Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Young Bulldogs Want to Go Dancin' to an NCAA Beat

Drake hasn’t had a winning basketball record since the 1986-87 season and hasn’t appeared in an NCAA tournament in 34 years.

So you’re probably guessing the Bulldogs can only hope for a slow, steady climb back to the Big Dance—otherwise known as the NCAA tournament.

Guess again.

“The goal of this team is to get into the NCAA tournament,” Davis told fans today at the men’s basketball luncheon at Christopher’s Restaurant in Beaverdale.

I marched up to Davis after the lunch to see if I heard him correctly.

“Exactly,” he said. “That kind of thinking [by my players] is absolutely all right with me. You want to encourage that kind of thinking.”

Davis, who is in his second season at Drake, knows all about taking teams to the Big Dance.

He’s the all-time winningest coach at the University of Iowa with a 269-140 record in 13 seasons, and nine of those teams played in the NCAA tournament and two were in the National Invitation Tournament.

Davis stressed that it’s his new players who have designs on making it to the NCAA tournament.

“My older guys—the seniors—maybe don’t think we can do it, but the new guys think we can,” Davis said.

To realize their dreams, Davis said the Bulldogs must get off to a good start in both the non-conference and Missouri Valley Conference schedules.

Both will be challenging.

Indeed, Davis’ son, Keno, an assistant coach at Drake, said he figures the schedule after the first five games will be rated among the 10 or 20 toughest in major-college basketball.

The Bulldogs open Nov. 19 against Akron at the Knapp Center, then play at Iowa State on Nov. 23, against Iowa at the Knapp Center Nov. 30, play at Colorado State on Dec. 4, then open their Valley schedule Dec. 8 at home against Wichita State.

“Iowa, Iowa State and Wichita State played in postseason tournaments last year,” Davis said. “Playing at Colorado State won’t be any picnic either.”

The Bulldogs play their first exhibition game Saturday at the Knapp Center against North Dakota State at 4:05 p.m., then meet Robert Morris in another exhibition at 7:05 p.m. Monday at the Knapp Center.

I asked Davis to name some players who have stood out in practice, and the first name he mentioned was that of Chaun Brooks, a 6-2 junior guard from San Antonio, Texas.

“I think Chaun would be the one guy who has improved the most in the off-season,” Davis said. “He’s very solid and very stable. He’s both an off-guard and a point guard. He’s a good rebounder and also a good defensive guard.

Klayton Korver [a 6-6 sophomore forward from Pella] has improved, too,” Davis said. "His passing is really good. And Pete Eggers [a 6-4 senior forward from Dubuque] has definitely improved. Pete came here as a walk-on, made the top eight or nine last season, suddenly became a starter, then was elected an honorary captain by his teammates at the end of the season.”


Longtime WHO-radio and TV sportscaster Jim Zabel attended the lunch, and Davis said some nice things about him.

Davis said he wanted to tell a story about himself and Zabel, but refrained from doing it.

“I didn’t know how it would go over with the audience,” Davis told me later.

So what was the story?

“Zabel and I were both let go by the University of Iowa, but both of us are still working,” Davis said with a chuckle.


Speaking of Iowa, it was interesting that Ed Crowley, who was the Hawkeyes’ head football trainer for 31 years, was the team’s honorary captain for last week’s game against Purdue.

Crowley was moved to a non-football job before the 2004 season for reasons that have never been explained.

Ironically, this has been one of the worst years in memory for season-ending knee injuries at Iowa. Coach Kirk Ferentz is now down to his fifth-team running back – walk-on Sam Brownlee – because of the injuries.

You’ve got to wonder if Crowley’s presence on the training staff might have made a difference.


After writing some thoughts a few days ago about a few idiot fans at Iowa State who risk their lives and the lives of others by jumping on the goal posts and crossbars at Jack Trice Stadium after big victories, I heard from Tom Kroeschell.

Kroeschell is Iowa State’s associate athletic director in charge of media relations.

I said Iowa State should think about replacing the present goal posts with those that can be collapsed immediately by athletic department officials. Collapsing the posts obviously prevents fans from climbing on them.

Kroeschell e-mailed these comments to me:

“Since 1998, we have employed steel goal posts which NEVER come down. They are not cheap. We did it after the students carried the goal posts out of the stadium after a game in 1997 [a much easier thing at Jack Trice Stadium with wide entry gates than at Kinnick Stadium]. When I was at Northwestern, the students took the downed goal posts and threw them over the side of Ryan Field from the upper deck. Someone could have been killed. In 1992, after the game in which quarterback Marv Seiler led Iowa State to a victory over Nebraska, we had a serious injury when the goal post collapsed on a person. Even collapsed goal posts can be very lethal."

“When we [ISU] were thinking of buying these steel goal posts [the company] showed a video of a game during Northwestern’s 1995 Rose Bowl season when the students stormed the field. They tried everything, but the posts would not come down.”

[I appreciate Kroeschell’s comments. The bottom line is that I’d like to eliminate the danger of any fan being injured by climbing on goal posts or crossbars or being hurt by posts that fall or are falling. The best way to prevent it from happening would be to keep people off the field after games, but apparently there aren’t enough police and other security people in Ames, Iowa City and a million other places around the world to make that happen].


A sharp central Iowa TV guy sent this thought to me in an e-mail:

“Wouldn’t it be interesting if somehow the BCS found a way to match Oklahoma and Wisconsin in one of their bowls if they both remain unbeaten? Alvarez vs. Stoops…..Bielema [defense] vs. Long [offense]. Hayden Fry could do the coin toss!!!!!

[The TV guy was referring to former Iowa coach Hayden Fry and some of his former players and assistant coaches who are coaching at highly-rated Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Bob Stoops is Oklahoma’s coach, Barry Alvarez is Wisconsin’s coach, Bret Bielema is Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator and Chuck Long is Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator. Sounds like a great bowl matchup to me].


A reader sent this e-mail:

“My opinion of Kirk Ferentz leaving Iowa is this: He is not going anywhere until Drew Tate is gone. But what do I know?”

[You probably know quite a bit. I’m pretty sure Ferentz thinks it’s a pretty good idea to hang onto the Iowa coaching job until sophomore quarterback Drew Tate has completed his eligibility. No one can accuse Ferentz of having lost his senses. There will always be another NFL job open when Tate has played his final game for the Hawkeyes].

Vol. 4, No. 275
Nov. 10, 2004