Friday, December 31, 2004

Matt, Your Act Is Getting Old, Good Luck in the NFL

I’m kind of glad Matt Roth will be playing his last football game for Iowa tomorrow.

Frankly, I’m getting a little tired of his act.

One day, his picture is in the local paper, and he’s stiffing a fan in Orlando, Fla., who wanted him to autograph a football helmet.

The next day, the local paper carries a story that says Roth used the middle fingers of both hands to flip off Louisiana State – Iowa’s opponent in the Capital One Bowl – in front of 10,000 to 15,000 Hawkeye fans.

While doing the flipping, Roth said, “I’ve got two words for LSU.”

I guess he wasn’t saying, “We’re No. 1!”

The person who wrote the photo caption said Roth didn’t sign the helmet because the fan couldn’t identify Nile Kinnick, Iowa’s 1939 Heisman Trophy winner and the player for whom the stadium in Iowa City is named.

Hell, I’ll bet there are plenty of guys who play football for Iowa now who don’t know if Kinnick was a standout Hawkeye player, a former Iowa coach or a physics professor.

I couldn’t tell how old the fan was who didn’t get Roth’s autograph. It looked like a young fan, but I hope it was an old fan.

The old fan might understand someone like Roth. A young one probably won’t.

And, as for Roth flipping off LSU in front of thousands of Iowa fans, then later apologizing for it [probably after being told to do so by pissed-off school officials], well…… have a nice career in the NFL, Matt.

I think Hawkeye football will somehow survive without you.


My sympathy to Mike Henderson’s family. Mike was a wonderful human being and a tireless worker.

We’ll all miss him.

"Mike Henderson was one of a kind," Harold Yeglin, a retired sports copy editor at the local paper, wrote me in an e-mail today. "He and Chuck Burdick will be talking over old times up there in the great press box in the sky."

Burdick, who covered high school and college sports for the local paper, died a number of years ago.

A memorial service and visitation for Henderson, the longtime Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union facts and figures man, has been scheduled for Monday at the Drake Knapp Center.

Visitation is from 4 to 8 p.m. There will be a program beginning at 5 p.m;

A memorial fund has been established in memory of Mike. Contributions may be made to the Mike Henderson Scholarship Fund, in care of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union.


Man, how times change.

I can't imagine this happening now, although maybe it should once in a while.

In the AP story that talked about the death, at 64, of former Ohio State all-America fullback Bob Ferguson, it was mentioned that his 1961 Buckeye team turned down a Rose Bowl invitation because administrators at the university thought it was becoming known as simply a football school.

Minnesota went in Ohio State's place, and wound up beating UCLA, 21-3.

I wonder what those administrators would say about Ohio State, Maurice Clarett and the rest of that football scandal going on in Columbus now.

Woody Hayes was Ohio State's coach in 1961, and the 220-pound Ferguson was a star in ol' Woody's "three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust" offense. Ferguson ran for 2,162 yards in 1959, 1960 and 1961.

He scored 26 touchdowns, including four against Michigan in 1961, when the Buckeyes won, 50-20, to climax an 8-0-1 season. Ferguson was the Heisman Trophy runnerup that season.

Ferguson died Thursday in Columbus of complications from diabetes.


I haven’t seen “Meet the Fockers” yet.

I probably won’t, either. I’m sure it’s going to be a hit at the box office without my help.

However, I have seen “Phantom of the Opera” and I liked it.

And I plan to see “The Aviator.”

Maybe I’ll like that movie, too.


Perhaps you remember Daniel P. Finney – who was known as Dan Finney when he worked for the local paper.

I wrote about him a few days ago. Finney then was employed as a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

But he made the mistake of taking potshots at his bosses while writing under a phony name in a “blog” – or web-based column.

The Post-Dispatch suspended Finney, and now he has resigned.

“The blog contained unflattering remarks about Finney’s employer and story subjects,” Ben Westhoff wrote in the Riverfront Times.

“Finney’s hard drive was seized on Dec. 16, and he was suspended around the same time,” Westhoff wrote. “Apparently, the St. Louis Newspaper Guild then entered into discussion with Post brass about Finney’s fate. A week later, he resigned. Neither the Post nor Finney would discuss the details of the resignation, but Finney says that the paper did not pressure him.

“’I was an honorable person, and I observed church and state,’ Finney says. ‘I would have never used company equipment to write that blog or to conduct any personal business.’

’I think he made a very courageous decision to resign,’ says Post director of industrial relations Mike Hammett……I hope he finds another opportunity in journalism someplace.’”

Westhoff said Finney’s blog was “written under the pseudonym Roland H. Thompson and included the topics of his articles before they appeared in the paper.

“’As a journalist, it was a kid’s mistake,’ says Finney, ‘and I’m old enough to know better, and I regret it.’”


This obviously won’t go down as a Happy New Year for Daniel P. Finney or his pal Roland H. Thompson, but let me say those words – Happy New Year – to everyone, even the guy who e-mailed me the other day to wonder why I “never have anything positive to say about the Clones” and that I should **** myself.

I still think that’s physically impossible.

And, no, I’m not saying it’s impossible to write something positive about the Clones.

Vol. 4, No. 293
Dec. 31, 2004

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

McCarney Proves He's the Right Guy for Iowa State Job

There. That should settle it.

Anybody still disagree with me that Dan McCarney is the right guy for the Iowa State football coaching job?

When I saw McCarney getting a Gatorade shower delivered by his jubilant players in the final seconds of the Poulan Weed Eater – oops! I mean Independence Bowl! – last night, I was convinced more than ever that Iowa State should do all it can to keep him.

What other guy could’ve had the Cyclones in a bowl game for the fourth time in five seasons? What other guy could’ve been responsible for breathing enough life into a 2-10 team in 2003 to produce a 7-5 record in 2004?


Probably not even the legendary Pop Warner, who coached Iowa State more than a century ago.

McCarney is the best coach to come along in Iowa State football since Earle Bruce roamed the sidelines from 1973-1978.

No, change that. He’s better than Bruce and better than Johnny Majors, who preceded Bruce.

Majors and Bruce each took two Cyclone teams to bowl games and didn’t win any of them. McCarney has already coached two bowl victories.


Pretty funny stuff on the Iowa State sideline last night.

When the two Cyclone players were hauling the Gatorade container behind McCarney’s back to surprise him with the shower, one said to his teammates, “Get the fuck out of the way!”

The comment could be heard on the ESPN telecast just before time expired in Iowa State’s 17-13 victory over Miami of Ohio.


Said McCarney after the game:

“We’ve come a long way from being an underdog to [Division I-AA] Northern Iowa in our first game.”


After last night, it’s obvious what Cyclone fans are going to be seeing in the 2005 season.

Iowa State finally has the makings of a strong running game with junior-to-be Stevie Hicks, the No. 1 tailback, and sophomore-to-be Bret Meyer, the quarterback.

Hicks ran for 159 yards in 27 carries and Meyer ran 23 times for 122 yards as the Cyclones totaled 295 yards on the ground—a school record for a bowl game.

McCarney said Meyer “has a lot of elusiveness. His running was definitely going to be a big part of our game. Those weren’t plays that broke down. They were designed running plays.”

With what McCarney has coming back, I’m wondering what the fate will be of Jason Scales, the former West Des Moines Valley tailback who was a Cyclone backup as a freshman.


Something that I’d make sure happens in 2005: Get the ball to Todd Blythe, the 6-5 receiver from Indianola. Blythe caught just three passes last night, but was open several more times and wasn’t thrown the ball by Meyer.


Iowa State’s Ellis Hobbs should think about hiring Bill Curry as his agent.

Curry spent 17 years as a coach at Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky, and is now an ESPN announcer. He worked the Iowa State-Miami game.

He kept raving about Hobbs. When the senior defensive back from DeSoto, Texas, intercepted a pass to seal the victory, Curry praised him by saying, “I know TV announcers are not supposed to root for teams, but we can root for players.”


I guess I’m questioning the intelligence of Terry Hoeppner.

Hoeppner is leaving the security of the Miami of Ohio coaching job to take over at Indiana.

Agreeing to coach football at Indiana makes about as much sense as coaching beach volleyball in Alaska.


Miami officials did their best to get their players jacked up mentally for the game by announcing in the locker room before the game – in front of the ESPN cameras—that offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery would succeed Hoeppner.

But that announcement didn’t have the intended result. Miami was flat emotionally early in the game. Iowa State had a chance to put the RedHawks away, but couldn’t get the job done.


Once the Poulan Weed Eater Bowl, always the Poulan Weed Eater Bowl.

People used to laugh at the bowl when the Weed Eater company sponsored it. I guess a lot of folks were still laughing—somewhere other than in the stadium--last night.

Only 32,145 – roughly 5,000 from Iowa State – showed up. The attendance for Iowa State’s 14-13 loss to Alabama in the 2001 game at Shreveport was 45,627.


It’s hard to believe this was the first victory by a Big 12 Conference team in seven Independence Bowl tries.


It’s turning out to be great time for Iowa State football.

Not only did the Cyclones win their bowl game, a former quarterback at Iowa State is making news in the National Football League.

Rosenfels passed for 308 yards Dec. 28, 2000 when Iowa State beat Pittsburgh, 37-29, in the Bowl at Phoenix.

The AP reports that Sage Rosenfels, who lettered from 1997-2000, will likely make his first NFL start Sunday when the Miami Dolphins play Baltimore.

A.J. Feeley aggravated a rib injury in last week’s 10-7 victory over Cleveland and is listed as doubtful.

Rosenfels has played in eight games during his three seasons with Miami, completing four of 10 passes for one touchdown and no interceptions. He’s thrown just one pass this season—and it was incomplete.

Rosenfels has become a fan favorite over the past three years. He received a loud ovation when he entered last week’s game.

