannett Co. was making things tough for them and for others who worked at the local paper in those days.

Overholser and Westphal seemed to work well together inside the newsroom, and evidently they worked well outside the newsroom. In fact, their relationship worked so well that it broke up two marriages. Eventually, Overholser and Westphal both quit the paper, moved to Washington, D.C., and married. And, yes, they married each other.

Overholser now is a professor at the University of Missouri journalism school, her columns appear in the Washington Post and until the last couple of days she’s been writing a column for Poynter Online.

Now, though, she’s pissed. And she says she has written her last column for Poynter.
Overholser made her decision after Poynter’s editors edited the name of the woman who accused Kobe Bryant of rape out of a column she wrote.

This is what appeared on the Romenesko site at Poynter yesterday:

Time to Name the Accuser

“By Geneva Overholser (more by author)

This column was filed Sept. 9, but publication was delayed as a result of review and discussion by editors and the travel schedule of the author.

“(Name withheld by editors) is taking her case against Kobe Bryant out of the criminal court and into civil court in Colorado, and it is time her name became standard media usage—instead of being reserved for radio shockjocks, Internet hitmen, Kobe Bryant’s attorney (who ‘mistakenly’ used her name repeatedly in court) or the documents (with her name and address) that the court accidentally put online.

“As I wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, ‘Her voluntary step further into the public limelight makes appropriate a unified move by editors to tease the conceit of this naming taboo. Thus freed from a debate of little meaning, journalists could move on to discuss a terribly meaningful one: how to cover rape trials with sensitivity, balance, fairness, a concentration on fact over rumor.’


The name of the accuser in this case has been removed by Poynter Online editors. After doing a first read on the column, editors Julie Moos and Bill Mitchell met with a group of about 25 Poynter faculty and staff to discuss the issue: Under what circumstances should Poynter consider naming the accuser in this case?

“The discussion was not to seek consensus, but to inform our decision. Our conclusion: Based on what we know at this point, we believe the journalistic purpose to be achieved by naming the accuser is outweighed by the potential harm that could result from doing so. We gladly present conflicting views, as we did with this column by Geneva that was published last year. But we are not willing to step beyond publishing opinion and take the action of publishing the accuser’s name.

“This has created an unusual dilemma. Geneva is a valued friend of Poynter, a member of our National Advisory Board from 1993 to 2001 as well as the unpaid author of the weekly Journalism Junction column since November, 2002. Citing several competing obligations as well as her principled disagreement with Poynter Online editors, Geneva has informed us that this will be her final column for Poynter. Explaining her decision, she said: ‘There is little to recommend continuing to write the column for Poynter unless I can say what I believe.’

--Bill Mitchell”

[NOTE: By the way, the accuser’s name in the Kobe Bryant case is Katelyn Kristine Faber. And I agree with what Overholser did. It was right for her to quit as a Poynter Online columnist].


One of the talented young guys I worked with at the local paper in the way-back-when was Bill Dwyre, who was smart enough to get out so he could move on to bigger and better things.

Dwyre eventually became sports editor of the Milwaukee Journal, and after that became sports editor of the Los Angeles Times. He’s now no longer young, but he’s still a talented sports editor. I always enjoy talking with him whenever we’re in the same press box somewhere.

The last time I saw Dwyre was when both he and I were in Miami for the 2003 Orange Bowl football game between Iowa and Southern California.

We had a good talk in the press room at the media hotel, and he said he planned to work a few more years before retiring.

But these are tough times.

L.A. Observed carried a recent story headlined, Times Sports takes major hit

Here’s part of it:

“Cost-cutting has come to the Sports section at the L.A. Times. In a memo to his staff received by L.A. Observed, sports editor Bill Dwyre doesn’t sound pleased at the features he has to lose to publish the thinner section his bosses want. Several familiar landmarks in the section—such as weekend TV listings, the fish report, some football box scores and stories, the daily soccer report—are going away or gone; he anticipates a big reader backlash at the end. The memo:

“To Sports Staff:


“(These are effective immediately and seek to reach our mandated goal of a 14-page weekly reduction in the sports section. We have already implemented a 33% cut in prep coverage, plus one-half page a day through baseball box editing and baseball page design repackaging. (If the hockey season resumes, we will have to find 6 more pages of cuts).

“—Eliminate daily USC and UCLA football notes (Looking forward, same plan for UCLA and USC basketball notes, King and Duck notes, and Clipper and Laker notes. Baseball notes packages are excepted. This is not an excuse to get beat on your beat reporting. But rather than having guaranteed space every day, you will have to report your way into the paper. We expect a daily call or calls to day editors to discuss what you have and what we can do with it.)

“—Eliminate the weekly college football logs.

“—Eliminate the pro football logs…….”

[Dwyre’s memo goes on and on. In short, it’s another example of what’s happening to the newspaper business. It’s happening in Des Moines, it’s happening in Los Angeles, it’s happening everywhere. Face it, the Internet is taking over].


It was lunch time for a group of guys who spend some of their days being pissed off about a few things going on around them.

“Do any of you read the gossip about the Register in Point Blank?” a guy asked in reference to one of Des Moines’ two alternative newspapers.

“I do,” another guy said. “They did a story on the paper’s declining circulation a couple of years ago. Tim Schmitt interviewed me about it, quoted me accurately and wrote what I thought was a good story.”

