Thursday, January 27, 2005

It's Time for Alford to Make Some Iowa Lineup Changes

It was a dead heat.

The e-mail from a guy who identified Iowa’s first-round opponent in the National Invitation Tournament arrived on my computer at about the same time disgruntled Hawkeye coach Steve Alford was saying there could be changes in his starting lineup Saturday.

No sooner had 23rd-ranked Iowa lost at Northwestern, 75-74, in overtime than my old friend two time zones away, “View from the Left Coast,” fired off this e-mail to me:

“That Iowa-Northern Iowa first-round NIT game should be a doozy.”

I certainly agree. And I pointed out to “View from the Left Coast” that it’ll be an even better game because NIT officials will schedule it for the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. An Iowa matchup there with the Panthers will draw a bigger crowd than at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

Oh, I know Iowa—with a 14-5 overall record that includes early victories over Louisville and Texas—is still a candidate for the NCAA tournament. But if the Hawkeyes, who are an extremely disappointing 2-4 in the Big Ten, turn in many more performances like they had last night in Evanston, Ill., they’ll certainly play their way right into the dreaded NIT again.

Alford was sick of what he saw at Northwestern, and Iowa fans are sick of watching the Hawkeyes’ 2004-05 season disintegrate.

Alford indicated his starters may change for Saturday’s 4 p.m. game against Indiana at Iowa City.

For those awaiting coaching changes—at either Iowa or Indiana—there is no news yet.

“We’re going to have to make some changes going into Saturday’s game and try to get better,” Alford told interviewer Bobby Hansen on Iowa radio network’s postgame show.

That wasn’t all. There was much more that Mr. Mousse barked into Hansen’s microphone.

“I’ve praised our captains all year long,” Alford said of Jeff Horner, Pierre Pierce and Greg Brunner. “I thought tonight was as bad as I’ve seen them perform. It’s frustrating because this was a must-win for us, and we didn’t get it.”

Pierce, with an astonishing number of mistakes, threw the ball everywhere but to his teammates. Brunner and Horner played defense like it was a communicable disease.

Carlton Reed and Doug Thomas would appear to be prominent candidates to get starting jobs Saturday.

“Brunner has a career-high offensively [28 points], but so does his man,” Alford said of the game at Northwestern. “His man [the Croatian Nation’s VedranVukusic] got 32. Pierce has 10 turnovers.”

And Horner, the best free thrower in the Big Ten last season, missed two with 18.6 seconds remaining in overtime and was 1-for-5 for the game.

“The smarter team won,” Alford said on the radio. “We had one lapse after another. We had the game won about three different times.”

Michael Jenkins, who came to Northwestern without a basketball scholarship, was so wide-open on the final play of the game that he probably wondered if he was using the wrong underarm deodorant.

He launched the winning three-point field goal on a shot that might have made Dr. James Naismith have second thoughts about whether he really wanted to invent the sport of basketball.

“I mean that thing clanked from the left of the iron to the back of the iron to the right of the iron, and then fell through,” Iowa play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin said on the air of Jenkins’ shot, which had all the attractiveness of a canker sore.

It might have helped if Horner had been in the same general area as Jenkins. Instead, it was like he was still running around in the gym at Mason City High School.

“Everybody had their man except Jeff,” Alford complained. “His man was just standing there. He wasn’t paying attention to his guy. He was standing in the corner. His guy never moved.”

Another guy, who follows the fortunes or misfortunes of Iowa, Iowa State, Drake and Northern Iowa said in his e-mail to me that “the last part of the game at Northwestern was a painful thing to watch. Who would believe Horner would miss all those free throws and let his man alone for the winning three-pointer?

“And Pierce committing 10 turnovers is unbelievable. If anyone believes a team could throw a game, you could believe Iowa did, except there is no way Horner would be part of that.

“I think Iowa is just snake-bit. They may be looking at the NIT again. And speaking of the NIT, Iowa State might not make that. Another masterful job by Wayne Morgan.”

[NOTE: Something tells me the guy was writing tongue-in-computer when he used that “masterful job by Wayne Morgan” line].

“How could Curtis Stinson be hurt to the point that he couldn’t start but did go in after 4 minutes?” the e-mailer continued. “It might have been a disciplinary action, not starting him. I listened to the radio broadcast of the Drake game briefly to get the score and heard [commentator] Dolph Pulliam say, ‘I’m so proud of the Bulldogs for playing hard.’ I thought that’s what they are supposed to do.

“Bring on football!”

That guy is correct in saying that Iowa State’s postseason hopes are becoming threadbare. The Cyclones, who went to the NIT semifinals in New York City last season, were determined to go to the NCAA tournament this season.

Forget it. They’re now in the Big 12 cellar at 0-5 and are 8-8 overall heading into Saturday’s 3 p.m. home game against Oklahoma.

“Losing is not bad or sad,” Morgan said on his postgame radio show after last night’s 63-51 loss at Kansas State. “Losing is horrible. It’s misery. We all feet that.

“If we get better every day, at some point we’ll stand in our locker room with our fists raised over our heads. We’ll play our hearts out against Oklahoma.”

At least Morgan seemed to be in a little better mood than after his team lost to Colorado last Saturday at Hilton Coliseum in Ames.

That night, he said, “We couldn’t beat Ames High School” with the type of rebounding his players did.

Like my e-mailer friend said, bring on football.


Now on to more upbeat things.

A number of guys who knew something about putting points on the scoreboard and winning will be on hand for Drake’s basketball alumni gathering Saturday night at the Knapp Center.