“He came into the game for one play, and everyone went nuts,” teammate David Bowens said.

Rosenfels hopes the fans feel the same way after Sunday’s game.

Everyone loves a backup quarterback until he gets in,” he said. “This is like any other week. I’m going to get ready to play just like any other week.”


What a hell of a way to put out a sports section.

This morning's local paper had a small insert that had this message for readers: Notre Dame results available on Web

Following that headline, the story said, "Tuesday night's Insight Bowl featuring Oregon State and Notre Dame was not finished when this edition of the Register went to press. A score and game story can be found at

For those of you who think that's a shabby way for The Newspaper Fewer and Fewer Iowans Depend On to treat its readers, here's what happened in the game at Phoenix:

This was the game that some Notre Dame players had dedicated to Ty Willingham, who had been fired as the Fighting Irish coach. It turns out that very few players were dedicating it to Willingham.

Maybe one. Maybe two.

Frankly, I doubt that Willingham cared. I'll bet he didn't even watch the game. And I know damn well he didn't read about it on the local paper's website.

Oregon State won, 38-21, giving Notre Dame's seven straight bowl losses. Kent Baer was serving as the Irish's interim coach. Baer will be in one of two places next fall: Either the line coach at Dowling High School or on the night shift at Firestone.

Vol. 4, No. 292
Dec. 29, 2004

Saturday, December 25, 2004

On Christmas 2004, This Iowan Is a Living Miracle

A central Iowa man I know has always enjoyed Christmas and the things that go with it.

But Christmas 2004 has turned out to be one that’s extra special for him and those around him.

Ten days ago, he received a telephone call at 5:35 p.m.

It was the surgeon’s nurse.

“I have good news,” she said. “The mass is gone.”

There was only one way that the man could look at that.

He had just experienced a miracle.

THE STORY starts Oct. 26.

It was a Tuesday evening. It was already dark and the man was carrying the garbage down to the street for the Wednesday morning pickup.

He had to cough. He thought there was phlegm in his throat.

He coughed. Bright red blood was in his mouth.

The same thing happened two or three more times.

He told his wife and son he’d better go to the emergency room.

The bleeding had stopped once he got to the hospital. He figured that was good news.

The emergency room physician examined him, the doctor and several nurses began giving him a number of tests.

He had a chest X-ray, they drew blood from his left arm.

The early news seemed positive.

“The X-ray and the bloodwork are all right,” he was told by a nurse.

“What’s next?” the man asked.

You’ll have to stay overnight,” the physician said. “They’ll want to do more testing tomorrow.”

THE MAN was uneasy.

I’d feel the same way,” the doctor told him.

That didn’t make the man feel any better.

By that time, another physician had entered the picture. He specialized in lungs and what might be wrong with them.

The lung specialist agreed that the man should stay overnight.

The man didn’t sleep well that night at the hospital.

The first order of business Oct. 27 was a bronchoscope. That’s an uncomfortable exam, done with a flexible tube that has a light at the end and is inserted through a nostril, to examine the lungs and other parts of the chest.

One of the main reasons it’s done is to diagnose or rule out cancer.

The doctor—the same lung specialist who had examined the man in the emergency room—carefully looked inside the man’s chest, saying little.

“Did you find anything?” the man asked when the procedure was completed.

He doesn’t remember getting a straight answer. However, he was kind of woozy, so maybe he didn’t hear what the doctor said.

The man was taken back to his hospital room, still uncertain if the doctor had found any reason for the bleeding that had taken place.

Later that day, another doctor came to see him. He was there to inspect his nasal areas to see if that’s where the bleeding originated.

It was obvious to the man that there was still uncertainty.

Another test – a CAT Scan – followed. That was to zero in on certain areas of the body to get some three-dimensional looks.

THE MAN stayed in the hospital yet another night.

The following day, another physician came to see him in his room.

Accompanying the man was another doctor – a young woman. The male doctor introduced the female doctor to the man.

The male doctor did all the talking. The female doctor stayed in the background.

“We’re working to get you out of the hospital as soon as possible,” the doctor told the man.

The patient tried to relax. He couldn’t.

The tone of the conversation changed quickly.

“They’ve found a mass,” the doctor – also a lung specialist – told him. “That usually indicates lung cancer.”

The man was stunned.

He said he has smoked a total of two cigarettes in his entire life, and tried to inhale just once. But, like all of us, he’s been around a lot of second-hand smoke, and he had smoked an occasional cigar in his younger days.

It doesn’t surprise doctors these days to find a non-smoker who has lung cancer. Smoking obviously isn’t the only reason people get the disease.

The lung specialist visiting with the man attempted to paint the situation with an optimistic brush.

“We think a surgeon can remove the mass you have,” he said.

“It’s at the tip of the lung. The lower lobe of the left lung will be removed. You may not even need chemotherapy or radiation.”

The man listened carefully, but he also was thinking to himself.

He had gone through life wondering how a doctor tells a patient he might have cancer.

He had just found out.

THE MAN tried to think of something intelligent to ask.

He didn’t want to say something like, “How long do I have?” or, “Am I going to make it?”

Instead, he said, “How does it look?”

The doctor was ready for that question.

“You’ve been beating the odds all your life,” said the doctor, who was familiar with the man’s medical history.

“If you have the surgery, you have a 60 percent chance of being around five years from now. Without the surgery, it’s 10 percent.”

“I’m having the surgery,” the guy said.

“Good, we’ll schedule it,” the doctor said.

The man went home later that day. Naturally, he was uncomfortable with the news. It had changed his life dramatically.

Thanksgiving was on the way. Then Christmas. Naturally, the medical situation would be on his mind every day.

More testing followed. A PET Scan was ordered. That would tell if the cancer – if, indeed, that was what had invaded the man’s lung – had spread.

Following the PET Scan, the man visited the surgeon’s office. The surgeon, who operates mainly on lungs and hearts, was a very pleasant man.

“For some reason, I felt better after talking with him,” the man said at the time.

The surgeon had told the man that the mass in his lung was 3 centimeters in size.

“Do you think it’s malignant?” the man asked.

“I don’t know,” the surgeon said. “It’s 50-50. Knowing you’re a non-smoker makes me feel a lot better. Seeing what you look like makes me feel better, too.”

The man had been praying a lot in the days before he visited the surgeon’s office. He prayed a lot in the days that followed, too. He also knew other people were praying for him.

THE SURGERY was scheduled for Nov. 22, a few days before Thanksgiving. The man was supposed to be at the hospital by 5:30 a.m., the surgery was scheduled for 7:30 a.m.

“You’re the first one on the doctor’s schedule that day,” the nurse said on the phone.

The man, his wife and his oldest son arrived at the hospital early Nov. 22. Another of his sons arrived at around 6 a.m. His third son was also scheduled to be there in a few minutes.

All of the pre-surgery work was being done. The man was already in the hospital clothing that was assigned to him. A nurse had drawn blood out of his left arm and an IV was about ready to be attached to an arm.

“Just a minute,” a nurse said. “Don’t do the IV yet,” she told another nurse.

It turned out there was a problem.

The surgeon came to see the patient.

“The bloodwork shows that your blood is not clotting quickly enough,” the doctor said. “I don’t want to operate until that is cleared up. I’m going to have you go to a hematologist to find out what’s happening.

“This is not a life-or-death situation. If it was, I would operate today. But it isn’t. So I’m postponing the surgery.”

Without being told, it was obvious to the man that the surgeon didn’t want him to bleed to death on the operating table while the lung was being repaired.

An appointment was made for the man to visit a hematologist—a doctor who specializes in blood disorders.

More blood was drawn from the man’s arm that day. He visited with the doctor about the situation. The doctor put him at ease. He didn’t think there would be a major problem.

There wasn’t.

In a few days, when the test results were in, the doctor said he saw no reason why the lung surgery couldn’t take place.

So the surgery was rescheduled for Dec. 16. But, because so much time had elapsed since the doctors said he had a mass in his left lung in late-October, the surgeon’s nurse said the man should have another CAT Scan.

HE WENT to the hospital to have that done on a Thursday afternoon.

It seemed routine.

Again, the man and his family were scheduled to be at the hospital at 5:30 a.m. for a 7:30 a.m. procedure Dec. 16.

The man tried to be optimistic. He figured he’d have part of his lung removed and be on the road to recovery by Christmas.

Then came the phone call from the surgeon’s nurse at 5:35 p.m. Dec. 15—the evening before the surgery.

“We have the results of your latest CAT Scan,” she told the man. “I have good news. The mass is gone.”

The man was listening on a downstairs telephone that sits on the desk next to his computer. His wife was listening on an upstairs phone.

Neither could believe what the nurse had just said.

A mass [actually, that’s a name used by medical people instead of “tumor”] isn’t supposed to go away, especially if it’s malignant. It’s supposed to stay there and continue to grow. Unless or until, of course, it’s removed.

The nurse put the surgeon on the phone.

The man asked what he thought the mass might have been.

“It could have been pneumonia you had at some time,” the doctor said.

I don’t think it's cancer. We’ll order another CAT Scan for you in two months and, if all is going well, I won’t have to see you again.”

The man was speechless.

He had just had a starring role in a miracle.

The man called his sons, his daughters-in-law and his grandchildren.

“You know what?” one of his daughters-in-law said when she heard the news.

“When Shelby [one of the man’s granddaughters] found out you were going to have surgery, she prayed. She said, ‘Why doesn’t the mass just disappear?’

"I’d say her prayers were answered.”

So would I.

Vol. 4, No. 291
Christmas Day, 2004

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Reporter from D.M. Suspended by St. Louis Newspaper

I didn’t know Dan Finney well when both he and I worked at the local paper.

Because there's a 40-year difference in our ages, that doesn’t surprise me.

