Thursday, October 28, 2004

Sorry, Cardinal Fans, LaRussa Is No Genius Manager

Some thoughts on the World Series and a baseball season that is finally over:

I realize Tony LaRussa spent some time in Des Moines and is regarded as a sort of thinking man’s manager who can make something happen out of nothing.

But I don’t think the St. Louis Cardinals’ manager is any more of a genius on the baseball field than Bobby Cox of the Braves or Ron Gardenhire of the Twins.

It pains me to say that I believe LaRussa is more of a baseball strategist than the Cubs’ Dusty Baker, but first-year Red Sox manager Terry Francona proved in the World Series that he can go stride-for-stride with LaRussa any day of the year and in both ends of a doubleheader.

I really think LaRussa tries to over-manage instead of letting some pretty good athletes in his dugout do what comes naturally.

He has a way of making his players uptight to the point of costing them in a big game or a big series.

How many pairs of glasses does LaRussa use in the dugout?

I mean, why does this man wear sunglasses during night games?

Because I think he’s vain.

He’s forever taking his glasses off and putting them on. When he comes out of the dugout to remove a pitcher from the game, LaRussa makes sure he’s wearing no glasses.

When he’s interviewed by a TV reporter during a game, he’s wearing no glasses.

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with the viewing public seeing a middle-aged man – especially a middle-aged man who’s losing his hair, as is the case with LaRussa—wearing glasses.

Even glasses that aren’t shades.

Why didn’t LaRussa have a pitcher warming up when the Red Sox were building their 3-0 lead against the Cardinals’ Jason Marquis in the final game of the World Series?

LaRussa keeps Dave Duncan, his pitching coach, on edge and so busy during games that you’d have thought he’d told him to tell reliever Dan Haren to get warm when it was obvious Marquis didn’t have it.

The Cardinals’ Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds weren’t exactly 0-for-the-World Series, but they were close to it.

Why didn’t Joe Buck, the Fox sportscaster who did the play-by-play on the Series, and analyst Tim McCarver offer some opinion on why the Cardinals’ big boppers couldn’t hit their way out of a paper sack against Boston?

St. Louis sportswriters are saying Buck, the son of longtime Cardinals play-by-play announcer Jack Buck and a man who hosts a radio show on which LaRussa answers questions, didn’t hesitate to wonder about some of LaRussa’s weird moves in the fourth game of the Series.

But he didn’t do enough questioning. Neither did McCarver, a former catcher who is supposed to know a few things about hitting.

I hope Dusty Baker was watching when a couple of St. Louis’ players bunted. A bunt was something Baker hardly ever saw – or encouraged – in 2004 with the Cubs.

Maybe that’s because Baker rarely saw a pitch he didn’t like when he played. The word “bunt” was not in his vocabulary then, either.

What’s it going to take for the Cubs to make it to the World Series next season?

They’ve got to dump outfielder Sammy Sosa and get Carlos Beltran [who finished the season in Houston], dump shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and get Orlando Cabrera [who ended the season with the Red Sox], dump Mark Grudzielanek and either turn the fulltime second base job over to Todd Walker or someone else who can hit .300, dump reliever Kyle Farnsworth, who once fell asleep in the clubhouse, dump reliever Kent Mercker, who spent too much time this season telling TV analyst Steve Stone what he thought of him, and find a closer who can get the side out without being lit up with a game-winning, ninth-inning home run far too often [are you listening, LaTroy Hawkins?]


Just as I was about to say that we should maybe start bracing for something called the “Hy-Vee Iowa-Iowa State Classic” football game next fall, along comes word that there won’t be an SCC Michigan-Ohio State Classic” after all.

Maybe you weren’t aware of it, but something terrible was going to happen.

Something called SBC Communications was going to offer Michigan and Ohio State $260,000 each for the next two years to sponsor their football games. A logo for the game featuring SBC’s name was to have been displayed on the scoreboard and on signs around the stadium.

In the event you didn’t realize it, San Antonio-based SBC already sponsors the Red River Shootout between Oklahoma and Texas in Dallas.

So I figured that if that was the case, and if Ohio State and Michigan [and, I guess, the whole Big Ten] thought it was all right for games to be sponsored, Iowa and Iowa State would join forces with Hy-Vee or Kwik Trip or even Roto Rooter to sponsor the next couple of Hawkeye-Cyclone games.

Thank goodness Mary Sue Coleman, the former president at the University of Iowa, had something to do with getting SBC out of the Michigan-Ohio State picture.

Coleman is now the president at Michigan. She and Bill Martin, Michigan’s athletic director, decided the sponsorship idea wasn’t acceptable.

“Money was not the issue,” Martin said.

Oh, sure.

Before we give Martin, Coleman and the folks at Ohio State too much credit, Martin pointed out that 80 percent of e-mails and phone calls from Michigan alumni didn’t like the sponsorship idea.

So I’m wondering if maybe the $1 million payoff would have been accepted by the schools if the e-mailers and callers wouldn’t have voiced their opinions.

And you know what would have been next, don’t you? The players would have been wearing “SBC” on their sleeves. But they wouldn’t have gotten any of the money for doing it. Just the coaches would have profited.

Like the shoe contracts all of ‘em have.


I don’t think the coaches and athletic directors will be pocketing any money from the next idea I’m going to write about.

But you never know.

Anyway, Iowa and Wisconsin announced today that their football teams will be playing for something called the Heartland Trophy, starting with the Nov. 20 game this season in Iowa City.

“We’re delighted to introduce this traveling trophy to all Hawkeye and Badger fans,” Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby said. “The Iowa-Wisconsin series has always been one of the most competitive and hard fought series in college football. The bull on the top of the trophy symbolizes the kind of games that have been typical when the schools meet. It's a trophy that will be treasured by the winning team each year.”


Yes, bull!

Not a pig like Floyd of Rosedale, which goes to the winner of the Iowa-Minnesota game. Not a jug [as in Little Brown Jug] that goes to the Minnesota-Michigan winner. Not bucket [as in Old Oaken Bucket] that goes to the Purdue-Indiana winner.

What I don’t know yet is if the bull has a name. After I see it, I may make up my own name for it.

After all, I’ve seen a lot of coaches throw a lot of bull around. So I’ve been around plenty of it over the years.

The Heartland Trophy was designed by artist and former Iowa student Frank Strub. He’s a native of Iowa City, won a freshman football numeral with the Hawkeyes in 1951. He’s now retired and living in Des Moines.

“My wife [Pat] and I wanted to give something back in appreciation of our college days,” Strub said.

Said Barry Alvarez, a former Mason City High School coach and a former assistant at Iowa who now is Wisconsin’s football coach and athletic director: “This trophy is a terrific opportunity to further showcase a great Midwestern college football rivalry. Having served on the football staffs at both institutions, I’m very aware of how much the matchup means to fans as well as student-athletes of both schools…..”

Vol. 4, No. 272
Oct. 28, 2004

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Oklahoma's Stoops Has 'No Interest' in Florida Job

Memo to a lot of Big 12 Conference coaches, players and fans:

Bob Stoops plans to stick around a while longer to continue beating up your teams on the football field.

At least it’s going to take more than an offer from Florida to get Stoops to leave Oklahoma.

That became clear today when he said he has no interest in the Gators’ job.

“I have great respect for the people at Florida and a lot of good memories from my time there, but to end the speculation that is ongoing, I want to make it clear that I have no interest in the position that is currently available there,” Stoops said in a statement issued by Kenny Mossman, Oklahoma’s associate athletic director in charge of media relations.

“It is a privilege to be the head coach at Oklahoma and I am fully concentrating on having the best season we can have, and in building the strongest program we can build.”

After Ron Zook was fired earlier this week, everybody knew Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley would take a shot at hiring Stoops, who was the school’s defensive coordinator when Steve Spurrier was the coach.

Heck, Florida even tried, and failed, to hire Stoops when Spurrier left Florida for the Washington Redskins.

It seems every other athletic director in college coaching and every other owner and general manager in the NFL has tried to hire the guy who lettered at Iowa from 1979-1982. He’s obviously the hottest name in coaching.

It wasn’t long ago, of course, that it appeared Stoops would be coaching at his alma mater.

When Hayden Fry was ready to retire at Iowa, Stoops’ name was at the top of most fans’ wish list as the successor.

But it didn’t happen.

“The talk about Bob Stoops had been around even during the last couple of years Hayden was our coach,” Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby told me. “That was always the package—‘Hayden needs to retire and we need to hire Bob Stoops.’

“Bob had been at a couple of places [Kansas State and Florida] that were different than Iowa. I think he may have thought, and others may have thought, that this should be a turn-key deal. You go out and tap him on the shoulder and offer him ‘X’ amount of dollars and that’s the end of it.

“But it doesn’t work that way. We had a number of quality candidates. I talked with Bob over the course of this process. I called him the first day after Hayden’s retirement [in 1998]—and he was the first guy I called. Through that process, we set up an interview time.”

But the Oklahoma job was also open.

“I was aware that he was talking to Oklahoma as well,”Bowlsby said. “But I had made a commitment to also interview Kirk Ferentz. Untimately, it came down to us interviewing Stoops, and Bob saying at the time, ‘I have an offer on the table, and I’ve got to know right now [where I stand with Iowa].’

“I said, “I’ve given my word that I would interview Kirk Ferentz and would ask you to wait 24 hours until I’ve made good on that obligation.’”

The 24-hour wait did not occur.

“Either it had been done already or it was done later that evening that Stoops told Oklahoma he wanted to go ahead and be their coach,” Bowlsby said.

I don’t blame him. I wasn’t able to credibly give him a wink and a nod at that point because I told Kirk he’d have an opportunity to be considered for the job. I felt I needed to stand by that…..

“If you took 100 football coaches and put them in a room, 99 of them would take the Oklahoma job over the Iowa job…..”

Stoops told me, “I was interviewed by Iowa, but I was never offered the head coaching job. It’s pretty simple. I was already offered the job at Oklahoma.

“In the end, when you’re offered a job at a place and not the other place, you do what you feel is the right thing to do.”


Leave it to Cael Sanderson to show up on the big stage.

The Olympic wrestling champion and Iowa State assistant coach will appear at tonight’s fourth game of the World Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

He’ll be there as the guest of Cardinals relief pitcher Steve Kline, who had a 1.79 earned-run average and a 2-2 record this season.

In the off-season, Kline is a youth and high school wrestling coach in Pennsylvania. Even though Kline isn’t activated for the World Series because of a finger injury, he invited Sanderson and his wife, Kelly, to tonight’s game.

Sanderson is scheduled to meet with Cardinals players before the game, and he’ll watch batting practice.

He won an Olympic gold medal in the 2004 Olympics at 185 pounds. At Iowa State, he became the first wrestler in NCAA history to complete his career unbeaten. He had a 159-0 record with four NCAA championships.

St. Louis fans will likely be hoping Sanderson also knows something about baseball so he can teach the Cardinals how to hit and run the bases. They’re on life support after losing the first three games of the World Series.