“Well, I’m talking about the more recent gossip about the Register in Point Blank. I hear that Mike Gartner writes those things.”

“Oh, that’s got to be bullshit. Gartner wouldn’t lower himself to write about Paul Anger’s poor grammar in memos to his staff, giving Borsellino, Rekha Basu and John Carlson the ‘Jackass’ awards, and other crap like that.

“Hey, the guy owns the Iowa Cubs, runs Vision Iowa, was fired by the Register and was fired by NBC News. Why would he stoop low enough to write gossip about a dying paper like the Register? Besides, how would he have the time?”

“Don’t ask me. I just hear it’s true."

Vol. 4, No. 257
Sept. 18, 2004

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Will This Lady Back Out?

The Register thinks it has finally found a replacement for Dick Doak as editor of its editorial pages.

I say “think” because the paper’s bosses also thought they had someone to take Doak’s job before.

It’s been more than a year since Doak was told he would be replaced. It’s obvious a woman was wanted for the job, and the bosses thought they had the woman they were after last spring.

Maura Casey, associate editorial page editor for The Day in New London, Conn., accepted the job, then decided she didn’t want it after all.

Paul Anger, the Register’s editor, has now sent a memo to the staff that Carol Hunter, executive editor of the Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette, will become the editorial page editor.

But you can bet Anger is holding his breath. Hunter won’t start her new job until around Thanksgiving. By that time, she’ll have heard all the stories that are going around about the Register.

Here’s Anger’s memo to the staff:


“I’m pleased to announce a terrific addition to the fourth floor—Carol Hunter, executive editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, will join us as editorial page editor.

“Dick Doak has done that job with distinction for a decade, leading a highly successful department. He’s also written with impact, something he will continue to do.

“Carol has overseen editorial boards as top editor in Green Bay and Bridgewater, N.J., where she worked with USA Today Editor Ken Paulson.

“She has led her staffs to numerous reporting, editing and commentating awards through the years, including Gannett honors for public service and enterprise reporting and recognition from the American Planning Association for aggressive and thorough reporting on the redevelopment of downtown Green Bay.

“Carol has a long history in the Heartland—native of Kansas, graduate of the University of Kansas, top editor in Green Bay for seven years.

“Yes, she’s become something of a Packers fan.

“She will join us Nov. 22. Please help make her feel welcome.

“—Paul Anger”

[NOTE: I hear that Hunter has worked for Gannett papers for 25 years. That’s what I call loyalty. However, I have no idea how she feels about being the fifth or sixth choice for the job at the local paper. And I also have no idea which football team she’s going to find around here to take the place of the Packers. The best we’ve got is Valley High School. But all Anger said about Hunter’s football allegiance was that “she’s become something of a Packers fan”—whatever that means. So, in the spirit of the “Welcome Wagon” program and in my constant effort to be helpful to new residents of our community, I guess the Des Moines Courage--a women’s team that’s always looking for new fans--also remains a possibility].


It’s difficult to feel sorry for 20- and 21-year-old football players as far as how much sleep they don’t get.

Hell, how much sleep do any college students that age -- football players or not -- miss?

But sportswriters and sane people, too, continually search for reasons why they should pity major-college players who are on full-ride scholarships. For instance, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz was asked on today’s Big Ten coaches’ teleconference about the problems his players have in the next two weeks.

The Hawkeyes play a night game [starting at 9:05 Iowa time] Saturday at Arizona State. Then they open their Big Ten season at 2:30 Sept. 25.

“What’s the approach for the two-week package?” Ferentz was asked.

He chuckled.

“If we played eight home games, then had to go to Michigan, I’d be worried,” said the man whose team walloped the Wolverines, 34-9, two years ago at Ann Arbor. “It doesn’t get any easier, that’s for sure.

“I remember my first year as a head coach at the University of Maine. We set an NCAA for [traveling the longest distance] to a game in the United States,” Ferentz said. “Somebody might have played in Japan, but we played in Hawaii.

“Maine was Division I-AA, and we certainly didn’t have charter flights. I think we went to Boston, to Atlanta, to Dallas, to Honolulu. It took us about six days to get there. We took a cargo ship back, I think. It seems like it was Wednesday when we got home. We survived.”

Ferentz said the Hawkeyes “will play the cards we’ve been dealt and hopefully do a decent job.”

Last year’s Iowa-Arizona State game, which was won by the Hawkeyes, 21-2, started at 5 p.m. [3 p.m. Arizona time].

“On night games, my preference is to have them at home so you can let the other guy travel at night,” Ferentz said. “But we’re the suckers on this one.

“I think our guys will get to bed between 5:30 and 6:30 Sunday morning. I think we have to be real careful about what we do on the days afterward so we don’t lose the team during the week.”


When told that there will be at least 10,000 Iowa fans attending the game at Arizona State, Ferentz said, “I think that number is pretty conservative……I think we have the best fans in the world. They’re extremely loyal.”


You remember Nathan Chandler, who was Iowa’s starting quarterback last season.

Chandler was cut by the Buffalo Bills in preseason practice, but is still hopeful of playing professional football. Bob Nicholas--from now on referred to as Uncle Bob – keeps me up to date on what’s happening with the Chandler family.

Nathan’s brother, Scott, is a sophomore reserve tight end on this season’s Hawkeye team, and caught three passes for 31 yards last week against Iowa State.