But I’ve been reading about the Des Moines native on the Poynter journalism website, and he’s been leading a pretty interesting life lately.

Finney, who studied journalism at Drake, has been suspended by his employer – the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Under a headline that said, “Post-Dispatch writer suspended after bosses discover his blog,” Poynter credited the Riverfront Times for this:

“Post-Dispatch managers took staff writer Daniel P. Finney’s hard drive as evidence of his blogging [he wrote under the pseudonym ‘Roland H. Thompson’], then suspended him. Ben Westhoff reports: ‘In his blog, begun this past September, ‘Roland H. Thompson’ – a reference to a song by one of Finney’s favorite musical artists, the laste Warren Zevon – took frequent, thinly veiled potshots against his employer and co-workers. He also wrote about stories he was working on for the paper.”

By the way, for all you non-newspaper and non-media folks out there, the term “blog” is short for “weblog.” It can be many things—a column like what I write, a journal, a diary, whatever.

If I were to make a wild guess, it would be that Finney is pissed. I know I’d be pissed if somebody took my hard drive.

By the same token, I certainly can see why Finney’s employers didn’t like it that he took written potshots at them. What's too bad is that he didn’t use his own name on the blog to take his shots.

Plenty of people would call that gutless.

I asked a guy who was at the local paper during some of the years I was there what he remembered about Finney.

”I barely remember Dan Finney,” the guy said. “These days, I barely remember anything.

“I remember that he was an intern, doing all the things that interns do. I don’t recall that he was ever a full-time member of the staff. I think he went to work at the Omaha paper as soon as he got out of school, but I am probably mistaken.”

Actually, I’m pretty sure that Finney was a full-timer at the local paper before going to USA Today, the Omaha World-Herald, then to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

I looked up Finney in the Google site on the Internet, and there are stories listed that he wrote while working at the four newspapers.

There was also this sketch from the 1990s of Finney that was written in a Drake publication:

“Daniel P. Finney is a native of Des Moines, Iowa. The Drake university senior in news-editorial is the first student to serve two years as executive editor of The Times-Delphic, Drake's student newspaper, in the paper's 115-year history. He is the winner of a 1996 William Randolph Hearst Award for excellence in feature writing and a 1995 winner of an Iowa Newspaper Association Award for excellence in feature writing. He enjoys Drake women's basketball and is an avid New York Yankees fan.”

Finney’s problems began unfolding when this appeared in the Riverfront Times:

Local Blog O' the Week

Rage, Anguish and Other Bad Craziness in St. Louis


About the blogger: Past entries indicate that the blogger -- a Warren Zevon fan who took his nom de blog from Zevon's 1978 ditty "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" -- works in the newsroom of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. reports that Thompson's profile has been viewed 32 times since he commenced blogging in September and that he averages six posts per week.

Here’s the more recent article on Finney from the Riverfront Times:

Originally published by Riverfront Times Dec 22, 2004
©2004 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.

Attack of the Blog

A Post reporter is suspended for extracurricular Internet activities


Following publication of an Unreal item in last week's Riverfront Times, newsroom management at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch seized the computer hard drive of staff writer Daniel P. Finney and suspended him from reporting duties.

The Unreal piece, "Local Blog o' the Week," highlighted an online diary written under the pseudonym Roland H. Thompson. Though Finney did not identify himself by name in the blog, titled "Rage, Anguish and Other Bad Craziness in St. Louis," he chronicled minute details of his life, including lengthy passages about his job as a Post-Dispatch features writer.

Sources at the Post who informed Riverfront Times of Finney's suspension say the newsroom was abuzz over the action, thought to be one of only a few instances in which an American journalist has been disciplined because of a personal blog.

At press time, the terms of Finney's suspension remained unclear. Reached by phone, a distraught Finney declined to comment for this story. A call seeking comment from Post-Dispatch editor Ellen Soeteber was not returned; Susan Hegger, assistant managing editor for features, says the paper does not comment on personnel matters. Jeff Gordon, president of the St. Louis Newspaper Guild, did not return a voicemail requesting comment.

Several of Finney's colleagues at the Post-Dispatch provided an account of last week's events, on the condition that their names not appear in print.
They say Finney's hard drive was confiscated on Thursday, December 16, the day after the Unreal item was published, and that he was informed of his suspension shortly thereafter.

A 29-year-old native of Des Moines, Iowa, Finney came to the Post in May, 2003 after stints at USA Today, the Des Moines Register and the Omaha World-Herald. For the Post's "Everyday" section, Finney specialized in youth and culture, reviewing books, comics and DVD releases, as well as the occasional feature profile. One colleague says Finney's work received mixed reviews in the newsroom. "The features staff -- the brass -- thought he was swell," the source says. "The young people thought he was an idiot."

Others noticed his eccentric habits, including a desk crowded with action figures. In his blog, begun this past September, "Roland H. Thompson" -- a reference to a song by one of Finney's favorite musical artists, the late Warren Zevon -- took frequent, thinly veiled potshots against his employer and co-workers. He also wrote about stories he was working on for the paper. An example: "Today was an absolute abomination. It began unwillingly at 7:30 a.m. when I was forced from my sweet, gentle slumber to go to work on a hideously lame story involving Santa Claus and the Hard Rock Cafe."

In another entry, he poked fun at the subjects of the Post's annual "100 Neediest Cases" feature. "Speaking of dicks, I've been reading the Post-Dispatch's annual 100 Neediest Cases stories," he wrote on December 2. "The bottom line is that there are a lot of poor people who need stuff. It is a worthy cause. And, at some level, I feel sorry for these people. But at another level, one in which your friend Crazy Roland is much more in touch with, I must admit that I feel as if a good number of these needy cases could be avoided by a well-placed prophylactic."

Six days later, a "100 Neediest Cases" installment carried Finney's byline.

Firing employees for their private blogs is nothing new. U.S. Senate mail clerk Jessica Cutler made national headlines earlier this year when she lost her job after detailing her sexual escapades with Senate staffers. "There were a rash of firings and other diciplinary procedures when private Web pages first came out and again when blogs first came out," writes Clyde Bentley, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, in an e-mail response to a request for comment. "Most companies developed policies, similar to their other "moonlighting" policies.

Generally, if the material was collected and processed at work, it is supposed to stay at work. Many companies, however, co-opted the process by sponsoring the blogs of their employees and making the blog a part of their regular work."

The instances of reporters being fired for their online activities is relatively rare. In 2002 the Houston Chronicle fired fifteen-year veteran reporter Steve Olafson for the contents of his blog, "The Brazosport News." Writing under the pseudonym Banjo Jones, Olafson aired his opinions about the Chronicle and about local politicians he covered for the paper.

"If you're an employee of a news organization you ought to know that anything you publish gets read by people," says Robert Niles, editor of the University of Southern California Annenberg's Online Journalism Review. "If you're going to embarrass yourself on a personal Web site and think that your employer or people who know your employer aren't going to find out about it, then you're a fool. You should know better than that. If you're a good reporter, you'd find somebody else doing it, so you've got to figure that somebody else is going to find out on you.

"There are a lot of people in the news industry that like attention," Niles goes on. "We certainly are not in this for the fabulous money. We get paid in attention, and sometimes if you don't feel like you're getting enough attention at your day job, you go looking for other ways to get attention. Sometimes you find good ways of doing that, sometimes you find less than appropriate ways of doing that."

Finney's blog, which was located at, appears to have been taken down sometime last Thursday.

Staff writer Malcolm Gay contributed to this story.

Vol. 4, No. 290
Dec. 23, 2004

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Alford Feels 'Bittersweet' After His Biggest Iowa Victory

We saw tonight why Bobby Knight wouldn't mind bailing out of Lubbock, Texas, so he could take the Southern California coaching job.

Nobody--certainly not Knight--would want to continue coaching the Texas Tech team that had 10 shots blocked [six by Erek Hansen], committed 21 turnovers and was blown out by 17th-ranked Iowa, 83-53, in Chicago.

Without a doubt, it was Steve Alford's biggest victory in his six season as the Hawkeyes' coach.

But judging by Alford's postgame comments, he didn't enjoy it as much as all of us might think.

"Coaches have many, many players, but players have only one college coach," the AP reported he said. "So I'm happy for the team, I'm happy for the players. But it's a little bittersweet for me.

"I still much more enjoy being on coach Knight's side than going against him."

Knight had been 3-0 against Alford, his former star player at Indiana, but the kid made the old man pay a big-time price tonight.

Actually, I'm kind of surprised Knight didn't get two quick technical fouls so he would've been kicked out of the game by the officials. Then he wouldn't have had to watch the rest of it.

I certainly haven't seen every game Knight has coached at Indiana and Texas Tech, but if this isn't the worst team he's ever had at either school, I wouldn't want to want to be on hand to view a poorer one.

What I can't figure out is what's gone wrong with Knight's recruiting. There was a time in his coaching career when he'd never put up with the lousy talent he has on this Texas Tech team.

Indeed, Knight is in for some long, long days and nights in the Big 12 Conference this winter, folks.

The 30-point loss was his worst at Texas Tech since a 90-50 drubbing No. 1-ranked Kansas gave him March 9, 2002.

"Steve's team, I think they've done a really good job with it," Knight said.

I can't see any way Alford can screw this team up. Now 10-1, the Hawkeyes are headed for a 15-1 record going into their Big Ten showdown Jan. 20 at Illinois.

Illinois, Michigan State and Iowa are clearly the best teams in the conference, and I'm not ready to say they'll finish in that order in the final standings. I feel the Hawkeyes can do better.


For the first time in my memory, Knight came across as looking like just another white-haired old man as he shuffled across the court to congratulate Alford after the game.

And something that really looked ridiculous to me was the O'Reilly Auto Parts logo that Knight was wearing on his sweater.