From the Columbus Dispatch and sent to me by my West Coast Correspondent:

“It’s great to be here at Iowa State,” Jenna Bush said, followed by silence, before correcting her mistake. “'Iowa? Gosh. Ohio State.'”

Oh, well. At least the football teams at Iowa State and Ohio State are about the same this year.

Vol. 4, No. 271
Oct. 27, 2004

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Believe It! Winning Season Possible for Cyclones

Forget the sports talk-show requests that constantly call for coach Dan McCarney’s head.

Forget the 17-10 loss to Iowa six weeks ago.

Forget the close call at Colorado and the not-so-close calls against Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.

Forget all those things and pay attention to what I’m going to say.

Three more victories are all Iowa State needs to have a winning season and to be bowl-eligible.

And three more victories are certainly possible for McCarney and his players in the last four regular-season games.

At the risk of sounding like I’ve been slipping something strange into my two cups of late-night green tea, I could also say that the Nov. 20 game at Kansas State is also winnable.

But let’s put that one on hold for a while. Like you, I think it’s about time McCarney ended that 0-9 record against Bill Snyder’s Wildcats, but right now I’ll settle for Iowa State beating only Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri—three other teams from the very ordinary Big 12 North.

A 6-5 finish is possible—very possible—for this Iowa State team, which won at Baylor, 26-25, yesterday. It starts Saturday against Kansas at Jack Trice Stadium. The Jayhawks, like Iowa State, are 1-3 in the Big 12 and 3-4 overall.

Nebraska, which comes to Ames on Oct. 6, and Missouri, which visits Ames on Nov. 27, are 2-2 and 4-3. Kansas State is 1-3 and 3-4.


I'm really starting to feel sorry for Joe Paterno, whose Penn State team is awful again. It's time for him to get off the coaching freeway. I wish he could find a graceful route to the exit sign.

Paterno's Nittany Lions had more turnovers (5) than points (4) before a crowd of 108,069 in Saturday's 6-4 loss to Iowa.


The Rev. David P. Mumm of Des Moines, talking about what he calls “the craziness of sports,” was wondering about something after Iowa’s 6-4 victory.

In an e-mail, he wrote:

“In your many years of following sports, have you ever seen a football game with a final score of “4”? I know it is possible, but I can never recall a game like Iowa’s game Saturday.”

Well, Pastor, I can think of an even stranger game. I was only 4 years of age when it was played, and I didn’t know Nile Kinnick from the Nile River, but I wrote about a 4-0 game Kinnick and his Iowa Ironmen won in my recent book “Tales from the Iowa Sidelines.”

Here was the segment:

“The strangest game Iowa played in 1939 was on Nov. 4 at Purdue.

“The Hawkeyes won, 4-0, because right tackle Mike Enich, who was known as ‘Iron Mike,’ blocked two Purdue punts into the end zone for safeties.

“Iowa really didn’t need the second safety, people said afterward.

“’We just wanted to make it decisive,”’ line coach Jim Harris joked to the players.

“End Erwin Prasse said Harris had another funny line after the game.

“’Well, Enich hit a home run with the bases loaded,’” Harris told Prasse.”

In my earlier writing life, I didn’t attend Iowa’s 5-3 loss to Arizona in 1980, but I was on hand for another game—in 1972--that set collegiate football back about 40 years.

That one was played in Columbia, Mo. Johnny Majors, in his final season at Iowa State, took his team there for a game against Missouri. The Cyclones had a 5-2-1 record and were expected to clinch a bowl bid if they beat the Tigers.

But Missouri won, 6-5, in a game that embarrassed Majors, Iowa State’s fans and the bowl scouts who were present.

Still, Iowa State received a bid to the Liberty Bowl later that night,

But the 6-5 loss was the start of a horrible stretch for the Cyclones. They wound up losing their last four games, sending Majors off to his next job at Pittsburgh with a 5-6-1 record.

Iowa State lost at Oklahoma State, 45-14, the following week; lost at San Diego State, 27-14, and to Georgia Tech, 31-30, in the Liberty Bowl.


Jerry Kellar of of Northeastern Pennsylvania on the Iowa-Penn State game:

"And to think more than 100,000 fans laid out 46 bucks a pop to watch this."


Former Iowan Al Schallau, now of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., sent this letter to the St. Petersburg Times today after learning about the firing of Florida football coach Ron Zook:

"The mid-season firing of Ron Zook and his staff is one of the most cowardly acts by an athletic director in the history of college football. It shows enormous character by Coach Zook and staff that they have agreed to coach for the rest of the season.

"I wish the future Florida Gators and all their fans the very worst of luck. May the Gators become the next version of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

"Nebraska fired Coach Frank Solich because his record of 59-23 wasn't good enough. He was fired because their athletic director couldn't stand losing to Kansas State.

"For me, it was DELICIOUS to see the Cornhuskers get bombed, 70-10 by Texas Tech and 45-21 by Kansas State.

"In future years, I will be rooting HARD agains the Florida Gators every Saturday."

[NOTE: I've always maintained that a coach should be allowed to serve out the remainder of his contract. But no athletic director pays attention to that philosophy anymore. Most of them are afraid of getting canned themselves. In regard to Iowa's 6-4 victory over Penn State, Schallau wrote that it will "go down in history as one of the all-time 'ugly wins' in Hawkeye football history. And how I love, love, love those 'ugly wins'--which beat hell out of those heroic losses."]


It seems like it was many moons ago when I was interviewing a young man named Rob Ash, who was about to be named the new head football coach at Drake.

Actually, it was only 1989.

I wrote the first story about Ash for the local paper. Little did either Ash or I know he'd still be piling up victories for Drake in 2004.

When the Bulldogs rolled past Valparaiso, 37-10, yesterday, Ash raised his record with them to 106-57-2. Drake is 6-2 overall, and its first-place record in the Pioneer League is 3-0 heading into Saturday's showdown with Dayton.

Despite upgrading Drake's schedule in recent seasons, Ash continues winning consistently, and there's no one at his level of competition who coaches any better.


Memo to Kyle Orton, the Purdue quarterback who played at Southeast Polk High School:

Well, all that Heisman Trophy stuff was fun while it lasted.

A lot of other guys who thought they might win the Heisman, but then saw it all go down the drain, share your feeling.


Not all Chicago Cubs fans may remember Mark Bellhorn.

But they should.

The guy who hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning to send Boston past St. Louis, 11-9, in the first game of the World Series was one of a million or so players who tried, and failed, at third base for the Cubs.

Bellhorn hit 27 home runs for the Cubs in 2002, but struck out often and was a liability on defense. He finally was dealt to Colorado, and from there he went to the Red Sox, for whom he now plays second base.

The scouting report on the $490,000-a-year switch-hitter isn’t pretty:

“Bellhorn’s weaknesses have been exposed: Just keep the ball away from him and he won’t come close. He is overmatched by sinkers and sliders. His only hope is when a pitcher tries to overpower him and gets the ball out over the plate. Bellhorn can play a lot of positions, but none well enough to be an everyday player. He doesn’t have the quickness needed at third base nor the lateral movement to handle second. He also can fill in briefly at short, play first and left field. He has decent speed, but isn’t a steal threat.”

Tell that to Julian Tavarez, the Cardinals relief pitcher whom Bellhorn lit up for the winning homer last night.

And oh, by the way, Tavarez is also an ex-Cub.

Vol. 4, No. 270
Oct. 24, 2004

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Season May Be Over for Iowa Running Back Simmons

The football season may be all but over for Marques Simmons.

Coach Kirk Ferentz said today that Simmons, a 202-pound junior from Davenport who had become Iowa’s starting running back, could be lost for up to a month—maybe longer—because of an ankle injury suffered in last week’s game against Ohio State.

The Hawkeyes have only five regular-season games remaining, starting Saturday at Penn State.

“They X-rayed it yesterday, and they’ll do an MRI today,” Ferentz said on the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference. “My experience has been that backs with significant ankle problems are usually not too effective.

“We have only five games left, and my guess is we’d be lucky to get him for one or two—probably none.”

Sam Brownlee of Emmetsburg, a non-scholarship player who became the No. 1 running back when Simmons was injured in the 33-7 victory over Ohio State, will start at Penn State.

The Hawkeyes earlier lost three other running backs—Jermelle Lewis, Marcus Schnoor and Albert Young--to injuries. All hurt knees.

Simmons' injury is no doubt significant, but let me point out that it's not the end of the world.

Iowa has turned into more of a passing team than a running team in the last couple of weeks because of the emergence of Drew Tate as a talented sophomore quarterback.

Consequently, I hope Brownlee and his backups can block.

Penn State is a 3-point favorite Saturday in a game that starts at 11:05 a.m. and will be telecast by ESPN2.


A guy from New Orleans called Penn State’s Joe Paterno today, wanting to know about the relationship between coaches and politics.

“I’m just wondering, have you ever considered running for political office?” the guy asked.

Paterno, who is in his 39th season at Penn State, seemed to enjoy the question. It sure beat having to defend himself about why his team isn’t playing better.

“One time they wanted me to run for governor,” Paterno said. “That would have been about 25 years ago. That really hasn’t been my cup of tea.

“It’s interesting that you asked that because my youngest son is running for congress. I thought maybe you were referring to that.”

Asked if there was anyone among his peers who might be a good governor or president, Paterno said, “I think there’s a whole mess of guys. [Former Nebraska coach] Tom Osborne is a congressman.

“From all indications I get from people I know in Washington, he’s really been a very, very fine congressman. I don’t want to get into Republican and Democrat [party talk], but I don’t think there’s any question there are a lot of people who could be outstanding governors.

“Being a football coach pretty much means you have to convince people the decisions you make are the right ones. Bud Wilkinson [a former Oklahoma coach] probably could have been a great president of the United States.

“I’ll miss somebody if I start naming a lot of people, but I definitely think there’s a correlation between the ability to be a good head football coach and yet be able to handle decisions under pressure.”


If you ask me, it won’t be a successful basketball season at Iowa unless the Cyclones make it to the NCAA tournament.

And I’m predicting they’ll do it.

“This is the season the Cyclones will go dancin’,” I wrote in the October “Question of the Month” for Cyclone Nation.

”Anything short of a spot in the 65-team NCAA tournament will be a disappointment to me. With a 20-13 record and a trip to the National Invitation Tournament, Iowa State proved last season that it knew how to win.

“This is the year the Cyclones will make the next step and be chosen for the only postseason tournament that really matters…..”

Vol. 4, No. 269
Oct. 19, 2004

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Iowa's Crushing Victory Is Ferentz's Biggest at Kinnick

Iowa City, Ia. -- Until 1972, it was called Iowa Stadium. Since then, it’s been Kinnick Stadium.

Call it what you want. I’ve seen some very big Hawkeye victories there.

But the way Iowa thrashed Ohio State, 33-7, yesterday in the harsh October cold and wind told me a couple of things.

It was the biggest victory for Kirk Ferentz at Kinnick Stadium in his 5 ½ years as the Hawkeyes’ coach and the third-biggest for any Iowa coach in my 56 years of watching football games at a place that soon will be undergoing an $87 million makeover.