“I watched the battle for Iowa on 9/11,” Uncle Bob writes. “My younger nephew looked pretty good. I would have liked him to hold his blocks a little longer. He caught three passes for 31 yards in the first half. No attempts to him in the second.

“I’m pretty amazed that he’s playing. Either he’s got potential or the team is shallow at that position.”

As for Nathan, Uncle Bob had some news on him:

“Another episode from proud Uncle Bob.

“Nathan Chandler called me a few weeks ago. He’s still waiting for a call. He wanted my opinion of being an aide in a Special Education classroom while he was waiting. As a Special Education teacher, it made me very proud.

“Also, although I did not watch the [Kent State-Iowa] game, Mr. Brian Chandler [Nathan and Scott’s dad] gave me the information about Nate’s sophomore brother, Scott. I guess he was moved from wide receiver to tight end. Probably a good move as he is 6-7 like Nate. He played a lot in the game.

“I think I told you last year that Scott is a great player in his own right. He made some game-affecting receptions [they won the Texas state championship] in Carroll High School’s final game two years ago. As a young child, he is the type of kid that gets put into a stadium with hundreds of other kids and can win a family trip to Disneyworld if he can only get that ribbon off the calf’s tail. The Chandlers went to Disneyworld.

“Something about those Chandlers and winning.

Uncle Bob"


A transplanted Iowan who now lives in California and goes by the handle “Tucson Hawk” on the Internet chat lines, is a savvy sports Iowa sports fan.

Here’s his latest e-mail to me, which was sent after Iowa slipped past Iowa State, 17-10, last week:

“Guess I should have put my money down on this one. It may have been the bonehead betting line of the year [something like Iowa -24], but at least I know now I can’t be tempted to bet on sports, and that’s a good thing. But, man…..I should have bet the ranch on this one.

“As they say, a win is a win. No point in covering ground that has already been covered on all the websites…..stuff that will be written about tomorrow and that which is obvious to everyone.

“Rather than purchase the pay-per-view, which was 20 bucks, I chose to listen to the Internet stream which I pay for through Yahoo at 5 bucks a month. It’s a good deal, although I had several dropouts early on. If I harbor some frustration, outside of Iowa’s pathetic running game and less-than-average special teams, it is with Gary Dolphin.

“Dolphin didn’t have a clue Saturday. If this is Dolph’s zenith, bring back Jim Zabel. There were fumbles [non-fumbles], interceptions [non-interceptions] and the misnaming of players who were in on specific plays. Ed [Podolak] had to correct him several times. Bottom line: You could never trust his call. I don’t why it’s so difficult to follow the play and make the call.

“Then, to add to the confusion, Ed called ISU Ohio State three times in a row until Dolph finally corrected him. Next thing you know, Ed was calling Iowa State Ohio State again!

“Iowa sure has a ways to go. Lewis’ final run was satisfying at crunch time because up until that time, Iowa averaged less than a yard and a half per run.

“Iowa suffers from inexperience and injuries on the offensive side of the ball. They don’t blitz, either. I think Kirk Ferentz doesn’t yet have faith in Iowa’s deep men, and he shouldn’t. But the Hawks did what they had to do, and that was to hang on for dear life after Danny Mac [Dan McCarney] made great adjustments at halftime…..a characteristic for which the Iowa staff is better known.

“Not Saturday. Perhaps the Iowa players couldn’t implement the changes. That’s a scary thought.

“Does Ed Hinkel have great hands or what? Drew Tate should do very well before he graduates from Iowa in several years.

“I hope Chuck Long [Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator] becomes a head coach someday. In the meantime, he should stay in Bob Stoops’ back pocket with the talent the head coach brings in. Perhaps he should stay there forever.”

Vol. 4, No. 256
Sept. 14, 2004

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Cheer Up, Things May Get Better

Iowa City, Ia. – All right, so Iowa didn’t look like Forest Evashevski’s 1958 Hawkeye team or Kirk Ferentz’s 2002 Hawkeye team.

Heck, Iowa probably didn’t even look like what most of us thought Ferentz’s 2004 team should look in The Big Game.

But at least the Hawkeyes didn’t lose any ground in the today’s collegiate football rankings.

Despite escaping Iowa State, 17-10, in Saturday’s game at Kinnick Stadium, 24 ½-point favorite Iowa is still ranked No. 12 in the coaches’ poll and No. 16 in the Associated Press sportswriters’ poll.

Hey, look at it this way. The Hawkeyes probably aren’t the team most of us expected. Yet. And Iowa State is probably better than most of us thought.

Things change. Teams change. Both Iowa and Iowa State could get better as the season progresses.

I think only in the short term. So, next Saturday, I see Iowa winning at Arizona State and Iowa State beating Northern Illinois at Ames.


I’ve seen every one of the Iowa-Iowa State football games since the series was resumed in 1977 following a 43-year lapse.

In that ’77 game, Hawkeye quarterback Bobby Commings – the son of coach Bob Commings – helped Iowa to a 12-10 victory.

That was the game in which Iowa State coach Earle Bruce got the Hawkeyes aroused immediately by sending his players onto the field with the words “BEAT IOWA” on the front of their jerseys.

Anyway, I thought Saturday’s 70,397 Iowa and Iowa State fans, as well as people who were there just to tailgate before, during and after the game, were as well-behaved as any crowd in any previous game in the modern-day series.

Nice going, Iowans.