Talk about a sellout. What's next, Knight or some other coach coming onto the floor wearing a Viagra logo? Hey, if the money's right, they'll do it.


Iowa's women's basketball team had the misfortune of playing Western Illinois on the same night that the Hawkeye men were appearing on ESPN2 against Texas Tech.

The women drew a palty gathering of 3,232 fans in 15,500-seat Carver-Hawkeye Arena at Iowa City despite pushing their record to 10-0.

But don't blame the men's game on TV for that. Iowa's women have been a terrible box office draw all season. They'd been averaging only 3,654 fans per home game going into the Western Illinois game.

The biggest disappointment was that only 4,682 showed up for the Dec. 1 game against Iowa State--an 89-80 Hawkeye victory.

There's a lot of work that must be done by people in the athletic department and the ticket office. Those attendance figures are awful, especially for an unbeaten team in a state that prides itself in being a big-time believer in girls' and women's basketball.


The poor local paper.

It again came up a bridesmaid, not a bride.

The bosses there thought they had a news editor hired, only to find out it was all a dream.

Or a nightmare. Take your pick.

Oh, well. At least no one at 8th and Locust had to spend much time researching whether the new guy’s first name was James or Bob. Or both.

“It took a year to find this guy. I suppose it will take another year to
find someone else,” a former editor and reporter at the local paper said in an e-mail to me.

Here’s s copy of the memo that was distributed inside the newsroom yesterday:

"From: Church, Gage

"Sent: Monday, December 20, 2004 4:19 PM

"Subject: News editor news

"I learned today that Bob Hagerty will not be joining the Register as
news editor. On Friday -- what was to be his last day at the Wall Street Journal--
his editors offered him the opportunity to stay with the Journal, keep his current position and "New York" salary, and live to the Midwest.

"The move to Iowa was a major factor in his seeking a different job, as his elderly parents live in North Dakota. Being able to locate closer to them while keeping a six-figure salary was a no-brainer.

"While I'm disappointed that Bob won't be working with us, there is a
silver lining: I'll be able to work with you good folks as news editor for a while
longer. The search for a permanent news editor will begin anew in January.

"Thanks for your patience, and please let me know if you have

WELL, I'VE got a few. Questions, I mean.

First of all, why did Hagerty think he’d be happy in Des Moines in the first place? I mean, he’s already worked in New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong and Brussels.

How the hell was he going to survive the excitement on Saturday nights in Des Moines? I mean, you can only watch so many movies at the new mall.

Why – really, why – did he change his mind?

And, finally, what’s the guy’s name – James or Bob?

THIS IS WHAT it says about James or Bob on the Wall Street Journal website:

"James R. [Bob] Hagerty has covered housing and economics for The Wall Street Journal since January 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in economics and journalism from the University of North Dakota. Since graduating in 1978, he has worked as a reporter and editor for The Wall Street Journal and for its overseas editions in New York, Hong Kong, London, Brussels and Atlanta. He has served as managing editor of The Asian Wall Street Journal and London bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. He also has worked for the International Herald Tribune in Paris and London."

Ho-hum. I’ll bet Mia Bush is laughing somewhere.


Now on to more interesting things.

An eastern Iowa woman e-mailed me to tell me about her son.

He and Bella, his pup, were jogging out by the pond this afternoon,” the woman explained.

“The pup ran out on the ice and went through. She couldn't get out, so my son had to go in after her.

“He’s not much of a swimmer under the best conditions. First he got one of the floating rafts out of the storage bin on the deck and tried to reach it out for the dog to get up on, but it was too slick.

“So, with the raft at his side, he jumped in and rescued her. In the process he lost his telephone.

“He decided it must be at the bottom of the pond. He took another phone out and retraced his steps ringing his cell phone, but never did find it.”


Hardly anything goes on at Southern California--or anywhere else in sports--without former Iowan Al Schallau having an opinion about it.

Recent days have been exciting at USC. Rick Majerus, the portly former basketball coach who was working for ESPN, agreed to coach the Trojans, starting next season.

Then, after thinking about it for a day, he abruptly changed his mind and returned to ESPN.

“When his hiring was announced, my reaction was, ‘Majerus walked out on the Utah basketball team last January with half the regular season and the NCAA tournament remaining,” Schallau said.

“What would stop him from doing the same thing to USC? He can use his seven by-passes and his chronic overweight condition to justify ANYTHING anytime.'

“Hiring [former Iowa State coach] Tim Floyd is not real thrilling. I think he is rather ordinary as a head coach. I would much prefer that USC hire George Karl as its next basketball coach.

“I grew up in Iowa City and graduated from Iowa. We Hawkeye fans were thrilled when George Raveling left Iowa to take the USC job. There are thousands of basketball fans in Iowa who would be equally thrilled if USC lured Steve Alford away from Iowa City.

“One thing I will say on Rick Majerus' behalf: We hardcore basketball fans will be well-served by him serving as a basketball analyst on ESPN. I think he will be excellent in that job.”

Vol. 4, No. 289
Dec. 21, 2004

Monday, December 20, 2004

Crowds at ISU, Elsewhere Are Embarrassingly-Low

Attention, Wayne Morgan:

It was just a few weeks ago that you engaged in some double-talk, at first suggesting that you might want to consider some future schedule-changing for your Iowa State basketball team.

It was right after your Cyclones’ 73-46 victory over Drake that you said something about wanting to alter your scheduling of this state’s other Division I teams.

Some of us took that to mean you didn’t want to continue playing Drake and Northern Iowa. Heck, for all I know, maybe you didn’t even think much of playing Iowa.

The thing that got me ticked off was that this is only your third season of coaching in this state—two as a head coach, one as an Iowa State assistant—yet you talked like you wanted to change something that had been going on for nearly a century.

I mean—hey, man--the Drake-Iowa State basketball series began in 1907-08,

After someone apparently pointed out to you what you had said in your postgame comments, you quickly did an about-face. The next day, you said your remarks were “misinterpreted.”

So here we are, nearly a month later. Iowa State has a 6-2 record and is drawing embarrassingly-low crowds at Hilton Coliseum for its games.

Ironically, the crowd of 10,426 that watched the Drake game Nov. 23 is the second-largest the Cyclones have attracted in their 14,092-seat arena. The biggest home crowd has been 12,224 for the Virginia game.

Hilton Magic? That became past tense when Johnny Orr left the building.

Iowa State’s other home games have drawn four-figure crowds—9,632 for Northern Colorado, 8,936 for Howard, 8,914 for Bucknell and 8,705 for Wagner.

Any day now, look for the school’s ticket office to put ads in the paper, saying something about upper-level seats being lowered to $6 each.

Maybe less than that.

A guy told me the other day that he drove to Ames for the Drake game, hoping to buy a ticket outside the arena.

No problem, it turned out.

“Someone was holding up a whole handful of tickets he was trying to sell,” the guy told me.

“How much for one,” I asked him. “It’s a good seat.”

“Ten bucks,” he said.

“So I bought it,” the guy said. “Not until later did I see $2 on the ticket. So I got screwed out of $8.”


Iowa State isn’t the only Division I school in the state having trouble drawing fans.

They aren’t beating down the doors to get into Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, either.

Iowa, with a 9-1 record that includes victories over Iowa State, Drake and Northern Iowa, hasn’t had a capacity crowd of 15,500.

The closest was 15,312 for the Iowa State game.

Other home games have attracted 10,680 [UNC-Greensboro], a horribly-low 10,349 for UNI, 9,711 [Centenary] and 9,211 [Western Carolina].

Drake is the state’s only Division I school to draw a capacity crowd for a game. Actually, the 7,062 that turned out for the Iowa game at the 7,002-seat Knapp Center amounted to an overflow.

The Bulldogs’ other home crowds have been 4,612 for Western Illinois, 4,437 for Akron and 4,113 for Wichita State.

Northern Iowa’s crowds are nothing to brag about, especially with the school boasting one of the best teams in the Missouri Valley Conference and one of the nation’s hot up-and-coming coaches in Greg McDermott.

The Panthers have attracted crowds of only 7,615 for Iowa State, 4,104 for Wisconsin-Green Bay and 3,016 for Wayne State in the 10,000-seat UNI-Dome.

That’s pretty poor, folks.


The honeymoon is obviously over between coach Tom Davis, Drake and the local paper.

It’s starting to remind me of the Rudy Washington and Kurt Kanaskie years all over again.

The local paper didn’t send a reporter to Fort Collins, Colo., for the Bulldogs’ game Dec. 4 against Colorado State and didn't have one with them for their game Monday night at Cedar City, Utah, against Southern Utah.

Rick Brown or some other guy in the sports department who drew the short straw was no doubt assigned to monitor the radio broadcast of last tonight’s game so he could put together a story for today's paper, complete with quotes sent in by Drake sports information director Mike Mahon.

Then the editors put something like “Special to the Register” or “By a Special Correspondent” on the story to make it seem to readers that there really is something special about it.

Special, my ass.

I mean, Mike Mahon is one helluva writer--he proved that by out-reporting the guy from the local paper at the Olympics in Athens--but he wasn't hired by the clowns at 8th and Locust to write the game story. Nor should he be. He's on Drake's payroll.

By the way, Southern Utah rolled past Drake, 94-74. The Bulldogs' record fell to 2-5 because Southern connected on a school record 17 three-point

It's tough to win in the YMCA noon league when your opponent drills 17 three-pointers.

Southern, winning its fourth straight game, shot a sizzling
67.9 percent in the second half after leading at intermission, 44-42.

The Thunderbirds finished the game hitting 57.9 percent, including 54.8 percent from three-point range [17 of 31 shots]. The 17 three-point baskets were the second-highest by a Drake opponent.

Pete Eggers led Drake with 13 points. Klayton Korver, Chaun Brooks and freshman Leonard Houston added 10 apiece.