Included are Bart Fredrick, the Missouri Valley Conference’s freshman of the year in 1985-86; B.J. Windhorst, a first-team all-Valley p0layer in 1995-96 and the league’s newcomer of the year in 1994-95; Dolph Pulliam and Rick Wanamaker of the 1968-69 Final Four team; Jeff Halliburton, a standout in Maury John’s final years at Drake; Kaylon Green, a starter in 1989-90 and 1990-91; Lynnrick Rogers, a three-time second-team Valley pick in the 1990s, Terry Robinson, Craig Davis and Lee (The Flea) Allen.


Erin Kiernan, an anchor and reporter at KCCI-TV, has decided to join WHO-TV in Des Moines, the station where she started her broadcasting career.

"With Erin's return to Channel 13 we are making a statement", says WHO-TV president and general manager Jim Boyer. "It says we are serious about assembling the best group of broadcast journalists in Iowa, we are serious about creating the market's best newscast and we are in this for the long haul.

"Erin is an accomplished anchor and a superb journalist. Even before she is allowed to appear on our air, she will make a major contribution to our newscasts as a writer and producer of special reports."

Kiernan said she's "very excited and appreciative of the opportunity WHO is providing me. I found the work atmosphere created by Jim Boyer and Mark Ginther to be one that anyone would be pleased to work in.

"I am also sad to be leaving a terrific station in KCCI. Walking away from my many friendships and an opportunity to sit beside Kevin Cooney was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. I wish Kevin and my friends there nothing but the best."

WHO-TV news director Mark Ginther said, "Erin knows and loves Iowa, shares our great midwestern values, has roots in our community and wants to live and grow here. They're qualities that really sold us on Erin and ones that will serve her, Channel 13, and our viewers well in her new position."

Due to contractual obligations, Kiernan can not appear on Channel 13's air during the first year of her multi-year agreement, a practice standard in the industry when moving within the same market. She will, however, play an active role behind-the-scenes in the daily news process at Channel 13 News including producing special investigative reports.

Kiernan currently anchors the weekend news at KCCI, where she started in 1998. In addition to anchoring, she became known for her award-winning investigative work and special series pieces.

In the spring of 2004, she received a regional Edward R. Murrow award for her two-part series on date-rape drugs. In 2000, she also received a regional Murrow Award for her investigative series "True Colors," which focused on racism at bars in the Des Moines metro area. She has also done investigative series reports on identity theft, sex offenders, arson, ecstasy, meth and unlicensed drivers.

Kiernan graduated from Drake University with a degree in broadcast journalism. While attending school, she worked as a part-time reporter at Channel 13 news. Next, she worked for WOI-TV as a reporter and photographer.

Born and raised in Chadron, Neb., Kiernan says her career in broadcasting really started when she imitated television news reporters while dressing up in her mother's clothes as a child.

Vol. 4, No. 302
Jan. 27. 2005

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Memories as Veterans Memorial Auditorium Turns 50

It’s too bad that buildings can’t talk.

If they could, Veterans Memorial Auditorium would be running off at the mouth in a very big-time way.

The huge brick building on the north edge of downtown Des Moines—between Center and Crocker on Fifth Avenue--celebrates its 50th birthday Feb. 1, and it’s got a lot to be proud of.

Indeed, it would have millions and millions of memories.

I’ve never referred to it as “Vets” or the “Barn.” I’ve always called it Veterans Memorial Auditorium in the first reference and the Auditorium thereafter.

That’s what I plan to do in this column while remembering the smell of the hot dogs being prepared in the concession stands; the cloud of cigarette and cigar smoke that hovered over the playing floor; Drake students roaring, “Here We Go Bulldogs!” in 1969; Maury John ordering the players’ benches moved to the other side of the building, in front of the students; Drake beating Louisville; Drake beating Maury John; Kurt Warner throwing touchdown passes for the Barnstormers; the boys’ and girls’ tournaments; the emotions.

The Iowa Events Center website says the Auditorium “opened on Feb. 1, 1955 with the Des Moines Policeman’s Ball, attended by an audience of 7,000 people. Although the Auditorium was not officially completed yet, this was Des Moines’ first look at the brand-new $5.25 million shrine to the city’s veterans.”

When Drake was playing its home basketball games at the Auditorium, I saw a ton of them. I was there as a writer for most of them, as a spectator for others.

In those days, it was the place to be. When Maury John was the coach, Drake had a better basketball program than Iowa State and was on a par with Iowa.

I have some strong memories of games Drake won at the Auditorium and of some other events I saw there.

But first……

The man who has forgotten more about Drake athletics than anyone else can remember is 87-year-old Paul Morrison, now the university’s sports historian and before that the school’s news bureau director, athletic business manager and sports information director.

Morrison said he has attended “several thousand” Drake basketball games over the years as Drake Fieldhouse, the Auditorium, the Knapp Center and even the Argonne Armory.

“We played one game at the Argonne Armory on Feb. 15, 1936 because there was a coal strike and we couldn’t play anywhere else,” Morrison recalled. “It was quite an event. We beat Oklahoma A&M, 29-19.”

Oklahoma A&M’s coach was none other than Henry Iba, who became a legend and had a 655-316 record at the school [later renamed Oklahoma State] from 1934-1970.

When the Auditorium was being built and talk began about Drake playing some of its games there, Morrison said the feelings around the campus were positive.

“I didn’t hear any strong negatives about it from the students,” he recalled. “They had to travel from the campus to downtown, but they kind of liked that.”

Morrison said Drake’s first game at the Auditorium was on Jan. 11, 1957. Iowa State beat a Bulldog team coached by John Benington, 97-71.

“The attendance was 7,492,” Morrison said. “Gary Thompson scored 27 points for Iowa State, and hit his 1,000th point against us. Red Murrell scored 28 for Drake.”