I know Iowa State coach Dan McCarney pretty well, and I’m 100 percent that his team’s 2-10 record last season nagged at him in a big-time way from late last November to when two-a-day practices ended last month.

We all know McCarney doesn’t believe in moral victories and we all know he wasn’t happy to lose yesterday by a touchdown on a field where he played and was an assistant coach for Iowa, but I think the Cyclones are going to have a much better season in 2004.

They’re picked to finish last in the Big 12 North by everyone, but does anyone want to bet right now that they don’t have a chance to beat Northern Illinois, Texas A&M, Baylor, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri?


I guess last week was when people were supposed to write and say that the Cy-Hawk Trophy is either ugly or unworthy of the Iowa-Iowa State football series.

It must have been a slow news week.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette and the local paper both took shots at the Cy-Hawk Trophy.

But George Lewis of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., No. 50 in your Iowa program, didn’t think the ol’ Cy-Hawk was ugly when he picked it up, held it high over his head and lugged it to midfield after Iowa’s victory yesterday.

And the rest of those Iowa players who couldn’t wait to get their hands on the Cy-Hawk didn’t complain about it being ugly when they leaped skyward so they could touch the trophy.

Neither did any of the Hawkeye fans who tried to get their hands on the trophy.

So enough of this crap about the Cy-Hawk Trophy being a poor second cousin to Floyd of Rosedale.

I stood next to the Cy-Hawk for several minutes late in yesterday’s game. I expected it to look like something that came out of Jay Busby’s woodwork class at old Wilson High School in Cedar Rapids.

I thought maybe it would resemble something my brother-in-law, Doug Benyshek, put together in his shop in Mesa, AZ on a Saturday morning.

But, hey, there’s nothing at all wrong with the Cy-Hawk. It’s going to sit proudly in a case inside the Iowa football offices for another year.

Nobody thought it was ugly in Iowa City when it sat in those offices for 15 years from 1983 through 1997. And nobody thought it was ugly in Ames when the trophy sat in a case for five straight years when Iowa State beat Iowa from 1998 through 2002.

Case closed.


I’ve always thought it rather strange that collegiate football coaches needed uniformed security officers around them before, during and after games.

If my memory serves me correctly, Hayden Fry [who was at Iowa from 1979-1998] was the first football coach in this state to think he needed such protection.

When Fry first showed up with a uniformed officer on the sideline during a Hawkeye game, I thought he was copying the practice of coaches from the south such as Bear Bryant of Alabama.

I think Fry secretly envied Bryant, and wanted to do anything he could to try to be like the Bear. Having a guy in a sheriff’s uniform at his side was one of those things.

I always wondered why Fry, a good-sized former football player, thought he needed such protection. Fry seemed fully capable of beating the pulp out of anyone who threatened him.

It made me laugh when I thought about former Iowa coach Forest Evashevski, whose 1958, 1956 and 1960 teams were the best the school ever had. Evashevski got along just fine on the sidelines without the assistance of a cop. He, too, could’ve flattened anyone who challenged him.

Indeed, he had a lot of protection anyway.

I recall a story in which a Minnesota fan came out of the stands during a game in Minneapolis, and acted as though he was looking for trouble.

Bill Quinby of Cedar Rapids, then an Iowa student manager and later a Big Ten and National Football League official, spotted the intruder and knocked him halfway to Mankato.

Another reason it amazes me that a coach thinks he needs a guy in uniform to protect him is that there are always a dozen or more assistant coaches, equipment guys, trainers, linesmen and student managers on hand to provide help.

Then, of course, a coach has his entire team of well-conditioned 200- and 300-pound-plus players in pads who should be able to throw a few punches if they’re needed.


One comment about the Saturday story in the Register about the state trooper who is being paid $5,000 to protect Dan McCarney.

The trooper should also have been assigned to do the copy editing work on Tom Witosky’s story. Witosky’s lead paragraph said, “After eight seasons at the helm of the Iowa State University football team, Dan McCarney has decided he needs game-day police protection…..”


This is McCarney’s 10th season as Iowa State’s coach.


Dave Elbert writes in the local paper that UNI is upset because it’s being left out of the Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk Series between Iowa and Iowa State.

Please tell me why UNI should be included when it plays—and beats—Minnesota State of Mankato before 7,068 fans yesterday?

Minnesota State, formerly known as Mankato State, plays Concordia College of St. Paul next week. Concordia may want into the Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk Series, too.

Vol. 4, No. 255
Sept. 12, 2004

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Sitting In On the Kirk Ferentz Show

Iowa City, Ia.—It’s 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Time for the Kirk Ferentz Show.

About 40 reporters and hangers-on—all of them men—are in an auditorium at the Hayden Fry Football Complex.

Most are sitting. A few guys who are preparing to zero in on Ferentz at his weekly press conference with large TV cameras, are standing.

This is the only shot reporters will get to question Ferentz until about 2:30 p.m. Saturday—after his Iowa football team plays Iowa State at nearby Kinnick Stadium.

Ferentz walks into the room at 12:35. [Hey, when your team is ranked No. 12 in the coaches’ poll and No. 16 in the AP poll, it’s cool to be late].

Reporters hurry to the front of the room to place their tape recorders on the table in front of the man who is in his sixth season as Iowa’s head coach.

This is the third organized session Ferentz has had with reporters since Aug. 10, when practice began.

Ferentz is totally unlike Hayden Fry, his predecessor. Fry, who coached at Iowa for 20 years, sometimes came into these sessions with reporters with a motive.