Jason Baker came off the bench to score 20 points for Southern
Utah, making six three-point field goals in nine tries.

"I thought we were in great shape at halftime," Davis said. "But we came out and couldn't move in the second half. It was like we were playing in cement.

"We had hoped we could have done a better job defending the perimeter.
But they played with three to four guards and were tough
to cover. They were much quicker than us."

[NOTE: Mike Mahon sends me the same game story and quotes he sends to the local paper and other media outlets. No need for any "Special Dispatch to Ron Maly" needed on this story. But thanks, Mike. Another great job. I'll be seeing you at the Knapp Center].


Bobby Knight the next Southern California basketball coach?

Hey, why not?

The Los Angeles Times says he’d like to be considered.

But the feeling evidently isn't mutual. Former Iowa State coach Tim Floyd is apparently the guy USC wants.

For now anyway.

Obviously, Knight wants out of Texas Tech, a basketball no-man’s land and.....well, just a no-man's land, period. He expressed interest in the Ohio State job last year, too. Ohio State is his alma mater, but he didn't get that job, either.

Still, I think the guy has one more move in him.

Just thinking.....Wouldn't it be something for Iowa to hire him if Steve Alford, one of his little puppy dogs at Indiana, left for one reason or another in the next year or two?

Nah. Forget it. Bob Bowlsby would never do it. But you’ve got to admit Bobby [Knight, not Bowlsby] would do wonders for the lousy attendance at Carver-Hawkeye. No more crowds of 9,711 and 9,211!


Terrible headline in the sports section of Monday's paper:

Snap! Bobble! Drop!
Shoulda ate Wheaties

Horrible. Just horrible.

The copy editor who wrote that headline should be sent to the Indianola paper. Or to the farm department. Jerry Perkins could straighten him [or her] out.


Interesting comment by George Eustachy of San Clemente, Calif., the father of Larry Eustachy, in the L.A. Times.

Larry, of course, declared himself an alcoholic and didn’t watch where he spent his time after games when he was Iowa State’s basketball coach. So his bosses fired him.

The administration was just looking for a way to get rid of Larry,” George said. “To me, it was a very minor thing.”

Larry was being paid $1.1 million a year at Iowa State, and now is being paid a lot less at Southern Mississippi, where his record is 7-2.

“It’s crazy,” he told the newspaper. “I lived in morbid fear of losing my $1.1 million job, so I drank at night to forget. You know, we drink to forget. Well, it ended up costing me my job.”

Eustachy said his former wife, Stacy, found him drunk in the kitchen one night in 2003 and told him he might have a problem.

“I never drank in front of my players, never missed a practice,” Eustachy said.

Eustachy added that he didn’t drink before or during games. However, reporters always wondered what was in that soft drink can he had under his bench during games. They also wondered what was in those bottles of orange juice he brought to his postgame press conferences.

Vol. 4, No. 288
Dec. 20, 2004

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Drake's Davis Urges Fans to Not Give Up on His Team

Coach Tom Davis urged fans to not get down on his Drake basketball team.

“If we can get through this next stretch, I think you’re going to see this team improve rapidly,” Davis said.

“The attitude is excellent. This team has been just terrific. Everybody has been responsive. They don’t complain. They don’t bellyache. They’re fun to be around in practice, and they’re giving us everything they have.

“I can’t fault anything with this team in terms of their attitude and response. Are we short in some areas? Sure. But we’re not short in the mental areas. You have a wonderful group of young men. You can be proud of them in terms of what they’re doing in the classroom, and how hard they’re working.

“If we come up short, it won’t be because they’re not giving a great effort.”

Drake, with records of 2-4 overall and 0-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference, is the only team under .500.

From Nov. 23 through Dec. 8, the Bulldogs lost to Iowa State, Iowa, Colorado State and Wichita State. They ended their losing streak by beating Western Illinois, 82-54, and won’t play again until Dec. 20 at Southern Utah.


Paul Morrison, the do-it-all who has held a number of jobs in Drake’s athletic department—heck, he might have even coached a game or two--and now is called the historian, has been employed at the school for 60 years.

“It’s been a wonderful marriage—Drake University, Paul Morrison and the Morrison family,” he said. “I’m looking forward to another 60 and a few others.”


Davis said the grandmother of Drake starting guard Lonnie Randolph has died.

“When Lonnie finishes his [semester] exams, he’ll be going back to East Chicago, Ind., for the funeral,” Davis said. “He’ll try to join us in Las Vegas as we get ready to bus up to Utah [for the Dec. 20 game at Southern Utah].”


Davis often has said that Aliou Keita, the 6-8 sophomore who is Drake’s scoring [13.7 average] and rebounding [7.5 average] leader, is a better player in games than he is in practices.

Nothing has changed.

“We practiced for about an hour Tuesday because of exams,” Davis said. “Aliou was so bad. He couldn’t do anything. He couldn’t catch the ball. He couldn’t shoot the ball. He couldn’t dribble the ball. I told him, ‘Big guys have that problem. It takes you a little while.’

He hasn’t figured it all out yet. But he sure has a big heart. He’s pretty good in games. Some guys are better in practice, but he’s the exact opposite, For him to keep improving, he’s got to get better in practice.”


Davis said 13 of his players had 3.0 grade-point averages in the first semester last year.

“I don’t know where it’s going to be this year, but I think I have three freshmen who are going to get 4.0 averages,” he said. “So that’s pretty strong.”

One of the freshmen is 6-1 Adam Emmenecker of Saginaw, Mich.

“I said, ‘Are you going to get a 4-point?’” Davis said he asked Emmenecker. “He said, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve got a 4-point.’”

Davis said Emmenecker is also a promising player.

“He can’t shoot, but he’s tough,” Davis said. “We’ll have to do the coaching to make him a shooter.”


Davis said, “I’m not happy having the 22nd-toughest schedule in the country at this stage of the season. But it just happened that there are good programs in the state this year. Iowa is good, Northern Iowa is good, that Akron team we played is a pretty doggone good ballclub. We played at Colorado State, and they’re a decent team—maybe a very good team as the season winds down.”

Of course, the Iowa State team that beat Drake, 73-46, Nov. 23 at Ames also has the makings of being a very good team.

Next year’s schedule is going to be terrific,” Davis said. “It’s going to be much more user-friendly, much more developmentally-friendly in terms of getting our players cohesive and getting them ready.”


Davis said the two most surprising teams in the Missouri Valley Conference are Illinois State [7-2 non-conference record] and Bradley [5-1].

They look like they’re playing at higher levels than I thought they would,” Davis said. “We expected Wichita State [5-0 overall, 1-0 in the Valley] to be really good. And you figured Creighton [8-1] had a chance. You figured Southern Illinois [5-2] was going to be good again.”

Vol. 4, No. 287
Dec. 16, 2004

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

What's Not In the Paper Instead of What's In the Paper

The local paper made the national news again in the only way it makes the national news these days—by screwing up.

The paper used to win Pulitzer prizes. Now it’s held up as an example of shabby journalism.

A former editor and reporter at the local paper forwarded this story to me that appeared in The Editor & Publisher magazine Dec. 8:

Des Moines Paper Omits Key Point in Clergy Sex Case

By E&P Staff

NEW YORK—An article in The Des Moines Register [written by Lisa Livermore] this morning announced the arrest of a local youth pastor on charges of sexual exploitation of a 17-year-old client but left out one key element of the story: the pastor’s embrace of President Bush’s values in a meeting with the president last year.

The clergyman, Michael Hintz, 35, of Clive, Iowa, who is married with four children, ran a youth group oat First Assembly of God Church in Des Moines. He was charged Monday with having an inappropriate relationship for several months this year with a girl he had counseled. If convicted he faces up to a year in prison.

According to the Register, Hintz was known for urging teens to avoid pursuing romantic relationships in favor of getting closer to God.

But that wasn’t all he was known for. Last October, as the paper recalled, President Bush cited him as an example of a family that would realize tax savings with the signing of a tax relief bill. But that’s as far as the Register’s story went today.

But Tuesday, the popular Eschaton blog had cited an Associated Press story from October, revealing that Bush had actually met Hintz and his wife during a swing through Iowa. At that time, Hintz embraced the moral-values issue, according to the AP account, saying, “Where we are in this world, with not just the war on terror, but with the war with our culture that’s going on, I think we need a man that is going to be in the White House like President Bush, that’s going to stand by what he believes.”

After Hintz said that, in hopes to use part of his tax saving to go on vacation in Minnesota, Bush quipped: “Next year, maybe they’ll want to come to Texas.”


Still on the subject of newspapers, a retired Des Moines editor and reporter points out that the Charlotte Observer carried a commentary piece written by Mike Persinger that says the paper “will get out of a poll that influences the BCS mess.”

“The BCS is a mess, and as long as The Associated Press football poll is part of the problem, the Observer has cast its last vote,” Persinger wrote.

“Mack Brown’s Texas Longhorns were on the verge of being left out, and he wasn’t happy. He said as much on television after a Thanksgiving beating of Texas A&M, lobbying voters on national television to move his team ahead of other teams he called “less deserving.”

Texas fans took it from there. They bombarded AP voters, including the Observer’s Ken Tysiac, with e-mails imploring them to change their votes. Some were eloquent, many were insulting. Tysiac didn’t change, but others did.

“One Alabama voter, also a victim of the e-mail bombardment, moved the Longhorns from ninth to fifth—still being Cal on his ballot, but a gain of four precious poll points. The L.A. Times reported voters from three Texas papers—Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin—flip-flopped the Longhorns and the Bears.

“In the end, Texas moved up in the Bowl Championship Series standings, on the strength of its movement in the AP poll and a slight improvement in the computer rankings. The difference in payouts? The Rose, where Texas will play, pays $7 million to $8.5 million per team. The Holiday, where Cal was relegated, pays $1 million per team.