Morrison said that was the only game Drake played at the Auditorium in the 1956-57 season.

”In 1957-58, we played four games there—including one against Cincinnati in which Oscar Robertson played for Cincy,” he said. “They beat us, 74-72, and we also lost at the Auditorium to St. Louis, Iowa State and Bradley.

“The 1958-59 season was Maury John’s first at Drake. On Dec. 20, we beat Colorado State, 78-66, at the Auditorium for our first victory there in six tries. Our game was part of a doubleheader in which Iowa State played Oklahoma City.”

Morrison said Drake played two more games at the Auditorium that season, four in 1959-60, nine in 1960-61 and four in 1961-62.

“From the 1962-63 season to March 2, 1992, we played all of our games there,” Morrison said. Rudy Washington was our coach in the final Drake game at the Auditorium, and we lost to Illinois State, 76-75.”

The 7,002-seat Knapp Center has been the home of Drake basketball ever since. However, the Bulldogs will open the new 16,558-seat Wells Fargo Arena to collegiate basketball on Nov. 20, 2005 when they play an opponent to be determined in the opening game of a doubleheader. Northern Iowa will play in the second game of the Mediacom Communications Two Rivers Shootout.

Back to the Auditorium for a few seconds, Morrison remembers when the players who made up the core of John’s 1968-69 team that went to the NCAA Final Four and finished with a 26-5 record were freshmen.

“They couldn’t play varsity basketball as freshmen in those days,” Morrison explained. “But the Drake students and other people would come early on game-night so they could see Dolph Pulliam, Willie McCarter and the others play in the freshman games.”

The Drake games at the Auditorium of which I have the fondest memories both had Louisville as the opponent. One was in the 1968-69 season.

The game was played March 1. On Jan. 25, Drake had lost at Louisville, 84-70. I was on hand for both games.

The March 1 game was loaded with emotion. Drake was on a seven-game winning streak—with victories over Memphis State, Iowa State, North Texas State, Bradley, Wichita State, Tulsa and Cincinnati.

Drake’s students were ready. When Louisville’s players were introduced, the students covered their faces with newspapers. [That not only prevented them from looking at Louisville’s players, but permitted them to read my pregame story!]

“Dolph Pulliam takes credit for that idea [of the students covering their faces],” Morrison said.

At the time, Pulliam was an outstanding guard for the Bulldogs, with defense as his specialty. He also made theatrical flops to draw offensive fouls.

With students chanting, “Here we go, Bulldogs!”, Drake wound up burying Louisville, 101-67, then also beat the Cardinals, 77-73, a week later in a Missouri Valley Conference playoff game at Wichita, Kan., en route to the NCAA Midwest Regional at Manhattan, Kan.

Another huge Drake-Louisville game was played at the Auditorium on Jan. 23, 1971.

Dave Wicklund, a 6-foot reserve guard, came off the bench to score the winning basket on a length-of-the-floor pass from Jeff Halliburton.
Two seconds remained when John called his players over during a timeout.

“Coach said, ‘OK, Wicklund, you’re going to shoot the ball,’ Wicklund told me.

“And, generally, the play called for Halliburton to throw the ball to about the other team’s free throw line so I could shoot it from there if I had the time.

“But this time I had to catch up to the ball. And I went in for the layup that won the game.”

Wicklund said he didn’t even know if the shot was successful because he was knocked to the floor by a Louisville player.

The 1970-71 season was John’s last at Drake. He then went to Iowa State, and continued to bring his teams to the Auditorium to play the Bulldogs.

On Dec. 15, 1973, John’s team lost to Howard Stacey’s Drake squad, 61-60, there. John had already told me that he had inoperable cancer of the esophagus.

Talk about emotion at the Auditorium. Wow.

Then there was the time when Al McGuire brought his Marquette team to the Auditorium to play Drake. Always looking for an edge, John had told workers to move the players’ benches to the other side of the building so the students would be seated behind McGuire and his players.

McGuire complained that the students threw pennies at his head. The benches were moved to the other side for Drake’s next game.

In those days, people were permitted to smoke in the narrow walkways at the Auditorium. That smoke formed a large cloud over the playing floor in the last half and threatened to send thousands of people to the first-aid room in the building because of shortness of breath.

I put in a number of long days and nights while covering the State High School Boys’ and Girls’ basketball tournaments at the Auditorium, and I’ve still got the splinters off the press row seats to prove it.

I was there for some of Kurt Warner’s Arena League exploits for the Barnstormers, I saw ice shows, Home and Garden shows, Boat and Vacation shows and concerts.

There was only one Auditorium.

Happy 50th birthday. I’ll light the candles.

Vol. 4, No. 301
Jan. 21, 2005

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Local Paper Dropped the Ball on Reunion of '80 Hawkeyes

The sports department of the local paper comes in for a well-deserved spanking today.

And that spanking is done by a veteran, and still-working, newspaper writer who knows his way around athletics at the University of Iowa.

Something I could not believe was how the Register dropped the ball on the reunion of the 1980 Final Four team,” the guy wrote in an e-mail to me.

It was a shock to that man and many others who were depending on the local paper for extended coverage of the ’80 Hawkeyes. The team had its 25th reunion last weekend in Iowa City and was honored at the Iowa-Minnesota game Saturday.

All the readers got in Sunday’s local paper was a photo of six of the team’s 14 players and a half-dozen paragraphs on Page 6C.

That’s an embarrassment.