He liked to say he didn’t read newspapers, but he always knew what was in them.

Fry occasionally would start out by saying something like, “Somebody put an article on my desk……” or, “My wife told me about an article that was in the paper……”

Fry might pick someone out of the crowd of reporters and talk about him—especially if the guy had written a story that didn’t please him.

A favorite target was Jim Ecker of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, an outstanding reporter who didn’t hesitate to ask Fry tough questions [in other words, questions the coach didn’t like] and didn’t mind writing stories that most coaches would classify as controversial.

Ecker often took a police-beat approach to sportswriting. Because he did, he was generally well-respected by other reporters, but maybe not by Fry or those he worked with in the Iowa athletic offices.

On this sunny, pleasant September day in 2004, it’s not so much who’s present for the Kirk Ferentz Show, but who isn’t.

Missing is Al Grady, a longtime sportswriter and columnist from Iowa City. For a long, long time, it wasn’t an official football conference unless Grady was part of it.

But he died at 76 last December. With him went some one-of-a-kind behavior.

Grady was a Hawkeye fan, and didn’t mind telling you so. He saw Nile Kinnick and the 1939 Ironmen play. That made him special.

A typical Al Grady-type question to Ferentz—or to Fry, Leonard Raffensperger, Forest Evashevski, Jerry Burns, Ray Nagel, Frank Lauterbur or Bob Commings, who preceded him--might be, “Coach, our second-team offensive line is hurting right now, so what can we do to have it hold up Saturday against Purdue?”

The words “we” and “us” were as much a part of Grady’s vocabulary at a press conference as “offense” and “defense.”

Grady didn’t hesitate to wear black-and-gold shirts and jackets that said “Iowa” and “Hawkeyes” on them at a time when other sportswriters – who didn’t want to give any hint that they cared about which team won the game – were careful about such things.

Some thought Grady got to be a bit of a pest in his later years. He seemed to ask some questions just to let everyone know he could still ask questions. But he was harmless, he never caused problems for the coaches and nobody seemed to truly mind him.

But now he’s covering games at the big stadium in the sky, and no one has replaced him.

Ferentz’s press conferences would be classified as bland when compared to Fry’s.

They last for anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, then he meets in a second, more informal session with eager reporters who think they’re going to get some sort of scoop by rushing up to the front of the room to visit with him.

There are five TV cameras in the back of the room, so you can assume there are five TV reporters at the press conference.

Andy Fales of WHO in Des Moines and John Campbell of KCRG in Cedar Rapids are clearly the most aggressive questioners among the TV gang.

Ferentz, wearing a blue shirt, a red patterned tie and with his hair combed as though he was prepared for the press conference by a TV producer, doesn’t get upset with anyone’s question as he prepares for what clearly is one of the most important games on his schedule.

He’s obviously Mr. Smooth.

We keep hearing rumors that Ferentz, who has a 22-5 record in the last three seasons at Iowa, is headed for an NFL coaching job soon. Ferentz, who has been an assistant in the pro league, has the demeanor of someone who would fit in well in the NFL
It turns out there are no Jim Ecker-type questions tossed at Ferentz at this session. Ecker isn’t attending the press conference. He still works for the Gazette, but he must have other duties these days.

Ferentz can’t figure out how Iowa can be favored by 25 points, but neither can some of the reporters.

We’ll all see you next week, Kirk.


It’s not an official TV football game unless there’s a sideline reporter on the scene.

The latest trend, it seems, has been for the network TV people to pick out an attractive young woman [whose hair is either naturally blonde or colored to look blonde] to be the sideline reporter.

She will be prepared to make a dozen or so comments during the game, but time restraints won’t permit that many.

She also will rush up to one of the coaches at halftime and after the game to get a 10-second answer.

Too often the question is, “Coach, what does your team have to do to keep this 20-point lead in the second half?” and too often the answer is, “Just keep plugging away.”

Then there was the famous Lloyd Carr comment at halftime of a Michigan game last season.

The male sideline announcer asked Carr something about strategy, and the Wolverines’ coach called it a stupid question.

End of interview.

Saturday’s Iowa-Iowa State game will be carried by ESPN-Plus to what is called a “regional” audience. That means it’s basically a statewide network, with spillovers into places like Omaha and Rochester, Minn.

Jeannine Edwards will be the Designated Blonde, aka sideline reporter. She’ll be the lady tabbed to rush up—microphone in hand--to either Iowa State coach Dan McCarney or Ferentz at halftime and after the game.

If Iowa is ahead as expected at halftime, she’ll likely ask a question or two to Ferentz. The Hawkeye coach is usually Mr. Smooth on the sideline, too. He may even end the short interview by saying, “I like how we’re playing, Jeannine.”

At the start of the second half, Edwards might say in a message meant to be put on the air, “Larry [as in play-by-play announcer Larry Morgan], I talked with Dan McCarney just as his team came back onto the field and he said his players do not feel they’re out of this game and they don’t have their daubers down. He has every reason to believe the Cyclones will play a strong last half.”

Morgan, the veteran and highly-regarded play-by-play announcer, did the Iowa-Kent State game last week and has broadcast Iowa basketball games for a number of years. Marv Cook, the commentator, is a former Hawkeye football player.

Cook bothers me at times because he occasionally uses poor grammar, but he knows his football. I guess that’s what the viewers care about most.