“With that kind of money at stake, the potential for abuse is great, and even though Tysiac’s top seven teams stayed the same before and after lobbying by Brown and Texas fans—and the Observer published his votes each week all season for the sake of accountability—the mess calls the polls the polling process into question.

“The credibility of this newspaper is more important than the prestige of voting in the AP poll. Tysiac will complete this season, the last in which a reporter from the Observer will vote in a poll tied to the BCS.

“The AP basketball poll? We don’t have a vote this season, but we would consider voting in the future. That poll is for fun and to drive fan interest, and it’s basically meaningless because the NCAA basketball champion is determined in a playoff.”


Further evidence that there’s a mess with newspapers, not just the BCS, came when Huntsville (Ala.) Times editor Melinda Gorham stupidly jumped into the fray.

Obviously, she’d have been smarter to stay out of it after reading what appeared on the Poynter news website. Chris Lang of the Arizona Daily Sun took Gorham to task

Lang injected an ugly phrase [ugly, that is to newsroom people] into his criticism: Advertising dollars.

In a column headlined “We dropped the ball on tone and sensitivity,” Gorham had apologized to Huntsville Times readers “for the column [written by the Times’ Paul Gattis] …..that ran on the front of Monday’s sports section. As several of you have pointed out in-emails, voice mails and face-to-face conversations, the tone of the column was mean-spirited and callow, brushing off the opinions of hundreds of Times readers with its ‘I really don’t care what you think’ attitude..

“We Times employees do care. A lot.

“The column’s tone stung me when I read the paper Monday morning [Dec. 8]. It stung me as I considered the volume and the validity of criticisms of the writer, the sports department, the newspaper. It stings me today because I can’t take back what was probably written during the writer’s bruised, end-of-season weariness. Sadly, the psyches of many local football fans and readers are bruised. And in some cases, readers’ weariness has turned to anger.

“Some history: Alabama beat writer Paul Gattis was asked to be one of 65 voters in this football season’s Associated Press panel, an honor that plays a part in determining national rankings and thus which team goes to which bowl. The vote is made by the individual, not by a consensus of the sports or newsroom staff…..

“Gattis, who voted Oklahoma No. 1 the whole season, explained his rationale to me a few days before Sunday’s final vote. Even if I wouldn’t necessarily have voted the way he did, his explanation of why he ranked Oklahoma first, Southern Cal second and Auburn third had merit. I told him I stood behind his obligation to vote his beliefs on the matter…..

“I asked Gattis to explain to readers, as he had explained to me, his voting for Oklahoma after the season ended. We agreed he’d write a straightforward column.

“Instead, a writer’s ‘Let me explain’ attitude turned into a ‘Leave me alone’ column.

“Even though signed columns are meant to reflect a writer’s sensibilities and style, there are certain attributes that should never be circumvented: civility, tolerance of counter-opinions and a tone that coaxes a reader to ponder the concept more than the columnist.

“We didn’t do that in Monday’s column. I deeply regret it.”

Lang. in his Arizona Daily Sun column, said Gorham’s “front page apology ruined any credibility sportswriter Paul Gattis may have had with his readers. Someone wrote a legitimate column, some people didn’t like it, so a weak-minded publisher wanted an immediate retraction so as not to lose advertising money.

“This is a major, major problem, folks.”

I’d say it’s time for Gattis to look for another job. Gorham, too.


Maybe it’s because of the holidays, maybe not. But my e-mail bag has no more room in it.

Obviously, people have a lot on their minds:


“Bring back Maury! Does anyone besides me think Keeler’s column in Sunday’s Register was a piece of shit? He witnessed one of the best moments in the history of Kinnick Stadium and he wrote a piece he could have done while sitting on the throne at home. The guy makes Maury White look like a Pulitzer winner.”

[NOTE: “Eastern Iowa Retiree” was talking about Sean Keeler, a sports columnist at the local paper. “Eastern Iowa Retiree” obviously thought Keeler didn’t do justice to Iowa’s final game of the 2004 regular season—a 30-7 victory over Wisconsin that helped give the Hawkeyes a share of the Big Ten championship. “Eastern Iowa Retiree” thought Keeler possibly wrote the column that appeared in the Iowa City edition of the paper while at home. Who knows, maybe he did. Apparently, anything goes nowadays. The “Maury” referred to by “Eastern Iowa Retiree” was Maury White, a longtime sports columnist at the local paper who never won a Pulitzer Prize, but is probably rolling over in his grave these days over what’s happening at 8th and Locust. Maury is not meant to be confused with the Morrie in Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays With Morrie”].


“It’s hard for me to understand how a good guy like Gary Thompson can pal around with an asshole like Eustachy. He makes Alford look good.”

[NOTE: My goodness, “asshole” is not a very nice thing—especially when it’s so close to Christmas--for “Mr. Astute” to call Larry Eustachy, the former Iowa State basketball coach who has quit drinking and now is coaching at Southern Mississippi. Mr. Astute must be referring to the appearance of Thompson, a former Iowa State basketball standout, among a number of Cyclone fans who are supportive of Eustachy and were seated behind his bench when Southern Mississippi appeared in the recent Gazette Hawkeye Challenge at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. My guess is the “Alford” that “Mr. Astute” is referring to is Iowa coach Steve Alford, not Sam Alford, his dad].


So what is going on with this Drake basketball program? Seems like the wheels are coming off.”

[NOTE: “Just Wondering” wrote his e-mail an hour or two after Drake lost its Missouri Valley Conference opener to Wichita State, 75-53, at the Knapp Center. The 22-point loss shocked me, too. But I wouldn’t necessarily say the wheels are coming off the Bulldogs’ pickup truck. I’m not sure they were ever on. One or two people have whispered that major-college basketball has maybe passed coach Tom Davis by, but it’s probably too early for that kind of talk. Hang in there, “Just Wondering.” Things could get better. On the other hand, things could get a lot worse].


“The 75-53 loss to Wichita State was terrible for Drake. If they struggle badly the rest of the way, Davis might quit after this season. No hope in sight, really, unless that DMACC guard can lead them out of the wilderness.”

[NOTE:The “Davis” referred to by “Another Opinion” is, I think, Drake coach Tom Davis, who is in his second season after becoming the all-time winningest basketball coach at Iowa. As far as I know, he has not indicated he plans to retire again in March, 2005. The DMACC guard talked about by “Another Opinion” is Al Stewart, a 5-10 player from Des Moines Area Community College in Boone, who has signed a national letter of intent with Drake. “In all of my years of coaching, I can’t remember any other time when several of my team members encouraged me to recruit a player,” Davis said of Stewart. “After playing with him in the Capitol City Summer League, our players were convinced that Al would be a great fit for our system…..” However, it’s not often that a 5-10 player can improve an entire collegiate basketball program].


“I see Witosky has found something to write about. Egad, that guy can stretch a 12-inch story into 50 inches easier than anyone I know.”

[I’m guessing “Witosky” is Tom Witosky, who works in the sports department at the local paper. I think the 50-inch story that “Newspaper Critic” is referring to had something to do with Iowa State, not about the junior college football team at Fort Dodge. I didn’t read past the first 12 inches, so it’s impossible for me to make an intelligent comment on what “Newspaper Critic” says].


“Hey, Jerk,

“Why don’t you ever have anything positive to say about the Clones? You know, I remember those five years we crushed Iowa’s ego on the field. What did you have to say then? That’s okay, Ferentz will be gone within a year and I can guarantee at Cyclone win next year. What will you have to say then? Go **** yourself.”

[NOTE: Hey, that kind of message reminds me of my earlier writing life. I’ll bet “Happy Holidays” used to write to me when there was still an Opinion Page. Something tells me that guy and I won’t be going to lunch anytime soon. The only reason I think the e-mail from “Happy Holidays” was meant for me and not Pat Harty at the Iowa City Press-Citizen is because it came in on my computer. There was a man’s name on the “From” line. It was either that guy, a phony name or someone using that guy’s computer. And the words and characters “Go **** yourself” sound to me like a four-letter thing that’s physically impossible to do. But, just to make sure, I’ll check with my doctor. Or maybe Rob Borsellino. He might know about things like that, too].

Vol. 4, No. 286
Dec. 14, 2004

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Iowa, ISU, UNI Could Go To NCAA Men's Tournament

If you ask me, those were two NCAA basketball tournament teams that we saw play Friday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

After watching Iowa escape a strong challenge from Iowa State, 70-63, I’m all but certain both teams will make it to the Big Dance.

Indeed, it will be a disappointment if both aren’t picked for the 65-team field in March.

On the subject of the NCAA, look for Northern Iowa to make yet another strong run at the tournament it played in last season. That’s a good team with an outstanding coach.


A few eyebrows were raised when I suggested that Iowa [already with an 8-1 record] could go 15-1 before it plays a high-stakes Big Ten game Jan. 20 at Illinois.

Now more people are coming around to my way of thinking.

Oh, sure, the Hawkeyes could have trouble when they play Bobby Knight and Texas Tech Dec. 21 in Chicago on ESPN2, but Iowa is clearly the superior team.

The only potential problem is that Knight will do something, or say something, that will intimidate Iowa coach Steve Alford before or during the game and influence the outcome.

Knight, of course, coached Alford at Indiana. In a TV interview last year when the coaches appeared together in connection with an Iowa-Texas Tech game Dec. 22 at Dallas [a 65-59 Tech victory], Knight dominated the entire show and Alford hardly got in a word.

Knight will want to put on a show for his old Big Ten buddies [yes, he does have some] when he comes back to Chicago. He’ll want to win the game against Iowa badly.