Ferentz may have been reluctant to put a ranking on Saturday’s victory, but I’m not.

Until yesterday, the 30-27 nail-biter Ferentz and his Hawkeyes grabbed from Michigan last Oct. 4 ranked as the coach’s biggest victory at Kinnick.
Move over, 30-27 nail-biter.

Yesterday’s thumping of Ohio State – magnificent football tradition and all – ranks as the No. 1 home victory Ferentz has had.

However, it’s not No. 1 in my book as far as both home and away are figured in. His biggest victory as the Hawkeyes’ coach remains the 34-9 shocker his 2002 team pulled off against Michigan at Ann Arbor.

I saw my first Iowa home game in 1948. Eddie Anderson was in his next-to-last season as the Hawkeyes’ coach that year, and I was a 13-year-old patient in the children’s wing of University Hospitals at Iowa City.

I somehow talked the nurses into letting me go to the Iowa-Wisconsin game on Oct. 30. They arranged to get me the ticket, and I hope they didn’t have to buy it from one of those scalpers who stand on the corners in Iowa City all day on Saturdays.

The Hawkeyes won the game, 19-13, and I was the happiest kid in the whole world because (a) I was able to go to a game at what then was Iowa Stadium and (b) I was within a few days of getting out of the hospital so I could go back to eighth grade at Wilson Junior High School in Cedar Rapids.

Earlier in this essay, I wrote that I thought Iowa’s victory yesterday was the third-biggest by the Hawkeyes among all of those I have seen in Iowa City since 1948.

The two I would rank higher are, No. 1, the 6-0 victory Forest Evashevski’s 1956 Hawkeyes scored over Woody Hayes and Ohio State and, No. 2, the 12-10 victory by Hayden Fry’s 1985 team over Bo Schembechler and Michigan.

The victory on Nov. 17, 1956 sent Evashevski’s team to the Rose Bowl. The victory on Oct. 19, 1985 kept Fry’s Hawkeyes No. 1 in the national polls. The historic game matched Fry’s top-ranked team against No. 2-ranked Michigan.

Some of Iowa’s fans – sick and tired of Ohio State’s domination of Iowa – stormed the field after yesterday’s game. However, the frenzy that accompanied those 1956 and 1985 games was even greater.


After being out of the top 25 rankings for several weeks, Iowa jumped to No. 25 in today’s Associated Press sportswriters’ poll.

The Hawkeyes, who take records of 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten into an 11 a.m. game Saturday at Penn State, are No. 31 in the coaches’ poll.

And look at another team that’s making some noise. Notre Dame (5-2) is now No. 24 in the AP poll and No. 25 in the coaches’ poll.

I guess more teams should get Navy on their schedules.


Some of the things I heard and observed yesterday in Iowa City, and have been thinking about since:

 It was interesting to hear Iowa fans taunt Ohio State’s players with lines like, “Have fun at the Motor City Bowl!” as they ran off the field after the game.

 Call it spoiled: It was also fun to hear sportswriters from Ohio talk with each other about how they didn’t want to go to anything called the Motor City Bowl [in Detroit] or the Music City Bowl [in Nashville] during the holidays. Remember what the coaches always say, boys: “There’s no such thing as a bad bowl game.”

 It was good to sit next to Bernie Wyatt in the front row of the press box during the Iowa-Ohio State game. Wyatt lettered on Forest Evashevski’s last two Hawkeye teams in 1959 and 1960, as well as Jerry Burns’ squad in 1961. The 1959 and 1960 teams beat Ohio State, the 1961 team lost to the Buckeyes. Wyatt later was an assistant coach at Iowa and Wisconsin, and is now retired in Madison, Wis.

 Wyatt said Bret Bielema, a former Iowa player and assistant coach who is in his first season as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator, has been good for Barry Alvarez’s program. “Wisconsin needed some young blood in its program,” Wyatt said. “Who knows, maybe he’ll have a chance to be the new head coach there when Barry decides to retire.”

 There aren’t many football coaches who wear neckties during games, but Ohio State’s Jim Tressel is one of them. Tressel was dressed in his trademark white shirt, red patterned tie, bright red vest, grey slacks and white football shoes during the game and in the interview room afterward.

 Woody Hayes once threw his sportcoat into the stands during a game his Ohio State team was playing in Iowa City. If he’d had to watch the Buckeyes’ awful display of football yesterday, he might have thrown his entire wardrobe into the stands, and not asked for the fans to return it.

 “I’m speaking for everyone in the locker room when I say that’s an embarrassment,” Ohio State tight end Ryan Hamby said after the game. “You never see that happen to Ohio State. It’s unacceptable.”

 Tressel said he didn’t know if he’d go so far as to say Iowa dominated Ohio State. “But they kicked our butts,” he said. Take it from me. Iowa dominated the Buckeyes every way possible. And, yes, Tressel was accurate when he said his players got their butts kicked.

 Said a sportswriter who works for an Ohio newspaper: “A fifth-team walk-on had more rushing yardage than Ohio State’s entire backfield.” He was talking about Sam Brownlee of Emmetsburg, who ran for 35 yards in 10 carries. Ohio State’s rushing total was 27 yards in 29 attempts.

 Furthering the thought that some of the best stuff that’s said never winds up in the paper, another guy said, “I think Tressel should start recruiting in Emmetsburg.”

 It was ironic that the night before Brownlee played so well for Iowa, his high school had a real downer. Emmetsburg’s 31-game winning streak ended with a 9-6 loss to Cherokee.

 What a difference the atmosphere was yesterday than on Oct. 21, 2000, when Ohio State played at Kinnick Stadium the last time under coach John Cooper. The Buckeyes toyed with Iowa that day, 38-10. Dave Stockdale, a friend of mine who works for the local paper, went to that game with me, and we were seated in the east stands. The Hawkeye fans who sit behind the visitors’ bench on that side of the stadium enjoy heckling the players, and they love it when they find someone who talks back to them. Several undisciplined Ohio State players chattered with the fans during the 2000 game, one of them wide receiver Reggie Germany, who talked virtually non-stop. Little did Cooper know then that he’d be fired at the end of the 2000 season. His team lost to Michigan, 36-26, in the final regular-season game, then to South Carolina, 24-7, in the Outback Bowl.

 Ohio State was such a pitiful team yesterday that Iowa made it look like one of those first-game patsies such as Kent State, Akron and Miami of Ohio that have been on the schedule.

 It was too bad the late Bill Reichardt couldn’t have been at the game. The outcome would have erased some of the hurt—both physical and emotional--he and the other Hawkeye players sustained in an 83-21 loss Oct. 28, 1950 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.

 I wonder what Maurice Clarett is saying about Ohio State’s offense these days.


Iowa State coach Dan McCarney doesn’t need me to tell him, but I’ll say it anyway. There isn’t a team remaining on the Cyclones’ schedule that they can’t beat. The list includes Baylor, Kansas, Nebraska, Kansas State and Missouri….We were driving home after yesterday’s game in Iowa City when Jim Walden called into the “Sound Off” show on WHO-radio. That’s the kind of talk show that Walden hated when he was Iowa State’s coach because the fans—from Iowa State, Iowa and probably UNI and Drake, too—second-guessed him so much when it seemed that modern football had passed him by. The people who felt the worst when Iowa State fired Walden were Iowa coach Hayden Fry and his assistants. Fry beat Walden like a drum. Walden now says he has written a book about Washington State football. That figures. If he’d written about the highlights when he was coaching at Iowa State from 1987-1994, the book would be only a half-page long. Walden was Washington State’s coach from 1978-1986, and he’s now a commentator on the school’s football broadcasts.

Vol. 4, No. 268
Oct. 17, 2004

Friday, October 15, 2004

Move Over, Miami of Ohio, Here's Hayden Fry of Iowa


As Hayden Fry used to say, "It goes on and on."

And, in this case, it certainly does go on and on.

The number of major-college coaches who learned their basics from Fry, the former football coach at Iowa, is astounding.

And Chuck Schoffner, the veteran sports editor at the Associated Press bureau in Des Moines, has authored a well-researched and well-written story about it.

A copy of the story was sent to me by George Wine, Iowa's retired sports information director and the co-author of Fry's book, "Hayden Fry--A High Porch Picnic."

Wine said the story was sent to him by his son, Steve, who is sports editor of the AP's bureau in Miami, Fla.

The story:

AP Sports Writer

IOWA CITY, Ia. (AP)--Six years after coaching his last football
game, Hayden Fry leads the relaxed life of a retiree in the Nevada desert
outside Las Vegas.

No more early morning staff meetings. No more game plans to draw up.

Yet Fry's influence is still felt in the game to which he devoted his
life--and should for years to come.

Seven of his former assistants or players at Iowa, where he coached
for 20 years, are head coaches at Division I-A schools. Six others who worked or
played under Fry for the Hawkeyes are offensive or defensive coordinators at I-A

Miami of Ohio has long claimed to be the "cradle of coaches,"
producing the likes of Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian, Bo Schembechler, Paul Brown and Jim Tressel.

But with Fry's ever expanding coaching tree, Iowa at least deserves a
spot in the nursery.

"Since we all first assembled in 1979 with Hayden, you look around the
country and since that time, I don't know that there's one that's put out
more," said Iowa State coach Dan McCarney, a former Iowa player and assistant.

"I've got to believe that Hayden is on top of that whole thing when
you compare head coaches and where their guys are going and the success
they've had."

The other head coaches who worked for Fry at Iowa are Kansas State's
Bill Snyder, Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez, South Florida's Jim Leavitt and his
successor with the Hawkeyes, Kirk Ferentz.

Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and his brother, Mike, who's in his first season
as Arizona's head coach, were defensive backs for Fry, then worked as
graduate and volunteer assistants. Don Patterson of Division I-AA Western Illinois spent 21 years at Fry's side as an assistant.

Another Stoops brother, Mark, is the defensive coordinator at Arizona.
He also played in the secondary at Iowa and was a graduate assistant.

Former Iowa assistants Del Miller (offense) and Bob Elliott (defense)
are Snyder's coordinators at Kansas State. Chuck Long, who as Iowa's
quarterback led the Hawkeyes to the 1985 Big Ten championship, is the offensive
coordinator at Oklahoma.

Former Iowa safety Jay Norvell is the offensive coordinator at
Nebraska and Bret Bielema, a defensive lineman at Iowa, is Wisconsin's
defensive coordinator.

"Coach Fry was a psychology major and a great motivator," Patterson

"He always had an idea what to say to players or coaches. The things I say
to our coaches are the same things that Hayden said. We all learned a lot
from coach and we've put what we learned to great use."

They certainly have done that.

Snyder masterminded perhaps the greatest turnaround in college
football history at Kansas State. Bob Stoops guided Oklahoma to the national
championship in 2000. Alvarez has had three Rose Bowl teams at Wisconsin.

Under Ferentz, Iowa shared the 2002 Big Ten title and made
back-to-back January bowl appearances for the first time.

McCarney is the only coach in Iowa State history to make three straight bowl appearances,and Patterson has been in the I-AA playoffs three times since 1999 at Western Illinois.