Jeannine Edwards? Only the Internet research button knows who Jeannine Edwards is.

Not even Morgan, who knows everybody in the TV and radio business, is familiar with Edwards.

I e-mail Morgan to see if he can tell me about her.

“I didn’t know either, so I checked the Internet today,” he wrote back. “I learned she has done a lot of work for ESPN……much of it horse racing, but also some sideline reporting. She has also competed in equestrian events.”

Well, then, let’s all give a rousing Kinnick Stadium welcome to Jeannine Edwards.


This e-mail is from my friend Chuck Offenburger:

“Hi, Ron…..

“You write: ‘All I can figure out is that maybe someone will have to be assigned to rate the baton twirlers in the marching band from each school to come up with that half-point [when Iowa was favored by 26 ½ points over Iowa State early in the week].’

“Nobody has to be assigned to do that—it’s my job. I always determined the winner of the battle of the bands at the Iowa vs. Iowa State games when I was doing my columns for the Register. After I left the paper in ’98, I’ve only done it when the game is played in Iowa City. That’s because Frosty Mitchell said he misses knowing which band is better, so for the Cyclone-Hawkeye games at Kinnick, Frosty and Joan invite Carla and me to come watch from their skybox.

“He requires two things: 1) that Carla wear her Iowa State red and gold so he can make fun of her when the Hawkeyes win, and 2) that I tell him right at the end of halftime which band wins.

“Since I appointed myself to judge the bands, back in ’78, I think it was, I would say that more years than not, the bands are better than the football teams in this rivalry. They’re both terrific, and I wish both would get more showtime on the field.
“See you at Kinnick Saturday.

Chuck O.”

[COMMENT: Great hearing from you, Chuck. I’ll be waiting for to see your vote].


This e-mail is from an Iowa woman:

“With the big game fast approaching, I think we will see the true teams. That game seems to bring out the best in them. It is truly a fans’ game and both teams are aware of that. I was at the big game a few years ago when Iowa was beating them at Ames. The game was almost over and Hawkeye fans were rejoicing, and all of a sudden ‘bam!’ they were overconfident and the Cyclones beat them.

“Where we were sitting, there was an outburst of Cyclone fans that was so obnoxious that we were glad to get out of there. But I have heard it said at the other field also. It goes along with that caliber of a game. We will see who the best is Saturday. Go, Hawks!”

[COMMENT: Like I’ve always said, sometimes strange things happen in the Iowa-Iowa State game. And like the lady says, we’ll find out who's best].


A guy from Coralville writes:

“Ron—Do you think the Hawkeyes can win by 25 or 26 points Saturday? I’d take Iowa State and the line because I don’t think the Iowa offense can generate that many points.”

[COMMENT: This guy knows his football, so maybe I should make a bet].

Vol. 4, No. 254
Sept. 9, 2004

Monday, September 06, 2004

This Is Ferentz's Best Defense at Iowa

The defense Iowa throws at Iowa State this week will be the best in Kirk Ferentz’s six seasons as the Hawkeyes’ football coach.

So says Dan McCarney, the former Iowa player and assistant who is in his 10th year as the Cyclones’ coach.

“There’s no question Iowa has one of the top defenses in college football, and you’d anticipate that after the year they had last year,” McCarney said today. “Most of them are all back. They have seniors starting up front, and Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway are two of the really, really outstanding linebackers in all of college football.

“Greenway got some national honors this week, and he was very deserving. They also have a veteran secondary.”

McCarney said “it’s hard to find holes, hard to find daylight” in an Iowa defense that was instrumental in a 39-7 season-opening victory last week over Kent State, which had minus-13 yards rushing.

“They are really an outstanding unit, and we know we’re going to get an awful lot of pressure on our football team and our offense this week.”

Sixteenth-ranked Iowa will be a heavy favorite to beat Iowa State for the second straight time in a game that starts at 11:05 a.m. Saturday at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

The Hawkeyes will be playing an Iowa State team that limited favored Northern Iowa to 99 yards of offense in a 23-0 victory last week.

The oddsmakers weren’t that impressed. They’ve made Iowa a 26 ½-point favorite over the Cyclones. Fans will likely spend the rest of the week trying to figure out how the Hawkeyes are going to score that half-point.

All I can figure out is that maybe someone will have to be assigned to rate the baton twirlers in the marching band from each school to come up with that half-point.

In Iowa’s 40-21 victory over the Cyclones last season in Ames, Sean Considine blocked two punts. Considine is now a senior Hawkeye free safety.

McCarney said Northern Iowa used some maneuvers in attempts to block punts last week, but nothing worked.

“Those blocked kicks against us by Iowa last year were among the biggest factors,” McCarney said. “They were the better team last year. Two blocked punts are inexcusable. We’ve got to do a better job of coaching. We spent a lot of time with that in the off-season, and hopefully we’ll improve.”

Asked about Matt Roth, Iowa’s 6-4, 270-pound senior defensive end, McCarney said, “We won’t see one better. I haven’t seen one better in recent years. He’s that type of player. He has tremendous speed, he has tremendous athleticism, he’s explosive.

“He explodes on you when he tackles people. But he’s not the only one who plays that way on the defense. He truly is one of the best defensive players in the country.”

HERE & THERE......