The Iowa newspaperman said in his e-mail to me: “I bumped into Chuck Schoffner at the Iowa game Saturday, and thanked him for his AP package of stuff last week that included a general feature on the 25th anniversary, the sidebar on your old friend, Lute Olson, and the agate listing of all the team’s scores and roster for that year.

“Great stuff that our readers enjoyed, reliving the memories when a Hawkeye basketball team actually OVERACHIEVED. I know, that sounds foreign now.

“I asked if the Register had done anything prior to the game, thinking maybe I’d missed something, and he said no, that they were probably the only paper that didn’t. That’s sad. So many story lines not explored. No interview with Ronnie Lester, no update on the cancer struggles encountered by poor Kenny Arnold, who could barely sign his name or walk to the court.

“No updates on the current activities of other crowd favorites like Vince Brookins or Mike ‘Tree’ Henry. Iowa natives like Steve Waite, Mark Gannon and Bobby Hansen could have lended their perspectives, against the backdrop of recent disappointments.

“[Sean] Keeler is supposedly an Iowa native. How could he miss an opportunity? So he could write about steroids in baseball? So we could have a feature on Friday of Erek Hansen pimping his ride? C’mon.”

The writer added, “I interviewed Lester, Brookins and Gannon after the game, and I still was able to get to most of the coaches’ postgame media session. It wasn’t impossible to do more than was done. At the very least, a larger picture of the group, showing EVERYBODY, during the halftime show would have been interesting for fans. I taped the telecast and was disappointed ESPN Plus didn’t show any of it. A lot of Iowans have no idea how much love and respect Hawkeye fans felt in that arena Saturday afternoon, and it WASN’T for Steve Alford recently gaining his 100th victory at Iowa.

"The lines for autographs snaked around the councourse so far you couldn’t believe it. Fans were lined right up to game time, more than an hour total for some.

“This was just another in a long line of poor decisions by the paper we used to depend on.”


There were a number of well-written columns and stories by Iowa journalists on the reunion of the 1980 Hawkeyes, and one of the best was authored by Larry Peterson of the Creston News Advertiser.

Here it is:


CNA feature writer

IOWA CITY — They came from a variety of backgrounds.

Kids from the city streets of Chicago and Cleveland. Others from
small-town Iowa. Even a couple hometown kids who starred at Iowa City high
schools. What they had in common is that most weren’t highly recruited by
the nation’s basketball powers.

But somehow, coach Lute Olson molded them into a never-say-die squad that
knocked on the doorstep of a national championship in 1980.

“Have you ever been to a real big family Christmas?” says Mark Gannon, a
freshman from Iowa City Regina on that Final Four Hawkeye team. “That’s
what this is. We’ve got guys who grew up in the worst parts of Chicago,
where a lot of us wouldn’t even want to go into. We’ve got guys from right
here in Iowa. There’s just so much love between everybody. These guys
cared about each other on the court and off the court.”

Missing All-American guard Ronnie Lester for nearly all of the Big Ten
season, the Hawkeyes managed a 10-8 conference season and slipped into the
48-team NCAA Tournament field with a 19-8 record.

Perfect half

With Lester back in the fold, Iowa went on a four-game spree in the East
Regional, culminating in an 81-80 victory over Georgetown to claim the
region championship.

“We had one turnover, shot 78 percent from the field and missed no free
throws in a perfect half of basketball,” Olson said, recalling the
comeback from a 14-point deficit against Georgetown.

Lester scored 10 points before reinjuring his knee in the first half
against Louisville in the semifinals. Iowa was still within three points
with a minute left in the game before Darrell Griffith hit a deep shot to
stretch it to five points. Foul shots moved the final margin to 80-72.

Louisville went on to win the national title over UCLA, 59-54. Purdue
bounced a deflated Iowa team in the third-place game, 75-58.

Lester, still signing autographs long after Iowa’s 66-60 victory over
Minnesota Saturday afternoon, said he anxiously watched the remainder of
the Louisville game from the dressing room.

“I knew I wasn’t going back in the game to play, so I watched the game in
the locker room and I was just rooting for my guys,” Lester said. “It’s
tough when you’re hurt and you can’t get out there when you know you could
help. I would like to have played in the game to see what happened. To
look back and think that it’s been 25 years ago, it just doesn’t seem like

Gannon said the team member still have respect for Lester, a former scout
for the Los Angeles Lakers now in the team’s front office.

“When I look back, there are three guys who really controlled this team,”
Gannon said. “John Strief (trainer), Ronnie Lester and Lute Olson. Vince
Brookins, too, is one of the truly great people you’ll ever meet. Lute
knew how to motivate people. We’d run through a brick wall for him. He was
demanding, but really a fair man.”

Health concerns

The closeness of the team is evident in their shared concern for Kenny
Arnold, a sophomore guard from Chicago on that squad who had to fill in at
point guard when Lester was hurt in the Dayton Classic in late December.

Arnold suffered a brain tumor a few years after college, and again faces
cancer issues. His mobility was limited in Saturday’s ceremonies.

“Right now our main concern is Kenny,” Gannon said. “We want to make sure
he’s getting everything he needs. He’s been a little down, and we’re
hoping this event picks him up a little. All of us get to Chicago quite a
bit, so hopefully we can stay a part of his life as he battles this. He’s
a great, great person.”

Fontanelle native Jerry Strom, in his 25th year as a basketball
administrator at Iowa, said the team supports and encourages Arnold.

“Kenny wasn’t sure he wanted to come to this, because he was having some
trouble walking and didn’t know if he wanted to take part in it,” Strom
said. “The other guys would have none of that. They insisted that he

Team members signed autographs on the arena’s concourse for more than an
hour prior to the game. At halftime, each player was introduced under a
spotlight after coach Olson delivered a video message, and CBS highlights
from the 1980 Final Four were shown. The group gathered at midcourt to a
rousing ovation. ESPN Plus television coverage of the game did not show
any of the ceremony.