Leavitt, a graduate assistant at Iowa in 1989, has won 66 percent of
his games in seven-plus seasons at South Florida.

"Hayden did a marvelous job evaluating guys and plugging them in to
the right spot," said ESPN analyst Bill Curry, who coached at Alabama,
Kentucky and Georgia Tech. "Then once you got on the staff, you had Hayden pulling for you when other jobs came up."

At one point in the 1980s, Fry had Snyder as his offensive
coordinator, Ferentz as the offensive line coach, McCarney as the defensive line coach, Patterson coaching tight ends, Alvarez coaching the linebackers and Miller as recruiting coordinator.

It's no coincidence that Iowa was one of the Big Ten's best teams at
the time, making three Rose Bowl trips and six other bowl appearances between
1981 and 1990. Before 1981, the Hawkeyes had gone 20 straight years without a winning season.

Could it have been the best staff in college football?

"I think in retrospect, you could say that," said Ferentz, who was an
Iowa assistant from 1981-89 and returned as head coach after Fry retired in

"Still in history that's one of the better turnaround jobs that's ever been

"I think that was coach Fry's real gift. He's got many of them, but
one of his biggest strengths is being able to pick the right people, not only
coaches but also players. Then he knew what buttons to hit with those people that he picked."

Along with a staff filled with future head coaches, Iowa in the
mid-1980s had Long at quarterback--he was an All-American and the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1985--and Norvell playing in the secondary. Bob Stoops was
helping as a graduate assistant after finishing his playing career in 1982.

Long never thought about coaching then. But after eight seasons in the
NFL, he returned to Iowa to coach the defensive backs and quarterbacks, then
went to Oklahoma in 2000.

"As I got toward the end of my (playing) career, I felt a calling to
get into coaching," Long said. "A big reason why was how they treated me at
Iowa, how they treated the players, how well they taught us. I thought, hey,
that's my calling. I want to do the same thing for young men.

"A lot of what I do, some of that comes from Hayden Fry and what he
taught us."

Miami has turned out a number of good coaches over the years, but
looking at today's coaching crop, Patterson thinks Iowa's day has come.

"Miami of Ohio used to be the cradle of coaches. Not anymore," he

"It's the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa."


Jim Tressel, who is in his fourth season as Ohio State's coach, has a 35-9 record. But the Buckeyes will be trying to avoid their first 0-3 Big Ten start since 1988 when they play Iowa tomorrow.


Californian Uncle Bob, aka Bob Nicholas, the uncle of former Iowa quarterback Nathan Chandler and present Hawkeye tight end Scott Chandler, sent this e-mail to me today:


Your articles from great games in the past really got
me ready for the big game tomorrow. I wish I would
have had a Big 10 connection to introduce me earlier
in my life (you know, for the wonderful history).
Somehow, after my trip to watch the Michigan game at
Kinnick last year, my football reality has changed.
We have lots of good teams out here in the west, but
somehow it's not quite the same.

I've got a good feeling about this one.

Go Hawks!

Best Regards,

Uncle Bob

P.S. -- Unfortunately, no more news from Nate.

[NOTE: Great hearing from you again, Uncle Bob. After earlier thinking--and even predicting--that Ohio State would beat Iowa in a close game tomorrow, I'm feeling good about the Hawkeyes' chances, too. And I hope there's something good to report about your nephew Nate in the NFL one of these days, too].


My larger-than-life postcard arrived in the mail today.

It cost 37 cents in postage for the Purdue athletic department to send, and the idea is to promote Kyle Orton for the Heisman Trophy, the Davey O'Brien Award, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and the All-America team.

That's Kyle Orton of Altoona, Ia. -- just east of Des Moines.

That's Kyle Orton, former Southeast Polk High School standout.

That's Kyle Orton, who has his own website.

That's Kyle Orton, whose Boilermakers have a Nov. 6 date with Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.

On the front of the postcard it says "HEISMAN TROPHY CANDIDATE. Leading the Charge."

On the other side of the postcard it says:

"Kudos for Kyle.

"As the 2004 college football season reaches the halfway point, Kyle Orton has established himself as one of the country's outstanding players. He leads the nation in points responsible for with an average of 24.0 per game and in passing touchdowns with 18. He ranks second with a 181.6 passing efficienty rating and is third with 340.8 yards of total offense per game.

"More important, Orton has led the Boilermakers to a 5-0 record, including three consecutive road wins at Illinois, Notre Dame and Penn State, and a No. 5 national ranking in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.

[NOTE: Orton is certainly my favorite for the Heisman and all the other quarterback awards. If the talented passer can do a job on Bret Bielema's Wisconsin defense tomorrow, he'll attract even more Heisman voters].

Vol. 4, No. 268
Oct. 15, 2004

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Iowa-Ohio State: A Rich Collegiate Football Tradition

All right, let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first.

Iowa is winless in the last 12 football games it has played on Oct. 16.

Overall, the Hawkeyes are only 2-11-1 on Oct. 16

And it just so happens that Saturday is Oct. 16.

Yep, that’s the day the Hawkeyes tee it up against Ohio State at 2:30 p.m. in Kinnick Stadium in the renewal of what has become a rich collegiate football tradition.

Iowa has met the Buckeyes only one other time on Oct. 16, and that was when Woody Hayes’ 1954 team scored a 20-14 victory.

Ohio State has pretty much had its way with Iowa in recent years. The Buckeyes have won the last eight games in the series, and 10 of the last 11. Iowa hasn’t beaten Ohio State in Kinnick Stadium since a 20-14 victory on Sept. 24, 1983.

Ohio State is a 2 ½-point favorite Saturday [if anyone out there can tell me how the Buckeyes are going to score that half-point, please let me know], but I don’t consider that a negative.

I’ll take my chances on Kirk Ferentz’s Hawkeyes when they’re 2 ½-point underdogs.

Don’t forget, Iowa has a 15-game winning streak at Kinnick Stadium.


There are a number of Iowa-Ohio State games that I remember vividly.

Some I saw in person. Some I heard on the radio. Some I saw on TV.

Some I wish I didn’t remember at all.

One I wish I didn’t remember was played on Oct. 28, 1950.

I had just turned 15 a month or so earlier, and I was a student manager for the football team at old Wilson High School in Cedar Rapids. Bill Barnard was the coach, and he had written me a letter the summer before from a camp in Minnesota where he worked, inviting me to be the manager.

The way I recall it, the Wilson team—the players, Barnard and his staff, the trainers and the manager--were on their way to Keokuk on Oct. 28, 1950. Wilson was to play Keokuk that night.

The radio broadcast of the Iowa-Ohio State game was being played loudly in the team bus.

It was not good listening.

Vic Janowicz, a 5-9, 187-pound Ohio State halfback, ran for two touchdowns, passed for four and kicked 10 extra points as the Buckeyes embarrassed Iowa, 83-21.

The late Bill Reichardt played in the game for Iowa and is convinced Janowicz won the Heisman Trophy with his performance against the Hawkeyes.

“We fell behind, 28-0, very quickly and there was a strong wind coming out of the south,” Reichardt told me. “We couldn’t pass or kick.

“I had to run kickoff after kickoff back because Ohio State was scoring so many touchdowns. Late in the game, one guy from Ohio State nailed me on a play. It ticked me off. They had my arms pinned back, and a guy from Ohio State used his fist to smack me.

“He said, ‘What’s the matter, Reichy? Ain’t they blocking for you.’”


Just two years later, things changed dramatically for Iowa.

And the listening was a lot better on the radio.

Forest Evashevski was the Hawkeyes’ new coach, and he went on to produce the three best teams in modern [1939 and later] Iowa football history—1958, 1956 and 1960.

Something happened in 1952 that was…..well, amazing.

I heard that game on the radio, too.

I then was in my final semester at Wilson, and was working at the Martin’s clothing store in downtown Cedar Rapids. That was one of two parttime jobs I had while earning enough money to get through my freshman year at the University of Iowa.

The other job was in the sports department of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

I was the do-everything kid at Martin’s. I was the office boy, I ran the elevator [in those days, elevators weren’t automatic], I drove owner John Carey’s shiny 1938 Chevy around town to run errands and I sometimes worked with Bill the Mail Room Guy.

I made sure I worked with Bill the Mail Room Guy on the afternoon of Oct. 25, 1952.

I wanted to listen to the Iowa-Ohio State game.

More than a half-century later, I researched that game for my book “Tales from the Iowa Sidelines.”

This was how I described the 1952 game in the book:

Woody Hayes Threw His Coat

Forest Evashevski’s first season as Iowa’s coach got off to a lackluster start.

The 1952 Hawkeyes lost their first four games to Pittsburgh, Indiana, Purdue and Wisconsin by a combined score of 129-54.

Powerful Ohio State, coached by Woody Hayes, was next on the schedule. The game was played Oct. 25 at Iowa City.

It was a date that was very important in Evashevski’s coaching tenure and in the history of football at the university.

In a shocking upset that would set the tone for Evashevski’s future seasons at Iowa, the Hawkeyes unbelievably won the game, 8-0.

A half-century after the game was played, I asked Evashevski if he had any idea his tam would pull off the monster victory.

“No,” he said. “In fact, I was afraid we might get really clobbered because we gambled so much. I think if Woody had started throwing the ball early, Ohio State could have gotten us out of the defense we were in.

“We jammed up to stop their running game, and I knew Woody was stubborn enough to keep trying—and he did. Fortunately, they didn’t start throwing the ball until it was too late.”

Bump Elliott, was in his first season as Iowa’s backfield coach, recalls the Ohio State game as being very unusual.

“I would say it was on Tuesday in the week of the game that Evy came up with the idea, and we developed as a staff, to change the whole offense from the Michigan single-wing and T-formation that we were using,” Elliott explained.

“Before the Ohio State game, we went to an unbalanced line, split-T formation, with big splits in the line. The linemen were two yards from each other, and it looked like we were spread clear across the field.

“We came in with a very limited passing game off of it—some hook passes, some swing passes to the halfbacks. It was nothing exceptional, but the fact we changed the whole thing made it work. The other thing that was significant was that the offense learned to call the plays at the line of scrimmage, depending on where the defense lined up.”

Elliott said, “We’d come to the line of scrimmage, look it over, then call a play that would go to the open hole of the defense. I think everything upset Ohio State so much that they forgot about their own offense and we stopped them.

“If Ohio State had tended to their business, they probably could have moved the ball better. But they got frustrated with their running game and passing game. We also changed the defense for Ohio State. We went into a five-man front after using a variety of six- and five-man fronts earlier.”

Elliott said it was during the game that the frustrated Hayes took off his sportcoat and threw it into the grandstand that is not far from the visitors’ bench in Iowa’s stadium.

“The fans weren’t going to give it back, but they finally did,” Elliott said.

Milo Hamilton is a Hall of Fame baseball announcer, but also did his share of football play-by-play as a younger man.

He did games for KSTT in Davenport in the 1950s, and recalls the 1952 Iowa-Ohio State game.