Iowa State is 4-2 and must learn to play better on the road, but has the players who are capable of making that happen. The Cyclones will go to 8-2 after winning their next four games—all at home against Howard, Wagner, San Diego State and Tennessee State.

They’ll have trouble Jan. 3 at Xavier and maybe even Jan. 8 at Missouri before playing Kansas Jan. 12 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames.

The Xavier and Missouri games away from home are definitely winnable, and so is the Kansas game at Hilton. Those are the types of games coach Wayne Morgan needs to win to get his team to a nationally-respected level.


What’s it going to take to get Iowa to sell out Carver-Hawkeye Arena? It was ridiculous and embarrassing that only 15,312 fans showed up at the 15,500-seat building for an Iowa-Iowa State game.

Iowa sold out every home football game in 2004, and there’s no reason every basketball game shouldn’t be sold out for a team that’s ranked No. 17.

It’s hard for me to believe that, even with Ferentz, some of his Big Ten champion players, some football players Iowa is trying to recruit and Iowa State’s basketball team in the building that there wasn’t a full house.


I’m starting to think Iowa State’s Jared Homan can play in the NBA in the future. Not as a starter, but as a pretty good reserve off the bench. The big guy from small-town Remsen, Ia., has always been tough to handle close to the basket and has just enough “street” smarts on the court in him to be a threat on defense as well as offense. In other words, he lets no one—and I mean NO one—push him around, whether the guy is from Iowa, Kansas or Hawkeye Welding School. He’s the intimidator, not the guy being intimidated.


At this stage, my power rankings would have Iowa the No. 3 team in the Big Ten behind Illinois and Wisconsin. Oklahoma State is my No. 1 team in the Big 12, followed by Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa State.

In order, Northern Iowa, Creighton, Wichita State and Southern Illinois are the best in the Missouri Valley. I hate to say this, but Drake is No. 10 in a 10-team conference.

After seeing them get blown out at home, 75-53, by Wichita State, this doesn’t look like a promising season for the Bulldogs. Last night's 82-54 cruise past Western Illinois--a bad team--doesn't change my opinion about that.


I continue to admire the coaching job Greg McDermott is doing at Northern Iowa.

I don’t blame the school for giving him pay raises. It’s going to take a lot to keep McDermott from considering some big-time jobs when this season is over.

If, say, Alford should leave Iowa in the near-future, either on his own or at the nudging of athletic director Bob Bowlsby, McDermott would be the guy I’d hire for the Hawkeye job. That is, unless Roy Williams of North Carolina applies.

McDermott is a class act who says all the right things and doesn’t buckle when challenged by supposedly high-power teams and supposedly high-power coaches.


I caught part of McDermott’s call-in radio show in my car the other night.

There was an interesting discussion concerning McDermott’s coaching relationship with Iowa’s Alford and Iowa State’s Morgan.

The host of the show asked McDermott why he and Alford had a longer-than-usual conversation at mid-court in Carver-Hawkeye Arena following the Hawkeyes’ narrow victory this week.

McDermott said he respected the job Alford is doing at Iowa, and was critical of Hawkeye fans who have stayed away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena in droves this season either because of high ticket prices or a general lack of interest in the team.

Iowa City, of course, is the rumor capital of the world, and McDermott said he was disappointed that Hawkeye fans believed every rumor they hear about Alford that’s out there “on the street.”

The announcer said McDermott had a much better relationship with Alford than with “that other guy over at Ames.”

That “other guy” is, of course, Morgan. McDermott and Morgan got into a shouting match the night UNI clobbered Iowa State by 17 points at Cedar Falls. After the game, the two coaches brushed past each other quickly, setting the all-time NCAA record for brief handshakes.

Morgan “didn’t call me for a scouting report on Iowa,” McDermott quipped on the radio show.

However, McDermott did indicate he’d like to talk with the Iowa State coach on the phone sometime in the future.

We’ll see if that happens.


It was good to see Morgan deliver a coach-to-player hug to Iowa’s Adam Haluska after Friday night’s game. Haluska, who transferred from Iowa State after clearly having problems with then-Cyclone coach Larry Eustachy, scored 20 points and accounted for all four of Iowa’s three-point field goal.

Oh, OK, so there maybe was a little shoving going on between a couple of players afterward. In the words of Bret Bielema, what’s an Iowa-Iowa State game without a little emotion?


Another small-town Iowan who could be helping Iowa State this season is Rob Kampman of Forest City.

The 6-8 senior was the main reason Wichita State ruined Drake’s Missouri Valley Conference opener. He scored 23 points in the Shockers’ 75-53 victory.

Kampman indicated he doesn’t have any regrets that he’s not playing for the Cyclones or any other major-college team from this state. He appears genuinely happy competing for Wichita State coach Mark Turgeon.

“Iowa State offered me a scholarship when Eustachy was coaching there,” Kampman said, “and Iowa recruited me a little bit.”

Kampman competed in the Prime Time League in North Liberty with and against players from other Iowa universities and colleges last summer.


Good line last night by Mac McCausland, the commentator on the telecast of the Iowa-Iowa State game.

When play-by-play announcer Larry Morgan said the smooth flow that was present in the first half of the game was missing in the last half, McCausland said, “Now it’s more like a tractor pull.”


In retrospect, it didn’t make much sense for Drake to open its Missouri Valley Conference season on Dec. 8 against Wichita State.

The Bulldogs clearly weren’t ready for a league opponent like that.

But coach Tom Davis said he couldn’t blame anyone but himself.

“They’ve been pushing us hard to do it,” Davis said. “It might have been foolish in our behalf to take [a conference game] this early. We didn’t have to do it. We accepted it. I’m not sure I made the best judgment, but I have nobody to blame but myself. I can’t blame it on my assistants or my [athletic director].”


Another good line in the Iowa-Iowa State postgame wrapup came when Hawkeye radio network announcer Gary Dolphin mentioned that it was 65 years ago Friday night that Iowa’s Nile Kinnick was presented the Heisman Trophy in New York City, and tied it in with the fact that there was football emotion in the air with Ferentz and perhaps some future Hawkeye football players in the building.

Vol. 4, No. 285
Dec. 12, 2004

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Good News: Both Iowa and ISU Are Bowl Underdogs

For Iowa and Iowa State, the news is good from Las Vegas.

The Hawkeyes and Cyclones are both underdogs in their football games in a few weeks.

Louisiana State is favored by the oddsmakers to beat Iowa by 7 points in the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl at Orlando, Fla., and Miami of Ohio is a 3-point favorite to beat Iowa State in the Dec. 28 Independence Bowl at Shreveport, La.

In my opinion, it’s always better to go into a bowl game as the underdog. Iowa and Iowa State are familiar with that role, and I figure they’ll do well if the early betting lines hold.


I’m going to have a little fun today with Tom Kroeschell, Iowa State’s associate athletic director for media relations.

Back in my earlier writing life, I also had some fun with Kroeschell—and then he was only the school’s sports information director.

In those days, Jim Walden was Iowa State’s football coach and the Cyclones weren’t going to any bowl games.

Iowa, however, was beating Iowa State regularly and was going to a bowl game just about every season when Hayden Fry was the coach. That was causing some people in Ames to have an inferiority complex when it came to football.

On the Tuesdays when Walden would hold his press conferences, Kroeschell occasionally couldn’t hold back his emotions. For some reason, he thought the media favored Iowa over Iowa State and he’d find something negative to say about the Hawkeyes,

Funny man Tom would say something like, “Are the Hawks going to the Poulan Weed Eater Bowl this year?”

The Poulan Weed Eater Bowl in Shreveport, La., not only had a strange name, but also ranked at the bottom of the bowl list—even though all coaches try to convince themselves and others that there is no such thing as a bad bowl game.

The Poulan Weed Eater Bowl is now the Independence Bowl, and Iowa State will be making its second trip to the game in four years. The Cyclones lost to Alabama, 14-13, in 2001, when it was called the MainStay Independence Bowl.

So who’s laughing now, Tom? Not you, I’ll bet.


One guy who isn’t laughing is Michael Larkin, a Miami of Ohio senior wide receiver.

Larkin, a senior who holds the NCAA with receptions in 49 consecutive games, and two others were stabbed at 4 a.m. Sunday. His status for the Independence Bowl is uncertain.

He leads Miami with eight receiving touchdowns this season and his 55 catches and 813 yards rank second on the team.


Stewart Mandel of didn’t have much good to say about the Independence Bowl.

He ranks it last among the 28 bowl games that will be played.

“It’s too bad the Independence is no longer partnered with Poulan Weed Eater,” Mandel wrote. “The organizers could use one to trim this year’s game from their memory.

Mandel calls the Iowa-LSU Capital One Bowl game the seventh-best.

“Two of the game’s most acclaimed coaches, Kirk Ferentz and Nick Saban, battle in what is very likely to be a low-scoring, highly physical chess match,” Mandel said. ranks the Independence Bowl No. 22, saying “Iowa State always gets jacked up for a bowl game as its fans travel well, while Miami will try for a big win for the Mid-American Conference and get something to build on for next year……Stars of the show: Iowa State wide receiver Todd Blythe, Miami wide receiver-kick returner Ryne Robinson. The knee-jerk, off-the-cuff initial prediction: Miami 23, Iowa State 21. thinks highly of the Capital One Bowl, ranking it the No. 4 game behind the Orange, Liberty and Holiday.

“This should be a fantastic game between two great defensive teams and two that should be in the 2005 preseason top ten,” the website says. “Stars of the show: Iowa quarterback Drew Tate, LSU defensive end Marcus Spears. The knee-jerk, off-the-cuff initial prediction: LSU 17, Iowa 13.”


Some nice things are being written about Iowa quarterback Drew Tate and Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz. has named Tate the Big Ten Player of the Year and Ferentz the conference’s coach of the year.