Asked if he was surprised that Iowa State was the underdog in last week’s game against UNI, McCarney said, “Yeah, I guess, but with the type of season we had last year, nothing really surprises you. You kind of start from scratch on trying to get some honor, credibility and respect back in your program. We took one step Saturday, and we hope each week we can bring some of that back that we worked so hard to build here at Iowa State.”……Reporters keep asking McCarney why he didn’t want to go along with the Big Ten’s instant replay experiment in the game at Iowa. “The coaches couldn’t challenge anything,” he explained. “I wasn’t comfortable with an experiment for a game of this magnitude.” McCarney added that he’ll be surprised if the Big 12 Conference doesn’t have instant replay sometime in the future……McCarney said he was “real proud” of the defensive effort his team turned in against UNI. “We didn’t have a lot of missed tackles and we didn’t give up big plays,” he said. “We played with relentless effort and desire. In the end, we got a shutout. We played with a lot of grit and determination.”…….McCarney, whose teams beat Iowa five times in a row before the loss in 2003, said the rivalry with the Hawkeyes is “alive and well.”…….McCarney said Ferentz “has done a marvelous job” as Iowa’s coach…….With Saturday being 9-11 on the calendar, McCarney was asked about the significance. “I remember what happened three years ago very vividly,” he said. “It was a feeling of shock and disbelief.”…….McCarney said early that week in 2001 that he and Ferentz were talking about “how we’d honor the people who were killed. Then we found out on Thursday that the game would be postponed until after Thanksgiving. Everything was put into perspective.”…….When the game was finally played on Nov. 24, 2001, Iowa State won, 17-14, at Ames.

Vol. 4, No. 253
Sept. 6, 2004

Sunday, September 05, 2004

In the Heat of the Kinnick Battle

Iowa City, Ia. – They called it the “Throwback Game,” and this was how it went yesterday at Kinnick Stadium:

An hour and 40 minutes before the game, I show up with two of my sons and two of my grandchildren in front of the Recreation Building to watch the Iowa marching band’s drumline performance.

For those of you who haven’t been there for that, I advise it strongly. It’s a great way to get mentally ready for the game.

There was a time—back in football’s 1970s Dark Ages at Iowa—when some of the Hawkeye teams should’ve showed up to hear the drumline.

Maybe they’d have played better.

The team, I mean.

I’m thinking the drumline performance is supposed to start at 9 a.m., but at 9 there’s still no sign of the drummers. I ask a guy if the drummers have already performed.

“Not yet,” he says. “But you’re standing in front of me and I’d like you to move.”

I'm thinking of telling him to do something that's physically impossible, but I think better of it. I mean, why sink to that level on the first day of the season?

I figure this grouchy old goat to be 70-something years of age and that he’s either the grandfather of one of the drummers or someone who was kicked out of the band when he was a student.

Eight minutes later, the drummers show up. They put on an excellent performance. A spectator holding a Bud Light in his right hand and three straw hats as souvenirs of the Iowa-Kent State “Throwback Game” would like to applaud.

He can’t unless he throws his beer to the ground. He thinks better of throwing out the beer. They can’t accuse many Iowa fans of being dumb. He doesn’t applaud. Instead, he takes another drink of beer.

I go onto the west sideline at Kinnick Stadium in order to get a good look at what’s going on. The heat is stifling. I sort of like the Hawkeyes’ uniforms—black jerseys with gold numbers

But I’d prefer gold pants to the white pants they’re wearing.

The cheerleaders are wearing all-white sweaters with the word “IOWA” across the front, white pants and white skirts and saddle shoes.

I hope those outfits are made of cotton and not wool.

If they aren’t, they’ll have to haul a few cheerleaders out of the stadium because of heat exhaustion.

Bob Bowlsby, Iowa’s athletic director, is hot, too.

“I think the new press box we build will be air conditioned,” Bowlsby says.

One guy who can’t escape the heat is Iowa quarterback Drew Tate, whose day is limited because of dehydration problems.

On this sultry, 85-degree day, the Hawkeyes can get along with him in their 39-7 victory.

Phil Haddy and his Iowa sports information staff are wearing knickers and long socks.

They look like they’re headed to Finkbine to play 18 holes.

“I think you should wear those outfits at all the games this season,” I say to Haddy.

Maybe Tom Kroeschell of Iowa State could be talked into donning the same kind of garb when the Cyclones show up for next Saturday’s game.

Well, hell, stranger things have happened at Iowa-Iowa State games.

Ask Bret Bielema and Jim Walden.

One of the few people attending the game who is older than the 75-year-old stadium is Bob Brooks, the veteran radio and TV broadcaster from Cedar Rapids.

Brooks said he attended every Iowa home game in 1939, “and it cost me 25 cents for the whole season. I belonged to the Knothole Club as a kid.”

I ask Brooks what Nile Kinnick, the Heisman Trophy winner and star of Iowa’s ’39 Ironmen, would have thought of yesterday’s game.

“Not much,” Brooks says.

At the time, Brooks and other reporters are waiting patiently—well, maybe a few weren’t being so patient—for Kirk Ferentz and his Iowa players to get to the steamy interview room.

“Eddie Anderson didn’t have interviews like this right after the game,” Brooks says. “And people didn’t interview Kinnick then either.

“What would happen was that Bert McGrane would come down here [to Iowa City] on Monday and talk to Anderson then.

“Bert got to know Eddie very well. You know, Eddie quit the coaching job twice—both times on Friday nights—before finally leaving as Iowa’s coach.