“Coach Forest Evashevski changed his offense early in the week to the wing-T, and then it became his bread-and-butter,” Hamilton told me.

“Ohio State didn’t have a clue. In fact, I think that game was the beginning of the ‘I hate you, Evy’ stuff by Woody. That gave the whole state of Iowa something to cheer about after Evy inherited a pretty rag-tag team.”


The first Iowa-Ohio State game I saw in person was on Nov. 17, 1956.

And it was a big one.

In 1956, I was in my third year at Iowa and was still working parttime at the Cedar Rapids Gazette. One of my jobs in the fall was to accompany the Gazette photographers to the Iowa games and provide identity information for their pictures that would be in the Sunday paper.

That enabled me to walk the sidelines of every home game.

And walking the sideline on Nov. 17, 1956 was very special.

Frank Gilliam of Steubenville, Ohio, was a member of that Hawkeye team. I was fortunate enough to sit next to him in the press box at Kinnick Stadium a couple of years ago, and he gave me his perspective of the game.

So did Evashevski in a telephone conversation I had with him for my book.

The only points came on Kenny Ploen’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Jim Gibbons in the third quarter.

“Gibbons was a real good football player,” Evashevski said. “He didn’t have great speed, but in those days you went both ways and Jim was a good defensive player as well as offensive player. He was mainly a good blocker, but he did have good hands.”

Ohio State never got inside Iowa's 32-yard line during the game. The Buckeyes managed only 147 yards rushing and 18 yards passing against Iowa’s relentless defense.

“I felt pretty good about beating them because they were a good team and we were a good team,” Gilliam said. “There was a lot of good hitting. The score didn’t indicate the caliber of the football game.”

Iowa won the Big Ten title, clobbered Notre Dame, 48-8, in its final regular-season game and walloped Oregon State, 35-19, in the Rose Bowl. The Hawkeyes finished 9-1 for the season.

Although he was from Ohio, Gilliam said he got no particular thrill in beating Ohio State.

“Once I left the state of Ohio, that was it,” he explained. “I didn’t have any friends on the Ohio State team. I had some friends on the Indiana team, but Ohio State was just another game for me.”

Gilliam said Woody Hayes “tried to get me to go to Ohio State, but my recruiting trip to Iowa City was a very positive experience, and I remember telling Eddie Vincent—my teammate and friend from Steubenville—that ‘I don’t know what you’re going to do, but I’m pretty certain this is where I’m going to school.’”


Two of the biggest Iowa-Ohio State games I witnessed in person were played in Columbus, Ohio.

The first was on Nov. 14, 1987. In “Tales from the Iowa Sidelines,” I wrote about that game this way:

The “Woozy” Hartlieb-to-Cook Pass

In my many years of covering Iowa football games, a play fashioned by quarterback Chuck Hartlieb and tight end Marv Cook in a game Nov. 14, 1987 at Ohio State stands out as one of the best I saw.

The Hawkeyes were trailing in the final seconds, and Hartlieb says now that he was “knocked pretty woozy on a blitz” several plays earlier.

“I can’t say I was thinking that clearly the rest of the game,” Hartlieb said. “We had tried on a couple of snaps to get the ball downfield to Quinn Early or one of the other wide receivers, but we struggled to get them open.

“On fourth down, I went to the sideline beforehand and said, ‘Let’s try and work Marv’s matchup,’ What we decided to do was send Marv down the sideline and, hopefully, take advantage of a man-to-man situation. I dropped back and looked down the left side of the field as long as I could so I could shade the deep safeties away from Marv.

“I flipped my feet around, and Marv was running a trail down the sideline. Marv was caught man-to-man with the strong safety. I threw it at his back. It allowed Marv to kind of come back to the ball and let the strong safety run by him.”

Hartlieb said Cook “was the one who made the play. He made a great adjustment to the ball, and his heart and desire let him get to the goal line. He easily could have been stopped on the one- or two-yard line.”

Indeed, maybe he was. Hartlieb said Bo Pelini, an Ohio State free safety who played in that game and later was a graduate assistant on the Iowa staff, “swears today that Cook was down on the one-yard line. It could have gone either way.”

But it was ruled that Cook made it into the end zone to complete the 28-yard play with six seconds remaining in the game. The play gave Iowa a 29-27 victory.

“It was awfully exciting,” Hartlieb said. “For years, Coach Fry had talked about the importance of winning at Columbus. He had won at Michigan and in every other Big Ten stadium, but not the one in Columbus. So to get a win for Coach Fry in that fashion was pretty magical.”

[NOTE: Earle Bruce, Ohio State’s coach and a former coach at Iowa State, didn’t think it was so magical. He was fired two days later].


Another big Iowa-Ohio State game in Columbus that I covered came on Nov. Nov. 2, 1991.

It was a day, and a weekend, filled with tremendous emotion.

Everything began on Friday, Nov. 1.

Not in Columbus. In Iowa City.

But it was in Columbus that I heard about it.

I had gone to dinner with Dave Stockdale, a friend of mine who works as a sports copy editor at the Des Moines Register, at an Italian restaurant on the fringe of the Ohio State campus.

When we returned to the Holiday Inn, which sits across the street from Ohio Stadium, Ohio State sports information director Steve Snapp was in the lobby.

“Have you heard about the shootings?” Snapp asked.

We hadn’t. But we heard about them soon afterward.

Snapp was referring to the shooting deaths of six people on the Iowa campus. A graduate student at the university killed five people before turning the gun on himself.

Had the shootings taken place on the eve of an Iowa home game, I’m convinced the game would have been postponed.

But the Hawkeyes’ game at Ohio State was played. On orders from Coach Hayden Fry, the team’s helmets were stripped of all decals the night before, and Fry had his squad’s emotions at a fever pitch on game day.

The Hawkeyes won, 16-9. They haven’t beaten the Buckeyes since.

It’s about time, don’t you think?


Mark Robinson, a transplanted Iowan who now lives in California, e-mailed me about my last couple of columns:

“You covered a lot of territory in those two pieces.

“First, I am very sorry to hear about the loss of Mr. Modersohn. When I was the chief photog at the Times-Republican in Marshalltown (76-77), I thought he was the best. It didn’t hurt that the Register, now known as the local paper, displayed his best work in 4,5, even 6 columns with regularlity. And the print quality of the Register in those days was terrific compared to other daily publications. Believe me, it was. The bottom line is that I looked upon Modersohn as an artist, and I was a wannabe.

“In fact, the Register was home to a herd of terrific photographers in those days. They almost outnumbered the great writers…..almost.

“I love your coverage of Drake. It sounds like they are taking steps to put themselves back on the map as it pertains to sports. As you know, hiring Tom Davis was their first and best step in that regard.

“My last observation has to do with the local paper’s entrance into the land of tiny town newspaper competition that you described. What were they thinking?

“I don’t know where Sean Keeler was during his sojourn at a recent bowl game, but I do know this. Nancy [Clark] is not a writer, especially a sportswriter.

“I guess the bigger question is: What were the judges thinking? There must be better sportswriters than Nancy…..and I give as examples every sportswriter who works for an Iowa daily.

“Good grief.


[NOTE: It looks to me like Warren Taylor, another veteran photographer, has accepted the job at the local paper that Bob Modersohn turned down. I like the abilities of both guys, and I hope the future treats them well].


From David P. Mumm, senior pastor at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Des Moines:

“Hi, Ron:

“I really like the look of your new web page. About 95 percent of what you said in the current column I had to agree with. However, when you said that no one shed a tear over Nebraska losing so big, that wasn’t quite true. I have been a Husker fan since my earliest days. Saturday was very hard to take. Losing is bad enough, but when the team quits even before the half—that’s really hard to take. The only thing worse than a Nebraska loss on Saturday was enduring the slaughter in Green Bay [Monday] night. One of the commentators on the Packer radio network, Larry McCarron, made an interesting observation about Lambeau Field. He suggested that Lambeau is not an intimidating place for opposing players. In fact, most of them are awed by the history, and frequently comments like, ‘What a great place to play,’ are heard from opposing players. If he is correct, then the Packers’ problems are not just team problems, they are also facility related. Maybe the makeover of 2 years ago was too good a job. Or maybe the Packers are just not a very strong team this year.

“Keep up the good work. I do enjoy your articles.”

[NOTE: Wouldn’t you know it? Sometimes I tend to forget about the hordes of Nebraska fans who live in our state. And I think I’ve heard from every one of them since writing that I thought new Husker coach Bill Callahan is in over his head. But I do think both Nebraska and Green Bay will win at least one more game this season].


A guy I know has been claiming for a couple of months that the latest Iowa City rumor was true.

Big deal. Hell, there's a rumor every 15 minutes in Iowa City.

Some turn out to be true, some don't.

This rumor concerned Steve Alford, Iowa's basketball coach.

Big deal. Hell, there's a rumor every 15 minutes about Alford.

This one was juicier than the others. This rumor had it that Alford had been kicked out of his house.

So who did the kicking? Alford's wife.

At least that was the rumor.

Rumor had it that Alford's wife didn't like some of the company the coach was keeping away from the arena.

The rumor was not only being talked about in Iowa City and Des Moines. I heard it was even being talked about in Shueyville.

People kept denying the rumor, but a guy I know kept saying it was true.

Now he's changed his mind. He says it probably isn't true. He says people must have had Alford confused with somebody else.

Stay tuned. There'll be another Iowa City rumor in exactly 14 minutes.


Speaking of Alford, he'll make an appearance at the Polk County I-Club Winter Sports Luncheon on Nov. 3 at the 7 Flags Events Center, 2100 NW 100th Street.

Also appearing will be Iowa women's basketball coach Lisa Bluder and Hawkeye wrestling coach Jim Zalesky. Jim Zabel will be telling Iowa State jokes while serving as master of ceremonies. Tickets are $15 at Pal Joey's, 63rd and Grand.


Dan Johnson, horseracing and women’s basketball expert and all-around good guy who works at the Register, is telling friends that he has some health problems.

“As some of you may have heard broadcast from the Jan Jensen Communications Network, I’ve been undergoing treatment for a blood disorder,” Johnson said.

“The disease is called myelofibrosis, and basically is a shortage of hemoglobin because my bone marrow is producing scarred cells instead of red blood cells.

“I’ve been getting blood transfusions an average of a unit per week, but I’m told that is not a long-term solution. Apparently the body builds resistance to the infused blood.

“The only cure is a bone marrow transplant, where chemotherapy is used to kill the bone marrow in a patient’s system, and then the new marrow is put in…..

“I’ve been to the Mayo Clinic, and the news I got was good, all things considered. My Mayo doctor doesn’t think the bone marrow transplant is immediately necessary. He’s putting me on a drug for three months that will hopefully increase my red cell production…..”

[NOTE: Good luck with your treatments, Dan. Your illness certainly hasn’t slowed you down in your job. Keep up the great work].

Vol. 4, No. 267
Oct. 14, 2004

Monday, October 11, 2004

Drake Players Think They Can Be 'Doggone Good'

Rick Brown leaned over and asked, “Coach, Maly [Rick always calls me Coach Maly], did you ever think there’d be a 10-second commercial break during a Drake basketball media day conference?"