Current Iowa coach Steve Alford also praised the appearance of Iowa’s only
Final Four team in 49 years.

“I want to say a big thank-you to our 1980 team,” Alford said. “That was
an era when I was in early high school, and I had a lot of fun watching
the matchups of Ronnie Lester and Isiah Thomas. That’s a very special
team. Great guys. For them to call come back is tremendous, and our staff
was excited about it. Hopefully some of their magic rubbed off.”

23-10 Overall, 10-8 Big Ten

Dec. 1 — Northern Illinois W 86-43
Dec. 3 — Colorado State W 113-66
Dec. 6 — Northern Iowa W 78-46
Dec. 8 — at Detroit W 80-54
Dec. 11 — at Wichita State W 81-62
Dec. 15 — at Iowa State W 67-64
Dayton Classic
Dec. 22 — vs. Mississippi State W 81-62
Dec. 23 — at Dayton W 61-54
Dec. 29 — Drake W 77-66
Jan. 3 — at Illinois W 72-71
Jan. 5 — at Michigan L 68-65
Jan. 10 — Ohio State L 77-71
Jan. 12 — Wisconsin W 66-65
Jan. 17 — at Indiana L 81-69
Jan. 19 — at Michigan State L 75-67
Jan. 24 — Northwestern W 86-64
Jan. 26 — Minnesota W 80-73
Jan. 31 — at Purdue L 70-56
Feb. 2 — at Minnesota W 73-63
Feb. 7 — Michigan State W 44-39
Feb. 9 — Purdue W 74-59
Feb. 14 — Indiana L 66-55
Feb. 16 — at Northwestern W 60-58
Feb. 21 — at Wisconsin L 62-58
Feb. 23 — at Ohio State L 70-69
Feb. 28 — Michigan W 83-67
March 1 — Illinois W 75-71
NCAA Tournament
At Greensboro, N.C.
March 6 — Virginia Commonwealth W 86-72
March 8 — North Carolina State W 77-64
At Philadelphia, Pa.
March 14 — Syracuse W 88-77
March 16 — Georgetown W 81-80
At Indianapolis
March 22 — Louisville L 80-72
March 24 — Purdue L 75-58


Mike Arens, 6-4, Sr.
Kenny Arnold, 6-2, So.
Greg Boyle, 6-2, Jr.
Kevin Boyle, 6-6, So.
Vince Brookins, 6-5, Jr.
Jon Darsee, 6-5, So.
Mark Gannon, 6-6, Fr.
Bob Hansen, 6-5, Fr.
Mike Heller, 6-8, Fr.
Mike Henry, 6-9, Jr.
Steve Krafcisin, 6-10, Jr.
Ronnie Lester, 6-2, Sr.
Randy Norton, 6-0, So.
Steve Waite, 6-10, Jr.


In a recent column, I wrote that a retired writer and editor at the local paper e-mailed me about Mike Kilen--a reporter who now works there.

“[Ken] Fuson is supposed to be their hot-shot features writer,” the retiree told me. “But he only writes one story every two months. In the meantime, Mike Kilen turns out damn good feature stories every few days, and probably for a hell of a lot less money than they are paying Fuson.”

I said later in the column that I know Fuson better than I know Kilen, but that they both are talented writers.

Now comes an e-mail from another writer—an Iowan who is still working, but not in Des Moines.

“I’m very familiar with Mike Kilen’s background, and am similarly impressed,” the guy writes. “He’s a Minnesota native who was writing sports at the Mason City Globe-Gazette…..In the fall of 1989, he had just moved to the Gazette to write features. His work there was stellar, particularly in a series that followed the dying days of several AIDS patients. Riveting. Then he went to Nashville. He’s being wasted on some frivolous topics on the Iowa Life page [at the Register], when he’s capable of being Fuson-like in news features. But I almost always read his stuff anyway, because he’s so good at weaving details and setting the scene. You should have read his sports stuff. VERY GOOD. In fact, he’d easily be the best sports columnist on the staff if they’d give Keeler the boot.”


On the subject of outstanding writing, I certainly want to mention the four-part series Marc Hansen just completed on Randy Brown.

At first, I was afraid it was a bad idea for Brown to agree to tell his story--even with the help of Hansen's tremendous writing ability--but Marc put me and everyone else at ease with another wonderful job.

You can be certain that the paper’s editors will enter Hansen’s series in a bunch of writing contests, and I hope he wins everything in sight.

Vol. 4, No. 300

Jan. 19, 2005

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Ex-Editor Unhappy in Indy, Rips Ryerson, Henry, Gannett

Dennis Ryerson and Barbara Henry are in the news again.

And the news is negative.

I’ll bet you can’t imagine that, can you?

A guy who worked at the local paper in the good old days – those would be the pre-Gannett days — and now is glad he doesn’t, sent me this e-mail.

There’s an opening at the Indianapolis Star if you want to work for Dennis Ryerson and Barbara Henry. This woman didn’t.”

The guy provided me links to several stories about Vickie Elmer’s departure as business editor of the Star.

Elmer didn’t go quietly. She ripped the Gannett Co., which owns the Star, Ryerson [the editor] and Henry [the publisher].

Elmer said, “They basically pushed me out.”

She also told Editor & Publisher that her departure from the Star is a “red flag” about Gannett. “When good people can be sent packing, it raises cautions [about Gannett]. It’s a worrisome sign.”

Ryerson and Henry both include Des Moines as stops they once made in their working careers after Gannett bought the local paper and turned it into a hellhole.