“But before he quit, he always called Bert.”

[McGrane was a longtime Des Moines Register sportswriter who grew attached to the Hawkeye program. Legend has it that he’d write reams of copy when he covered Iowa’s game, but if his boss assigned him to an Iowa State game he’d write only a dozen or so paragraphs in protest].

Just to bring Iowa’s giddy fans back to reality, let me point out what first-year Kent State coach Doug Martin said after the game.

Roth said Parker will be back next week in time for preparations for Saturday’s game against Iowa State.

Roth said he didn’t plan to visit Parker after the game.

“I usually do tailgating things after the game,” Roth says. “I’ll have to catch him on Monday.”

A reporter [not me] tries to get Roth into a conversation about the Cy-Hawk Trophy, which is awarded to the winner of the Iowa-Iowa State game.

“It’s kind of an ugly trophy,” the reporter from Cedar Rapids says.

Roth chuckles.

It’s obvious he’s not going to be drawn into that kind of conversation a week before Iowa State—a rather surprising 23-0 winner over Northern Iowa yesterday—plays at Kinnick Stadium.

“It’s not really the trophy,” Roth says. “It’s the meaning, you know. I definitely like having it on our sidelines, and I’m looking forward to it again this year.”

Iowa finally got control of the Cy-Hawk Trophy last season after Iowa State won five straight games in the series.

My early line:

Iowa 35, Iowa State 21

Vol. 4, No. 252
Sept. 5, 2004

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Morgan Will Be Iowa-ISU TV Voice

There are some big things going on in the TV life of Larry Morgan.

“I will be doing the first three Iowa football telecasts in the games against Kent State, Iowa State and at Arizona State,” Morgan told me today.

Morgan, a veteran TV and radio play-by-play announcer from Clive, will team with former Iowa (1985-1988) tight end Marv Cook on the telecasts.

The Hawkeyes open their season Saturday against Kent State at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, play Iowa State there Sept. 11 and are at Arizona State on Sept. 18. All are ESPN-Plus telecasts.

It will be the first Iowa-Iowa State football game Morgan has done, although he’s been the play-by-play announcer for about 10 Hawkeye-Cyclone basketball telecasts in his role as Iowa’s TV broadcaster.

“It’s very definitely a thrill for me to get the Iowa-Iowa State football assignment,” Morgan said. “It’s a great showcase game.”

Morgan hasn’t heard yet if he’ll have any other Iowa football telecasts this season.

“There’s always a possibility, but it’s pretty unlikely,” he said. “At that point [after the non-conference games], Iowa is so good that they’re either on the Big Ten Game of the Week, which is the Wayne Larrivee [announcing] crew, or they’re on ABC.

“But I’m thrilled to get three Iowa games. I usually get two, so I’m really glad to get the third game.”

Another TV broadcasting assignment Morgan will have this fall will be high school games in the Des Moines area that will be televised by Mediacom.

“There’s a Thursday night game next week—Marshalltown at North—that I’ll do,” he said. “But, because of my other assignments, I won’t do any more high school games for Mediacom until October.”

Those games are taped, then shown on Channel 22 in the Des Moines market.

Morgan expects to do the TV play-by-play on most of Iowa’s men’s basketball games in the 2004-2005 season, but will no longer do radio play-by-play on Drake women’s basketball. Scott Pierce is the new Drake women’s announcer.

“Drake wanted somebody who could show up for all the games,” Morgan explained. “I was making it to about half the games [because of his Iowa men’s TV obligations]. It was nice of them to allow me to do that for three years because that’s pretty unusual. It makes sense for one guy to do them all.”


I’ve been around a lot of losing football programs in my day. Nothing was as hapless as what went on when Iowa suffered through 19 straight non-winning seasons before Hayden Fry ‘s 1981 team went 8-4 and went to the Rose Bowl.

Five coaches—Jerry Burns, Ray Nagel, Frank Lauterbur, Bob Commings and Fry—were on board during those 19 years, and far too often I’d hear the new coach complain that the team didn’t work hard enough under the old coach.

Mike Stoops, an Iowa defensive back from 1981-1984, is the new head coach at Arizona, and got into the “hard work” thing himself after being the co-defensive coordinator under his brother, Bob, at Oklahoma.

Arizona hasn’t had a winning record since going 12-1 in 1998.

“They didn’t quite know how to work at a rate that would allow for success,” Stoops was quoted as saying by Ted Miller of ESPN.com. “They got what they put into it last year. They didn’t put a whole lot into it and they didn’t get a whole lot out.”

Stoops said the 2003 Wildcats were “drastically physically underdeveloped” under coach John Mackovic.

Stoops’ name was mentioned whenever a major-college coaching job opened in the last couple of years, but Miller wrote that he “is aware that some negative scuttlebutt circulated about him each time he was mentioned previously as a candidate.

“Some whispered that he was a party guy who enjoyed hanging out over a few beers too much to dedicate himself to the time demands of a head coach.

“Stoops, who was charged with DUI in 1996 while Kansas State’s co-defensive coordinator, rejects such talk as old news.

“Any guy who is single for an extended period of time, they get the wrong impression of you,” he explained. “Since I’ve gotten married and had two kids, my life is perfectly content.”

Miller said Stoops talks to his brother, Bob, every couple of days, but neither Bob nor Mike has any interest in playing one another .

Vol. 4, No. 251
Sept. 1, 2004