“No,” I told Brown. “Times have changed. Heck, I can remember when there were just three people at some postgame Drake basketball press conferences—coach Rudy Washington, me and the guy who was waiting to sweep up for the night.”

But this was the New Look this afternoon on the Drake campus. Mediacom was there with its TV cameras to go live with the press conference—complete with the commercial break--that ushered in Davis’ second season as the Bulldogs’ coach.

I wouldn’t swear to it, but athletic director Dave Blank looked like he had TV makeup on his face, and Davis had his silver hair neatly combed for a session that drew an Internet columnist [that was me] and reporters such as Brown from the local paper, Jim Ecker from the Cedar Rapids Gazette, assorted TV and radio reporters and Drake boosters in the Morrison Room.

Just to make it an official event, Paul Morrison—the Drake historian for whom the room is named—was there, too.

Davis, who came out of retirement last year after coaching 28 seasons at Lafayette. Boston College, Stanford and Iowa, coached Drake to a 12-16 record. His team figures to be considerably better this season, because of players such as 6-8 sophomore Aliou Keita of Dakar, Senegal, and he was in a good mood.

Davis even had fun with Mike Mahon, Drake’s hard-working sports information director.

He commented about how well Mahon was dressed. I guess he figured Mahon doesn’t always wear a sportcoat and tie.

I told Davis that Mahon maybe had a financial deal with Mediacom that was helping out with his snappy clothing.

Mahon didn’t offer any insight into that, but he did tell us that we were participating in a “historical moment” at the press conference.

“This is believed to be the first time in the state of Iowa that we’ve had a live basketball media day televised,” he said. “We’re happy that Mediacom is providing this opportunity.”

Then Mahon turned matters over to Blank, who—like Davis—was dressed in a navy blue suit.

“Welcome to everybody here in the room and, to those in the television audience, thank you for being with us,” Blank said. “Although it’s quite warm outside relatively speaking, we’re excited about the beginning of a new basketball season.

“Basketball season is just around the corner. Practice starts Saturday. I’ve had lots of questions about our season ticket situation, and what I can report is—based on this time last year—we feel we have increased as much as 10 percent. The numbers are going well and we’re excited about that.

“We know the building will be quite full game-in and game-out again this season. I also want to tell you that we will be announcing not long from now a TV package for the men’s basketball program and some for our women’s basketball as well.

There will be three or four different components to that, but one that I’m most excited about announcing today is with Mediacom. You will be able to see a good mix of our games, both live, tape-delayed, home and away, on TV. The hope is that we can get most, or all, of our games televised.

“I think we’re on the verge of announcing maybe the largest and most aggressive TV package for men’s basketball ever here at Drake. Mediacom will be the biggest player in that, and we’re very appreciative to the folks at Mediacom.”

Of his challenge and his squad, Davis said:

--“These guys think we can win. Whether that’s realistic, I don’t know. But they think this ballclub can be pretty doggone good. That’s what you want as a coach.”

--“This is not an easy job to turn around. This is not a quick fix.”

--“[Senior guard] Pete Eggers has been a real leader of this team.”

--Junior guard Sean Tracy may be the most improved player.

--Junior guard Chaun Brooks and sophomore forward Klayton Korver have worked the hardest over the last year and a half.

--Junior forward Josh Powell of Des Moines Lincoln “has had some health problems in the off-season. He [was in] a car accident and had some other health difficulties. He’s looking good and trim and has a chance to be a key guy.”

--“The work ethic has definitely improved. You get guys who do what you want them to do.”

--“We’re deeper by far than we were a year ago both in the back court and front court.”

--“The front court is still a major problem, even though I think we’re better. Adding Keita gives us another dimension. And [freshman] Brent Heemskerk is a polished young player. [At 6-8 and 225 pounds], he’s not as big as you’d like and as physical as you’d like, but he can pass and he can cut. He’s going to contribute.”

--“When you have a bad inside game, which is what we had last season, and also a bad outside game, too, you’ve got a bad combination.”

--"Lonnie Randolph was the focal point of our pressure defense last season. If we can give him more help through Brooks, Eggers or Tracy, that will improve our defense even more.”

I wondered what Keita brings to the table, other than the ability to speak a number of languages--English, French and Arabic among them?

“He’s a big body,” Davis said of a 260-pound center who played at Regina High School in Iowa City and transferred to Drake after playing eight games at Tulsa in the 2002-2003 season. “He’s wide and he has big shoulders. He’s in terrific physical condition.

“He’s dropped as much as 30 pounds. He’s got great hands and a great head, but doesn’t know how to play yet. I’ve had some other big guys as you know who have come on. You just can’t rush them. It may take him a while.”

I asked if Keita compares with anyone Davis coached in his 13 seasons at Iowa.

“He’s got some of the physical characteristics of Eddie Horton in the sense of a big, brawny body,” Davis said. “But Eddie knew how to play. I mean, Eddie was a very intelligent player.”

Keita said he was attracted to Drake “because I knew I would learn a lot under Coach Davis. “I thought this would be the right place for me. He had big guys like Brad Lohaus and Acie Earl who played for him at Iowa.”

Eggers is a 6-4 guard who came to Drake as a walk-on and since has been awarded a scholarship.

“He worked his way into a starting role, then was elected an honorary co-captain by his teammates,” Davis said. “I don’t know that’s ever been done anywhere. It tells you a lot about Pete.”


It’s a bit difficult to decide what’s the most surprising—Nebraska getting clobbered, 70-10, by Texas Tech; Ohio State losing its second straight Big Ten football game, 24-13, to Wisconsin or Kansas State being tied with Iowa State and Colorado at the bottom of the Big 12 North standings with an 0-2 record.

All I can say is that Nebraska, Ohio State and Kansas State – which have been regarded as collegiate football powerhouses – are in big-time trouble.

And nobody – repeat, nobody – is shedding a tear.

Suddenly, Ohio State looks very beatable Saturday against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. That would mean an unheard-of third straight conference loss for the Buckeyes.

I’m starting to wonder if first-year coach Bill Callahan is in over his head at Nebraska. There already are whispers that Callahan’s players quit on him during Texas Tech’s 49-point last half. Nebraska has been fielding football teams for 114 years, and this was the worst loss in school history.

I guess Callahan’s west coast offense isn’t quite ready for prime time.

Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel was moved to write that the loss “was the worst, most embarrassing defeat in this observer’s 13 years of watching the Big Red…..”

“Forget the first-year coaching staff excuse,” writes “This kind of a performance from a Husker team is simply inexcusable.”

Nebraska’s defense is coached by Kevin Cosgrove, who was at Wisconsin last season. Now former Iowa player and assistant coach Bret Bielema is the Badgers’ defensive coordinator, and his players are doing incredibly well.

“Bielema has done a magnificent job with the Badger defense,” said. “The unit is playing light years better than the one Kevin Cosgrove coached last year, and could earn Bielema a Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach.”

And K-State? Well, did anyone think miracle worker Bill Snyder could keep doing it forever?

And the coordinator in charge of the Wildcats’ defense is none other than former Iowa player and Iowa and Iowa State assistant Bobby Elliott. That defense was rocked for a 31-28 loss Saturday by lowly Kansas.


Brad Nessler, Bob Griese and Lynn Swann will be the announcers for Saturday’s Iowa-Ohio State game, which starts at 2:30 p.m. The fact that Swanny will be the sideline announcer at Kinnick Stadium makes it a class act for ABC-TV. Just kidding, of course. Where’s Holly Rowe when we need her?…..Iowa’s 15-game Kinnick Stadium winning streak trails only Boise State (22), Oklahoma (17) and Southern California (17) in Division I-A football……The Hawkeyes haven’t beaten Ohio State at Kinnick since a 20-14 victory in 1983. The Buckeyes are 15-5-2 in Iowa City……Ohio State hasn’t lost three straight since 1999. The Buckeyes dropped their final three regular-season games that season to Michigan State, Illinois and Michigan…..You’d never know it by the local paper this morning, but actor Christopher Reeve died at 52 and former baseball player Ken Caminiti died at 41 yesterday.

Vol. 4, No. 266
Oct. 11, 2004

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Modersohn Gets a Raw Deal at the Local Paper

Bad things are going on at the local paper again

A guy e-mailed me with another horror story.

“I heard that Bob Modersohn is taking early retirement rather than accept a new assignment to a job he does not want,” my correspondent writes.

Modersohn is a man I enjoyed working with at the paper. We went on a number of assignments both in and out of the state. He was a sensational photographer who made an interesting career move in recent years.

He left the photo department and became a full-time reporter.

Everything seemed to be going well until Modersohn’s bosses indicated they thought they knew more about what he should be doing than he knew.

“Apparently, Modersohn was told he would have to give up that recreation beat and go back to being a photographer and would be assigned to the suburban publications,” is what I hear.

Obviously, Modersohn, 55, felt that was a demotion.

“That seems to be the routine down there when they are trying to cut expenses,” my source writes. “They give some long-time employee a demotion and hope he will quit. Then, if they even bother to replace him, they’ll do it with some kid just out of school at half the salary they were paying the veteran.

“If you remember, Modersohn has been doing the job they told Larry Stone he would have to move to Des Moines to do. That, of course, forced Larry to quit.”

Stone was the veteran outdoors writer who lives in northeast Iowa. When his bosses told him they wanted him to return to the Des Moines area to live, he said adios.

Modersohn was interviewed for Stone’s outdoors job, but it was given to Juli Probasco-Sowers. The description of that job has changed considerably in recent years, however. Juli now is a newsside reporter in addition to writing the “In the Open” column in sports on Sundays.


All of this made me laugh when I read what Rob Borsellino of the local paper wrote about Modersohn’s departure from the place.

On Sept. 24, Borsellino wrote: “Bob Modersohn is retiring after 33 years with the Register. For most of that time he was a photographer, and he got pictures of everyone from Pope John Paul II to Richard Simmons. He also photographed five U.S. presidents, Mick Jagger, Jack Benny, Debbie Reynolds and Andre Previn. In recent years he’s been a feature writer, focusing on recreation, fitness and travel.

“One of the high points of his career came in the late ‘70s when he photographed Olympians Al Feurbach and Mac Wilkins while they changed clothes in the men’s room at the Des Moines airport after their Drake Relays performances. But the photo never was published.

“It’s been almost 30 years, and Modersohn still hasn’t gotten over it.”


I worked with Modersohn on the story-and-photo package of Feurbach and Wilkins for the A-Section of the paper that Sunday. Modersohn took a hell of a picture that he says was never used.

Borsellino, of course, missed the whole point of Modersohn’s exit from the paper. If it had been some TV or radio guy who was retiring in his mid-fifties because he was pissed at his bosses, Borsellino would have been all over it like a wet blanket.

But Borsellino misses a lot of things these days. I pointed out his sloppy reporting recently when he wrote of Bill Reichardt’s death. On that story, he was factually wrong and too lazy to research things that could have easily been looked up. The story about Modersohn is another example of his poor reporting,


Incidentally, go to the local paper’s website and you’ll see that the people there are asking for comments on all of the columnists.