Actually, Ryerson was at the local paper twice—and wasn’t well-liked by the newsroom staff either time.

In a separate interview with Joe Strupp of Editor & Publisher, Ryerson disputed the rip job Elmer did on the Star and its bosses.

I don’t want to get into an argument with Vickie,” he told the journalism magazine. “But I want a business section that is compelling every day.”

It will be interesting to follow what happens now that Elmer’s comments have appeared in Editor & Publisher and on the Poynter journalism website.

The Poynter site has already received mail praising Elmer for not going quietly from her job.

You can take it to the bank that plenty of other people working at Gannett newspapers, including the one in this town, share Elmer’s thoughts.

They’d be heading for the exits, too, if they had another job to go to other than the night shift at Kum & Go.

A few more departures from the Star and a few more complaints to Editor & Publisher from the pissed-off people who worked there, and you can figure that one particular Indianapolis clown [who has no connection to the talented baseball team that played in that city from 1946-1962] may be looking for work again.

Come to think of it, the news editor job at the local paper is still open after more than a year. The farm department may need help, too. But I don’t know if I’d want to do that to Jerry Perkins of the farm department or not. I’m trying to stay in the holiday spirit.


Here’s the Editor & Publisher story on Elmer’s departure:

'Indy Star' Top Business Editor Exits with a Blast at Gannett

By Joe Strupp

Published: January 13, 2005 5:00 PM ET

NEW YORK--Apparently fed up with what she termed Gannett Co.'s tightened "grip on the paper," Vickie Elmer of The Indianapolis Star left her job Thursday afternoon as top editor of the business section.

In a frank memo, first posted on the Poynter Institute's Romenesko site, Elmer, 43, stated why she was leaving the paper's assistant managing editor/business post, which she has held since late 2003. Her reason: "[A] fundamental and philosophical disagreement with senior management over the direction, readership and staffing needs of the Business section. ... I leave hoping for the best for The Star, as Gannett tightens its grip on the paper and its people."

Elmer revealed she was leaving "at a time and in a way that my bosses have determined are best -- and I hope they will give their best, as I did, to the dozen members of my team."

She lamented that her departure had to occur with "much work undone and at least six jobs on the Business Desk unfilled, because of the five-plus month hiring freeze and other factors outside my control." She added that the paper's top managers wanted to "reinvent the Business section so it focuses on the business elite, managers, executives and opinion leaders. My vision has always been broader and more inclusive -- we provide stories that appeal to clerks and CEOs, college students, cafe owners and cleaning ladies."

Elmer, who could not be reached for comment, also tallied the section's successes under her guidance, including more front-page play and a "string" of exclusives.

According to her bio on the paper's Web site, "Ms. Elmer ... was hired to develop the Business section as a must-read with stories that have authority, creativity and broad appeal. The section focuses on the regional economy of Indiana, health and medical coverage and retail and consumer issues.

"She had spent seven years at Newsday in New York City and Long Island, editing weekend and enterprise business and workplace stories, developing coverage of New York City business and the rebuilding of the World Trade Center complex.

"She also helped Newsday develop and expand its Sunday Money & Careers section and its coverage of stories that appeal to women and 20-somethings".

Editor Dennis Ryerson and Publisher Barbara Henry could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Joe Strupp ( is a senior editor at E&P.


Here’s what the journalism website Poynteronline used on Elmer’s exit from the Indianapolis paper:

Topic: Memos Sent to Romenesko

Date/Time: 1/13/2005 3:01:28 PM
Title: Indy Star business editor Elmer's farewell memo
Posted By: Jim Romenesko

Indianapolis Star assistant managing editor/business Vickie Elmer's resignation memo

I regret to say that I am leaving The Indianapolis Star, effective immediately, because of a fundamental and philosophical disagreement with senior management over the direction, readership and staffing needs of the Business section.

I leave much work undone and at least six jobs on the Business Desk unfilled, because of the five-plus month hiring freeze and other factors outside my control. And I leave Business section prototypes sparkling and nearly ready to launch.

I leave The Star as senior management seeks to reinvent the Business section so it focuses on the business elite, managers, executives and opinion leaders. My vision has always been broader and more inclusive -- we provide stories that appeal to clerks and CEOs, college students, cafe owners and cleaning ladies.

I leave behind a small but mighty Business Desk that has come together with a can-do attitude that has resulted in a number of impressive achievements in the last year:

-We have produced more A1 staff stories than the Sports and Features Desks combined, and those departments are each more than twice the size of Business.

-We have produced a string of exclusive stories, from ATA's deal with Southwest to Eastgate Mall closing to Guidant's moves and the 19-year-old's suicide in a Lilly drug trial.

-We have written diverse and lively stories and profiles, about small Mexican restaurants thriving in Indianapolis and hip-hop retailer Man Alive, minority business contracts and profiles of the female plantiff taking on Wal-Mart.

-We have written with authority, color and context on companies from ATA to Zimmer, from and Eli Lilly to Long's Electric.

I leave at a time and in a way that my bosses have determined are best -- and I hope they will give their best, as I did, to the dozen members of my team.

I leave giving thanks and accolades to the fine journalists and staff throughout The Star newsroom who helped me and worked so hard with me during 14 months as assistant managing editor/business. Thanks to everyone for their encouragement, energy and support.

I leave hoping for the best for The Star, as Gannett tightens its grip on the paper and its people. I hope the energy and exclusives will carry on and the collaborative and caring esprit de corps of the Business staff will continue to shine.