Tate, a sophomore, was ranked No. 1 among the website’s top 30 Big Ten players regardless of position.

Teammate Matt Roth, a senior defensive end, was named the sixth-best player regardless of position and was chosen the No. 2 defensive lineman behind Erasmus James of Wisconsin.

Iowa linebacker Chad Greenway, a junior, was chosen the 12th-best player regardless of position and was the No. 2 linebacker behind A.J. Hawk of Ohio State.

Of Tate, the website said, he “didn’t lead the Big Ten in passing (in fact, he was fourth). Total offense? Fourth in that, too. Passing efficiency? Second. But mere stats don’t go to show just how valuable Tate was in Iowa’s run to a co-Big Ten title.

“Oh, he put up solid numbers, completing 62 percent of his passes for 2,499 yards and 18 touchdowns, and he made his share of sophomore mistakes with 12 interceptions, but considering Iowa needed a M*A*S*H unit for its running backs and finished dead last in America running the ball., Tate was the season’s savior.”

Of Ferentz, the website said, “Considering the lack of able bodies in the backfield and the limited all-around offense, Ferentz gets the Coach of the Year nod for getting this team to jell at just the right time and finish as co-Big Ten champion.”

Michigan’s 45-37 victory in three overtimes over Michigan State was called the best Big Ten game of the season. The worst? Minnesota’s 45-0 romp past Illinois.

The Big Ten’s biggest surprise was Michigan’s freshman backfield. The biggest disappointment was shared by Purdue’s midseason sag, Wisconsin’s losses in the last two weeks to Purdue and Iowa, Minnesota’s flame-out, Michigan’s loss to Ohio State and Ohio State’s overtime loss to Northwestern.

Vol. 4, No. 284
Dec. 7, 2004

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Eustachy's Return Has Some Laughter, Some Bitterness

Iowa City, Ia.—At 4:20 p.m., Larry Eustachy came in from the cool outside air, opened the big northside door and walked through the bowels of Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

He quickly spotted us.

Randy Peterson, Dan Johnson and I were waiting for him near the entrance to the visitors’ locker room.

I approached the first-year coach from Southern Mississippi, held out my right hand and said, “Larry, you look great.”

Peterson and Johnson, both of whom are reporters for the Des Moines Register, stayed in the background. They let me have Eustachy all to myself.

I wasn’t lying about how Eustachy looked. The coach I covered in the 1998-99 season – his first at Iowa State – was dressed in a dark sportcoat, dark slacks, a blue shirt and patterned tie. He showed no sign of the flab that seemed to hang over his belt when he lived in Ames.

The turtleneck shirt—the trademark of his years at Iowa State—was gone.

“Hey, how you doing?” Eustachy said as he shook my hand.

“The guys in the lunch group miss you,” I said. “They ask about you all the time.”

Eustachy laughed. When he worked at Iowa State, he had shown up twice at the Oriental restaurant where a number of newspaper people – both retired and not retired – and anyone else who walks in off the street dine each Wednesday in West Des Moines. He picked up the tab for the entire table the first time, for me the second time.

“Hey, we never got to make that trip to Kansas together,” I told Eustachy.

He laughed.

In the days when he traveled to games in his own vehicle and sent his players to games another way, Eustachy invited me to go with him on a trip.

“Why don’t you go to Kansas with me?” he asked one day when I was sitting in his office at Hilton Coliseum at Ames.

The trouble was, Eustachy was gone before we could make the trip.

It’s probably just as well. I didn’t need my picture in the paper, too.

“Why don’t you come to Hattiesburg,” he said to me last night.

“How do I get there?” I asked.

“Just get on the road and head south,” he said with a laugh.

Eustachy wanted to know if I had a good seat for his game last night against North Carolina-Greensboro.

“I’m sitting in press row,” I said.

“If you want, come on down and sit on my bench,” Eustachy said. “You can coach my team.”

He’s not the first former Iowa State coach to invite me to sit on his bench. Ken Trickey did that a number of years ago, and I took him up on it. He lost the game, so I decided then and there that my coaching days were over.

After our conversation, Eustachy talked with Peterson and Johnson.

“Hi, Randy,” Eustachy said to Peterson, a veteran Register reporter who has covered plenty of Iowa State games in the past and now is assigned to Iowa’s games for his newspaper.

Johnson introduced himself to Eustachy. Johnson’s reporting specialties are women’s basketball and horseracing.

Johnson is a very good reporter, but I got no insight into why his editors assigned him to the Eustachy story.

He didn’t seem to know, either.

“Don’t ask me,” he said.

I did notice, though, that someone named Dan Johnson had a byline story on the Southern Mississippi-North Carolina-Greensboro game in today's Hattiesburg American. I have a pretty good idea the Dan Johnson in the Hattiesburg American is the same Dan Johnson who wrote a sidebar on the game for the Register.

That's what's called one Gannett paper playing footsie with another Gannett paper, probably without the reporter receiving any freelance money.

After Peterson had his brief talk with Eustachy, he said, “I thought he was cool to me.”

Eustachy had refused to return calls to the Register this week. He also didn’t return calls to the Iowa City Press-Citizen, but did call the Cedar Rapids Gazette [sponsor of The Gazette Hawkeye Challenge in which Southern Mississippi, North Carolina-Greensboro, Centenary and Iowa played] and the Quad-City Times.

It was the Register which first printed photographs of Eustachy drinking and hugging college-age women in Columbia, Mo. Those photos eventually led to Eustachy’s ouster from Iowa State and his admission that he was an alcoholic.

I think the Register’s editors made a huge mistake in not assigning Peterson or some other reporter to make a trip to Hattiesburg this week to interview Eustachy when it became evident that he wouldn’t be returning any of their calls.

The fact that the paper didn't send a reporter there resulted in some very shallow pregame coverage of Eustachy's appearance in Iowa City.

The best piece of aggressive reporting during the week was done by Keith Murphy, sports director of WHO-TV in Des Moines. Murphy went to Hattiesburg to interview Eustachy and came away with some outstanding footage.

In a strange piece of newspapering, the Register printed another of the embarrassing photos Friday morning when it carried a longer-than-necessary profile of Eustachy.

The photo showed Eustachy with his arm around a young woman. In his hand was a can of beer.

A veteran Iowa newspaper reporter [not from the Register] asked me during the Southern Miss-North Carolina-Greensboro game what I thought of that.

“I didn’t like it,” I said.

“Neither did I. I thought it was a cheap shot,” the reporter said. “I think the Register was paying Eustachy back for not returning calls this week to their reporters."

SOME OF EUSTACHY'S bitterness showed through at a hastily-called press conference after his team’s 79-78 loss last night.

For some reason, only the winning coach was scheduled to appear at the press conference. But, with a large group of TV, Internet, print and radio reporters eager to interview Eustachy, he agreed to come into the interview room.

The first thing he did was hold up a can of Diet Coke.

“Is Tom Witosky here?” Eustachy asked.

When a reporter said Witosky, the Register reporter who wrote the story detailing Eustachy’s carousing, was not there, the coach said, “I thought he might want to check what’s in the Coke.”

A number of reporters laughed.

Eustachy wasn’t laughing.

“You sure he doesn’t want to take it to the lab? I’d welcome it," he said.

Later in the press conference, someone asked Eustachy if he’d rehearsed that line.

“I haven’t been saving it up,” he answered.

I think the Register’s editors were wrong in not assigning Witosky, the sports department’s best investigative reporter, to last night’s game.

The situation reminded me of when Lute Olson, who was and still is God's gift to basketball coaching, was leaving Iowa and heading to Arizona 21 years ago.

Anyone who paid attention to collegiate basketball in this state then knew that Olson and I weren’t exactly pals who drank coffee or something else together a couple of times each week.

But when Olson took the Arizona job and was in Tucson for his first press conference, I happened to be in Phoenix on vacation.

I wanted to be at that press conference. So I called Mike Wegner, who then was the Register’s sports editor.

“I think I should be there,” I told Wegner.

“Do it,” he said.

I think Olson was surprised I was there, but he handled it well. I asked him a number of questions, and he answered them adequately. It was after that press conference that Bobbi Olson, Lute’s wife and someone who later became a big part of the Arizona basketball scene before she died of cancer, told me that the Iowa coaching job had their family living in what she called a “fishbowl.”

SOMETHING TELLS ME the reporters were more interested in Eustachy’s return to Iowa than the non-reporters.

Only a handful of people were in the arena when Eustachy’s game began at 5:45 p.m. The most vocal fans were sitting behind the Southern Miss bench, and they were family members and friends of Eustachy.

Eustachy says his marriage to Stacy Eustachy of Ames is over, but she was present for the game. So were Evan and Hayden, his sons, who live with their mother.

“Evan tried to borrow money from me during the game because he was out of hog dogs and pizza,” Eustachy joked. “We have to get him on a treadmill.”

Also present behind Eustachy’s bench were Gary Thompson, a former Iowa State basketball standout who still does commentary on Cyclone telecasts and is a longtime Iowa State booster, Bob Gitchell, an Ames physician who is an Iowa State booster, and Roger Gade, a former Iowa State equipment manager who used to drive Eustachy’s “cruiser” bus to road games. Gade sat on the Southern Miss bench, handling the team’s equipment duties.

“Those were all my friends from my 12-Step Club,” Eustachy joked afterward.

Even Beth Haag, a former Iowa State basketball sports information director, made it to the arena to observe Eustachy.

Eustachy, who can shout from the sidelines and rip the officials with the best of them, managed to get a technical foul in the second half of his game.

Eustachy said he didn’t want to get any technicals this season, but now he’s gotten two in the last two games.

Some things never change.

Thanks for dropping by, Larry.

I’ll see you in Hattiesburg one of these days.

Vol. 4, No. 283
Dec. 4, 2004