Hey, folks, that’s going out of your way to find trouble.

For instance, call up Borsellino’s name and readers are met with this message:

“[Borsellino] wants to read your comments and suggestions about this column.”

I’ll bet. Who knows what ol’ Rob will get in his envelope. Nothing pretty, I’m sure.


While on the subject of envelopes, the Detroit News reports that several newspapers in addition to the local paper and one TV network have received containers of snail poison from unknown sources.

The other papers are the Dallas Morning News, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Detroit News, the Charlotte Observer and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The TV network is CNN.


From a retired newspaper editor and reporter:

“I see the Iowa Associated Press Managing Editors organization has decided that Nancy Clark is the best sports columnist in the state and that Sean Keeler is No. 3.

“I don’t know if that means there is not one good sports column in the state, or if the people who decide the winners have no idea what they are doing.

“Jack Germond of the Baltimore Sun, talking about the judges who select the Pulitzer Prize winners, once said: ‘Most of those guys couldn’t cover a fire.’

“That must be the case here, too.”

[This is what the local paper’s editors get for entering reporters’ and columnists’ work in statewide contests. There once was an editor at the local paper, Jim Gannon, who said the biggest daily in the state had no business entering writing contests like that. But the present editors are so fearful that the parent Gannett Co. will either fire them or send them off to Indianapolis to work with Dennis Ryerson that they enter the contests. Then they’re embarrassed that Clark, who writes sports columns on a parttime basis while also working on the sports copy desk, beats out Keeler, who is supposed to be the No. 1 sports columnist].


George Wine of Coralville sent this letter to the editor at the local paper:

“To the Editor—

“I opened the Register Friday morning eager to read your coverage on the debate between Bush and Kerry, only to find a note on page one telling me to go to your website for ‘complete coverage’ of the event. There wasn’t another word about it in the paper you delivered to me.

“This may come as a surprise, but I subscribe to your paper to read the news. If I wanted to go to your website for that purpose, I would drop my subscription.

“The debate was over at 9:30 p.m., not an unreasonable hour. Surely the Register could have sent a truckload of late-edition papers down I-80 to give us coverage of an event that drew an estimated 60 million TV viewers.

“But since you failed to do that, I went to the newsstand and bought an issue of the Chicago Tribune. It had full debate coverage even though Chicago is more than twice the distance from my home as Des Moines.

“If you truly believe the Register is the paper ‘Iowa Depends Upon’ then please give us a reason to think so.”

[Wine said he received this response from Dick Doak, whose days are numbered as editor of the editorial pages: “You must receive the 1st edition, which goes to press around 9 p.m. I’ll forward your letter to our editors. Thanks.” After receiving that explanation from Doak, Wine e-mailed me: “Hell, I know I’m getting the first edition, which is my complaint. I think my letter to the editor has been place in the round file.” Frankly, I’m surprised anyone in Iowa subscribes to the first edition of the paper. It’s a throw-away, sufficient only to use in a bird cage. The Iowa City Press Citizen, Cedar Rapids Gazette, Quad City Times and Chicago Tribune put much better papers into Iowa City].


I hope you weren’t looking for the results of the Boston-Anaheim baseball playoff game in today’s local paper.

The game – which the Red Sox won, 8-3, lasted 3 hours 48 minutes – and finished at 12:58 a.m. Iowa time.

I guess that was too late to get it into today’s city edition.

Just think, they used to call the now-defunct Des Moines Tribune the “practice paper.”

Now we know what the real practice paper is.


A reader’s comment on the fact that the Chicago Cubs have fined Sammy Sosa one day’s pay—a cool $87,400--for sneaking out of Sunday’s season finale:

“Sosa’s salary is obscene.”


This memo was sent to members of the sports department at the local paper:

“Sports Staff:

“Larry Lehmer had a ‘minor’ heart attack Saturday night. He said Monday morning that he is feeling much better, and doctors say there is no permanent damage.

“Larry is at Mercy Medical Center, but hopes to return home on Tuesday.”

[Lehmer is a longtime sports department employee. He once was assistant sports editor and now is a sports copy editor. He’s a nice guy and a smart guy. However, the problem I’m having with that memo about his heart attack is that no heart attack is “minor.” Just ask anybody who’s had one. The clown who wrote the memo should be shifted to the farm department as the person assigned to fill Jerry Perkins’ gas tank. Meanwhile, get well soon, Larry].


I wanted to find out more about Jason Reid, the Los Angeles Times sportswriter who tangled with Los Angeles Dodgers nutcase Milton Bradley yesterday in St. Louis.

So I got hold of my West Coast Correspondent, who came through again with flying colors. The guy is doing a sensational job and deserves a big-time raise.

If you recall, Bradley, who is black, called Reid, who is black, an “Uncle Tom” and said he was a “sellout.”

Reid, 35, and a veteran of covering the Dodgers for the Times, didn’t particularly like what he was called. The wire service stories say Reid became outraged and had to be held back by several players and coaches.

Reid was fully supported by Bill Dwyre, the former sports copy editor of the local paper who now is sports editor of the Times.

“We back our reporter from every angle of this,” Dwyre said.

Imagine that—a sports editor backing his reporter.

Adding to this bizarre scenario is the fact the AP reported today that several media outlets said the TV crew that taped Bradley’s confrontation with Reid erased the tape at the behest of a Dodgers spokesman.

John Venneman, head of Fox Sports Net Midwest’s news operations, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he was outraged by the pressure to erase the tape. The Fox Sports Net reporter, Brent Stover, said the situation “felt very threatening” and was “very intense,” adding that erasing the tape “felt like it was the best thing to do.”

My West Coast Correspondent kicked in with this good stuff about Reid:

“Jason is a USC grad. Nice, nice guy and really fair with people. Was somewhat unproven when he was handed the Dodger beat,, but arguably has become the Times’ best beat writer. He gives 100 percent every night on what is a bear of a beat, with endless games and brutal deadlines. He’s in a tough spot. The other papers all gang up against the Times and as a result, Jason is the first at the park and last to leave for fear of getting scooped.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jason end up on TV, as he’s a great talker who has something to say compared to a lot of the ‘experts’ I see on the tube.

“I’m really not in the know as to what exactly happened, but Bradley has been on a roll as of late. Although I’m sure my fuse would be short if the hometown and drunken fans were throwing things at me, I’m still mystified as to where Dodger security was that night.

“The next day, Bradley was interviewed by Vin Scully and apologized. He seemed sincere and everybody appeared to give him the benefit of the doubt, even with his history of blowups. Now I can’t imagine he will be back with the club. But as usual, there’s plenty of takers. Looks like good fit for the Cubs to me.”

[I think that Cubs comment was meant for my benefit. Hey, the Cubs will have a couple of outfield vacancies next season—right field and left field. I’m sure Dusty Baker will welcome Bradley with open arms. They deserve each other].


Like my dad always said, if a person wants work, it’s there.

And if there’s nothing open as a Wal-Mart greeter, there’s always something in Baghdad.

Here’s a copy of a Los Angeles Times memo from yesterday:

From: Wolinsky, Leo
Sent: Wednesday, Oct. 06, 2004, 4:36 p.m.
Subject: Baghdad duty


The foreign staff is once again seeking experienced reporters for three- to four-week rotations in Baghdad and for four- to-five-week tours with American forces as embeds. The first rotations begin in November, but the need for volunteers will continue into the new year.

These assignments are extremely dangerous—but the story is also extremely important, and we are keeping a staff of four reporters on the ground to cover it. If this is an opportunity that interests you, please contact me or Foreign Editor Marjorie Miller as soon as possible. Thanks.


[Leo, there are a couple of people at 8th and Locust and in Indianapolis who might be interested. I’ll let ‘em know you’re looking].


A guy tells me he’d like to call Diane Graham to see what she thinks of all the issues at the local paper.

“But I was told she was asleep, and would get back to me as soon as she wakes up,” the guy said.

Well, maybe getting back to callers isn’t part of the deal anymore. A reader writes:

“I was interested in the question of what the hell does Diane Graham do at The Register? Well, she doesn’t reply to inquiries about job openings…..I sent her my resume twice a while back, but got no replies…..”

The question of what Graham does comes up often. Other than tidying up the meeting room that’s used for news conferences, no one is quite sure.

Vol. 4, No. 265
Oct. 7, 2004

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

No Clear-Cut Answer to Iowa's Injuries

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said today there’s “no clear-cut conclusion” that can be made about the unusually-high number of serious injuries suffered by his players this season.

Ferentz’s comment came on the day that Hawkeye running back Jermelle Lewis was ruled out for the rest of the season because of an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his knee sustained in last week’s 38-16 victory over Michigan State.

Lewis, who leads the team with 200 yards rushing, is the third Iowa running back to be lost to a season-ending knee injury already this fall.

Marcus Schnoor and Albert Young both went down with knee injuries earlier in the season.

“Losing Jermelle is extremely disappointing for all of,” Ferentz said. “He hasn’t had a lot of good luck during his college career, and our first and foremost thoughts are concerning his welfare.

“He’s worked awfully hard to get back from previous injuries, and it’s hard to see him suffer this setback.”

Ferentz said Iowa players have already had 10 surgeries this season, adding that coaches and medical people are looking for reasons why there have been so many injuries.

“We had a medical meeting this morning, and I know some talk was going on over the weekend,” Ferentz said. “Anytime you have injuries, you go back and try to analyze.

“I really think a lot of it is very cyclical. In 2002, we sailed right through without many problems at all. We didn’t lose a starter to a surgery. We didn’t have many problems. It was one of those years that went real smoothly, and this one is probably just the opposite.

“It’s part of football. That’s the bottom line. I read an article in, I think the Sporting News, last week about trying to attribute the injuries to the knew brand of turf, which is interesting.

“We’ve had three of our ACL’s this year come on grass. Maybe the conclusion there is that we need to go to the old-fashioned, hard turf. Maybe that was better, but everybody was in an uproar about that.

“When all is said and done, I don’t think there’s any clear-cut conclusion you can come up with.”


Ferentz said he hasn’t seen any videotape yet of Wisconsin this season, “but I’ve seen their statistics and I don’t care who you’re playing, the only stat that really counts on defense is how many points you give up.

It’s phenomenal. They’re doing an outstanding job in that regard.”

Bielema is a former Iowa player and assistant coach, and Ferentz has a lot of admiration for him.

“I remember him coming here as a player when I was an assistant coach in the late-1980s. He was a walk-on from a small town just across the border in Illinois. He ended up being a captain, so that gives you an insight into the kind of intangibles he possesses.

“He was the same way as a coach when I got back here 5 ½ years ago. He was bright-eyed, energetic, eager, intuitive, inquisitive—you name it, he does a good job. He loves coaching and obviously does a very good job at it.”

Bielema left Ferentz’s staff to become co-defensive coordinator with former Iowa and Iowa State player Bobby Elliott at Kansas State, and now is in his first season as defensive coordinator at Wisconsin.