Here’s the Editor & Publisher story after Joe Strupp interviewed Ryerson:

'Indy Star' Editor Defends Paper From Ousted Biz Editor's Complaints

By Joe Strupp

Published: January 14, 2005 2:00 PM ET

Dennis Ryerson, editor of The Indianapolis Star, challenged the claim by ousted business-section editor Vickie Elmer that she had been unable to hire new people for her staff, saying he is actively recruiting for four business section positions.

"I am looking to replace her, as well as hire a deputy business editor, a reporter, and a business columnist," said Ryerson, who would not comment specifically on Elmer's Thursday departure. "We had slowed hiring, but we are back in the game filling positions."

Elmer left her post as assistant managing editor/business after 14 months on the job, citing staffing limits as among her reasons for departure, in a widely circulated memo. The terse memo claimed that parent company Gannett was partly to blame for the limited resources, saying it was tightening its "grip on the paper." She repeated her concerns about Gannett in comments to E&P this morning.

Ryerson disagreed, saying that in addition to the business recruitment, he had hired a sportswriter and a graphic designer in the past few weeks. "We also have about a dozen positions we are filling," he added.

Elmer objected to what she termed a changing focus for the business section, away from a mix of personal-finance and feature stories -- along with hard news -- to more corporate and "elite" stories, "focusing more of the stories on the top five percent of the audience," Elmer said. "Senior managers, executives and business owners."

Ryerson would not specifically respond to Elmer's complaints, but he admitted that the business section was seeking a more hard-core approach along with personal finance topics. "My No. 1 interest is serving the core business reader," Ryerson said. "We have lost some of that franchise over the years. I don't want to get into an argument with Vickie. But I want a business section that is compelling every day."

Elmer said she had been asked to either follow the new approach or take another position at the paper. She said none of the other posts were attractive, so she left. "I could not see myself in another position, so we parted ways," Elmer added. "But they basically pushed me out."

Ryerson declined to comment on whether Elmer was fired or quit. "It is a personnel issue," he said.

Elmer, who is from Detroit, said she was "wined and dined" by the Star in late 2003 to take the job after seven years in several business section posts at Newsday in Melville, N.Y. "I gave up a very interesting and cool job to come here," she told E&P. "They took me to fancy restaurants and talked up the city. It was a substantial pay package and a hiring bonus."

She said the paper promised her a mixed approach to business coverage, as well freedom to hire at least five people to fill business-section openings. "I added two people to my staff, including one who came over from the projects team," Elmer said. "But then the hiring freeze hit in August. I also lost two people during that time, so my staff was still down."

The former editor, who said she would like to join another newspaper or magazine, made clear that it would likely not be another Gannett publication. "It has given me pause about Gannett," she said about her experience. "The whole staffing resources issue. They're not hiring a sizeable enough staff. There is not enough of a sense of being able to do good work."

She called her departure a "red flag" about Gannett. "When good people can be sent packing, it raises cautions [about Gannett]," she added. "It's a worrisome sign."

Ryerson, who joined the Star two years ago, confirmed that Elmer had been the third assistant managing editor/business to leave in four years. But, he said other editing posts had also seen higher turnover in the recent past, a situation he believes is changing. "We are seeking more stability in all departments and I think it is happening," he added.

Joe Strupp ( is a senior editor at E&P.


So Red McCombs, owner of the Minnesota Vikings, wanted play-by-play announcer Joe Buck removed from the team’s NFL playoff game Sunday against Philadelphia, right?

Fox Sports, the TV company for which Buck works, told McCombs to shove his request up his ass.

Well, maybe those weren’t the precise words Fox used to turn down McCombs’ request. Whatever, Buck isn’t buckling under anything McCombs wants. Buck will be the play-by-play announcer Sunday.

I understand McCombs, who lives in San Antonio, Texas, made his money selling used cars. I’m sure he’s very good at his job. I'm sure he sold plenty of 1990 Plymouths.

But it’s obvious he doesn’t know a damn thing about TV.

Buck got in trouble with McCombs after he termed as “disgusting” what the Vikings’ Randy Moss did late in last Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers.

After scoring a touchdown, Moss pretended to be taking down his pants and wiping his ass on the goalpost at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

Buck immediately said on the air that it was—“disgusting…..and it’s unfortunate we had it on the air.”

Moss has since been fined $10,000 by the NFL.

I’m glad Buck said what he said and I’m glad Fox is standing behind him.

Now, if we can just get Buck to quit acting like he’s partial to the St. Louis Cardinals whenever Fox carries a Cardinals-Chicago Cubs game during the baseball season.

Buck, of course, is the son of the late Jack Buck, a longtime announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Vol. 4, No. 299
Jan. 15, 2005

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Iowa State's NCAA Tournament Hopes Are Fading Fast

Iowa State is a basketball team in trouble.

Its NCAA tournament hopes are folding right in front of us.

Before the season began, the Cyclones indicated it would be a big-time disappointment if there was no NCAA tournament at the end of what they assumed would be a 2004-2005 rainbow.

It’s not going to happen.

Not unless coach Wayne Morgan and his players make a dramatic turnaround.

Not unless they can win on the road as well as protect their home court.

Not unless Curtis Stinson, who some thought was ready for the NBA, suddenly gets ready for the Big 12.

Not unless Morgan can find some replacements on the bench after the departures of Reggie George [kicked off the team] and Robert Faulkner [academic problems].

While looking for something good to happen, something bad – very bad – awaits the Cyclones later this week.

Following last night’s 71-66 loss to No. 2-rated Kansas, they take records of 8-5 overall and 0-2 in the Big 12 Conference into a game Saturday at Oklahoma State.

Don’t look for this to be a pretty picture on ABC-TV for Iowa State.