Iowa [1-1 in the Big Ten and 3-2 overall] doesn’t play again until Oct. 16 against Ohio State at Iowa City.

“With the week off, it was good for us to win a football game and end on a positive note,” Ferentz said.

Vol. 4, No. 264
Oct. 5, 2004

Monday, October 04, 2004

Ex-Iowan Harry Burrus Writes About His Father

This goes back a while, when one of the things I was doing
was writing about tennis players.

Tennis players are among my favorite people on this earth. Regardless of how well or how poorly they play, they always have something to say.

And every writer, of course, likes it when people have something to say.

One of the tennis players I enjoyed writing about was a guy named Burrus.

When I wrote about him as a player, he was Hari Burrus. Now he’s Harry Burrus.

“For many years, I went by Hari,” Burrus told me in an e-mail the other day. “That was because my grandfather and father were also Harry [my middle name is different from theirs].”

Burrus had written to me because his father, Harry C. Burrus Jr., died at 83 in Winter Haven, Fla.

More on Harry C. in a minute.

“Early on, there was confusion when we both entered singles, the tournament thinking there had been a double entry,” young Harry explained. “So I decided upon Hari. I thought Harry was too old-fashioned.

“Plus, I wasn’t the Jr. [my father was] and people assumed I was. I kept Hari for 25 years and only went back to Harry in 1989 – liking the idea of its tradition.

“So, my first book has Hari Burrus, the others have Harry Burrus.”

Books? Yes, books.

Harry Burrus writes books.

Very interesting books.

One that got my attention when Harry mailed it to me had photographs of naked [well, mostly naked anyway] women in it.

Harry always knew which books to send me.

“The first book was ‘I DO NOT SLEEP WITH STRANGERS: Confessions of a Tennis Pro,’” Burrus said.

“That one has a photo of topless sunbathers in France on the cover—which reflects a different attitude towards the body and philosophy about life.”

I’ve visited France several times. Yes, there are different attitudes toward the body and a different philosophy about life there.

Burrus listed his other books as “A GAME OF RULES,” “BOUQUET” “WITHOUT FEATHERS,” “THE JAGUAR PORFOLIO: Poems Retrieved, “FOR DEPOSIT ONLY: Selected Poems 1960-75 [which covers poems written as a sophomore in high school through Racquet Club West in West Des Moines], and the last was “CARTOUCHE:”

“Poetry is not a big mover—few people read poetry,” Burrus said.

Of his father, Harry Burrus wrote this:

Harry C. Burrus Jr.

Athlete, Educator, Coach
6 April, 1921-20 Sept., 2004

A Texan Returns

Dr. Harry Clifton Burrus, a third generation Texan, died in Winter Haven, Florida on September 20, 2004. His remains will be returned to Lubbock, Texas, where his parents and grandparents are buried. His father, Harry Sr., ran the Burrus Grocery for over 18 years in the 40s and 50s on 1010 Avenue U. in Lubbock.

Harry C. Burrus Jr., born in Slaton, Texas, graduated from Big Spring (TX) High School at 15 in 1936 and only played one year of high school football. However, at Hardin-Simmons in the early 40s, he was All-Conference and won Little All-America honors. He also lettered in basketball and tennis. His senior year, the spring semester of 1942, he married Wilma Norene Gravis, a member of the Hardin-Simmons Cowgirls, on April 10. He was inducted into the Hardin-Simmons Hall of Fame in the mid-80s.

Burrus was a member of the First Army Air Force Team, the Randolph Field Ramblers, that were National Champions in 1944. Shortly after, he starred on the Fort Worth Skymasters. After graduation from Hardin-Simmons and completing military service, he attended Columbia in New York, where he obtained his Masters and Doctorate. While attending Columbia, he played three years of pro football with the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers in what was then the All America Conference, the antecedent to the NFL. In one game, Burrus intercepted three of Otto Graham’s passes.

Dr. Burrus moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1949 to become a professor at Washington University. He was also a member of the football coaching staff. In the late 50s, he became Athletic Director and greatly increased the number of varsity sports and enhanced WU’s intercollegiate competition. He and Wilma Burrus created the Sports Skill School, a camp for elementary students that introduced them to archery, swimming, tennis, gymnastics, basketball and track.

Dr. Burrus was active in St. Louis tennis and was instrumental in creating the Dwight Davis Tennis Center. He was frequently highly-ranked in singles and doubles. For many years, he was involved with junior development and ranking for the Missouri Valley Tennis Association. He frequently hit and worked with the young Jimmy Connors. Dr. Burrus was responsible for bringing Arthur Ashe to St. Louis in 1960 for Ashe’s senior year of high school and arranging for him to stay with Richard Hudlin.

Dr. Burrus and his wife, Wilma, left St. Louis in the summer of 1966 and moved to Fairfield, Iowa, where they both were professors at Parsons College. Dr. Burrus also coached the Parsons College tennis team and was particularly active in Iowa tennis. He played National Father and Son Tennis in the late 60s and early 70s and, at one time, World Tennis Magazine listed him and his son number two in the United States.

In June of 1973, Dr. Burrus moved to Florida to become a tennis pro full time. He had the highest rating of the USPTA as Master Pro. He was ranked number one in the nation in Men’s 65 singles in the USPTA. Dr. Burrus was preceded in death by his wife, Wilma. He is survived by his brother, Ronald Burrus of Lubbock, his son, Harry Burrus of Houston, and his daughter, Lei Lane Burrus Bammel of Tucson.

“Many don’t realize that my father was an excellent badminton player in St. Louis,” Burrus said. “He was a member of the Polar Bear Club in St. Louis, a group that played volleyball in very cold weather. They’d shovel the snow off the court to play.”

There is much more to the late Harry Burrus Jr…..

“In St. Louis in a Parent & Child tournament—my father and my sister, Lei Lane, defeated Gloria and a pre-teen Jimmy Connors,” the younger Burrus writes.

“My father played in the Blue and Gray Championship football game in Montgomery, Ala., in 1941. He was sent a check to cover his expenses from a Champ Pickens, the general manager of the Blue and Gray Cradle Association, sponsors of the game. It’s particularly interesting given the language [and from a present-day perspective]:

“December 15, 1941
“Dear Mr. Burrus:

:”Herewith your check for $76.17. This will purchase a first class round-trip ticket from Abilene to Montgomery and return. Included in the check is the money for lower Pullman berth each way, money for meals each way figured at $1.50 per meal, and $2.00 each way for tips. You have previously received instructions and know it is optional with you as to how you travel.

“The thing that you must remember now is to be in Montgomery for the first practice, which takes place the morning of December 20th and not to fail to bring your shoes, headgear and pads.

“Looking forward with pleasure to meeting you, and with all good wishes, I am

“Very truly yours


“Champ Pickens
“General Manager

“[There is a postscript written in hand—evidently, my father had written saying he would be leaving from Lubbock].


Your letter just received—I don’t know where Lubbock is, but presume fare is about same—if not, will adjust….

“To save money, my father hitchhiked.”

Of his father’s outstanding performance against Otto Graham of the Cleveland Browns, Burrus said: ”He was called Lighthorse Harry [because of his speed] – intercepted three of Otto Graham’s passes. In those days, one played offense and defense. For every pass intercepted, a player received a bonus of 25 dollars. My father had told my mother that any pass intercepted, he would give her the money.

He was very pleased with his three interceptions. After the game, when he approached my mother, he was very excited over his performance and gave her the money. He said, ‘Isn’t that great?’ She said, ‘How could you have dropped the fourth one?’

“He nearly had four interceptions.”

Harry Burrus tells me, “I was born June 1, 1944 [which makes me 60! Ouch! How can that be?] in Denver at 3:30 a.m. I was only there long enough to have an ice cream cone, and then we were in San Antonio.

“I grew up in St. Louis, starting in kindergarten. We lived in Webster Groves and I attended Parkway High School. I was the leading scorer on the Colts’ basketball team and won the Missouri State High School tennis championship in 1961. I graduated in 1962.

“At Parkway, I was president of the student council and member of the National Honor Society. I had nearly as many scholarship possibilities in basketball as I did in tennis. I went to Trinity for one year and then Washington University in St. Louis.

“I began playing Iowa tournaments in the mid- to late-50s, starting in the 15 and under. At that time, there was the 15 and under category and then the 18 and under—which was a huge jump. Now, of course, it progresses by twos—10s, 12s, 14s, 16s and 18s, etc. I remember playing in a tournament in St. Louis and asking a friend where he’d been recently, as I hadn’t seen him, and he said playing a tournament in Iowa.

That sounded exotic and I immediately gathered information about Iowa tennis. I often played the Burlington tournament in September of each year—it was a wonderful experience…..

“While I was in grad school [broadcasting and film] at Iowa from 1970 to 1972, I was also the assistant tennis coach and played Iowa tennis tournaments and other Missouri Valley tournaments. For two years I taught film and creative writing in Galesburg, Ill.—still playing Iowa tournaments.

“From 1973-1977, I was the tennis pro at Racquet Club West in West Des Moines, and during this time I played Iowa tournaments.

“I moved to Houston in June of 1977. I played tournaments in the Texas Section from 1977 through 2000. I haven’t played since the Houston Coca-Cola Open in April of 2000. I’m in a dormant period.”

Burrus said he has an MA from Iowa and an MFA in Writing from Vermont.

“In 1993, I began a publication called “O!!Zone,” which concentrated on international visual poetry,” he said. “It was recognized as one of the best in the world covering visual poetry. [But] 2001 was the last issue. That, too is dormant.

“I’ve been active as a photographer. I had a one-man show at Houston’s International Foto Fest. My photos have been used by other poets for covers of their books. For many years, I’ve done a lot of collage and my visual work has been exhibited in Europe, Russia, Japan, Chile and Brazil. I continue to be a collagist.

“I’ve written a novel called “Huitzilopochtli, The Hummingbird Wizard” – now I need to find a publisher.

“The focus of my current writing is screenplays. I’ve written eight. I just finished doing a rewrite for a producer on a script called “Carmen.” This is the first time I’ve ever worked on someone else’s writing. The producer is trying to get Enrique Iglesias for the lead. I’m waiting to hear from the producer. I’m working on a new screenplay called “Club Quetzal.”

Burrus said he has “finished the editing of my feature film “Marrakech” in May of this year []. I had been talking to a distributor for months, but the contract we had agreed upon was not the one I received in the mail. Hence, I am looking for a distributor. This is the longest and most frustrating part of indie filmmaking.

“Travel has been important to me, and I utilize it, my journal notes and photography a lot in my writing. I’ve spent time in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Guatemala and Mexico [24 trips]. During the late 60s and early 70s I played an international tournament in San Luis Potosi, Mexico during Semana Santa [Easter].

“At some point, Megan and I plan to move to Mexico. Megan Gabel is my wife and we’ve been together for 24 years. She’s a lawyer.

:”I plan to continue writing screenplays, hopefully making a few films from my scripts. I also want to sell scripts. Eventually, the tennis will be resumed.”

Interesting guy, huh?

Vol. 4, No. 263
Oct. 4, 2004