Sixth-ranked Oklahoma State will be trying to get coach Eddie Sutton his 768th career victory, which would put him past the legendary Henry Iba, his mentor in Stillwater.

As lousy as Iowa State plays on the road – 26 consecutive Big 12 losses – this could get ugly in a hurry.

ABC will be sending the game to 23 percent of the nation’s households.

How long the network stays with the Clones’ game instead of switching to North Carolina-Wake Forest [which gets 60 percent of the coverage] or Arizona-UCLA [17 percent] is anybody’s guess.

I took a quick look at what Iowa State has done so far and what’s still ahead on the schedule. I’ve got the Cyclones projected to finish the regular season at 16-12.

Unless Morgan pulls some magic wand out of his pocket or unless Tim Floyd is hired to draw up the game plan at the Big 12 tournament, Iowa State is headed to the dreaded NIT again.

Iowa State vs. Creighton in the first round at Omaha. That really gets your blood moving, doesn’t it?


Where’s Johnny Orr when Iowa State needs him?

The attendance at Hilton Coliseum for the Iowa State-Kansas game was announced as 13,009—more than 1,000 below capacity.

That’s very difficult to believe.

When Orr was coaching at Iowa State and sending teams against Kansas’ Larry Brown, there would have been more than 1,000 people bringing crowbars to Hilton, trying to get into a sold-out building.


Iowa State, of course, isn’t the only basketball team that’s headed in the wrong direction.

I have a friend who has something in common with Steve Alford’s team. They both go south in January.

“It looks like the Hawkeye women have gone south, too,” he writes.

HALUSKA NEEDS 5 STITCHES OVER HIS RIGHT EYE reports that it’s already been a tough season for Iowa’s Adam Haluska.

The sophomore had groin and stomach injuries that kept him out of practice for nearly three weeks in November. Haluska has since had to overcome upper back spasms that took him out of last week’s 81-69 loss at Ohio State.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Haluska needed five stitches over his right eye after being nailed in yesterday’s practice by forward Doug Thomas. The injury isn’t expected to bother Haluska in Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game against Minnesota [12-3 overall, 2-0 in the Big Ten and on a 10-game winning streak] at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Of his 12-3 team, which has lost its first two Big Ten games, Alford said at today’s press conference:

“Our theme this week is that this is going to be our opener [and we need to] get that enthusiasm and that fire in our eye. We’re really looking at playing a 14-game schedule now, and this is our home opener.

“We’re going to attack this like a home opener, and then we have to move on to our next set of games.”

[NOTE: After reading an early version of this column, an eastern Iowa reader e-mailed me with a message that said: "I find it hard to believe that Alford expects his college-age Hawkeyes to play 'Let's Pretend.' How many openers can a team have?" As you can see, my readers are very intelligent people.]

The team has emphasized fundaments in practice this week.

“I think we’ve tried to practice for other teams so much instead of playing the way we’re supposed to play,” guard Jeff Horner said. “In [the Maui Invitational], we trapped ball screens all the time, and we’ve kind of gotten away from that.


Honored at Saturday’s Lettermen’s Day game will be the 1980 Hawkeye team that played in the NCAA Final Four.

Although that team had only a 10-8 record and finished fourth in the Big Ten standings, it beat Virginia Commonwealth, North Carolina State, Syracuse and Georgetown in the East Region before losing to Louisville and Purdue [when there was still a third-place game] in the Final Four in Indianapolis.

Steve Waite, Vince Brookins, Ronnie Lester, Steve Krafcisin, Kevin Boyle, Kenny Arnold, Bobby Hansen and Mark Gannon were among those on that team.

The famous Lute Olson, God’s gift to coaching, was in his sixth season with the Hawkeyes when they had a 23-10 overall record.

Olson is not expected back for the game because his Arizona team plays Saturday against UCLA. As magical as the man is, it’s difficult for him to be in two time zones on the same afternoon.

Vol. 4, No. 298
Jan. 13, 2005

Saturday, January 08, 2005

'Mr. November' Is Messing Up Some Good Rumors

Steve Alford sure knows how to screw up some good rumors.

I’m sure a few of you have already heard the rumors.

The short version goes like this:

1. Mike Davis, who has not exactly come across as another Bobby Knight in his job as Indiana’s basketball coach [Davis has thrown one fewer chair and choked one fewer Hoosier player], gets fired at the end of the season.

2. Steve Alford, the “Mr. November” of Big Ten Conference basketball coaches, is still adored by Hoosier fans. They like Alford more than Iowa’s fans like Alford. So, after Davis is canned, Alford is courted heavily by those who do the hiring at Indiana.

3. Alford initially says, “I love it at Iowa and my family is happy here. My kids all wear Tiger-Hawk sweatshirts and Tanya, my wife, likes her seat at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.” However, Alford finally agrees to meet Indiana’s athletic director in the baggage claim area at O’Hare Airport in Chicago to discuss the Hoosier job.

4. News leaks out in an alternative newspaper in Indianapolis that Alford might like to take the Indiana job. He figures it would be a chance to prove that he actually knows something about coaching in the Big Ten. Besides, he misses practicing jump shots every afternoon at Assembly Hall in Bloomington.

5. Alford accepts the Indiana offer in April. Most Indiana fans are happy, and all Iowa fans are ecstatic. Parades are scheduled in both Bloomington and Iowa City when the news is announced.

6. Bob Bowlsby, Iowa’s athletic director, hires Greg McDermott of Northern Iowa as the Hawkeyes’ new coach two days after Alford leaves town.

7. In the 2005-2006 preseason magazines, Iowa is picked to win the conference title. Indiana is picked to finish ninth.


I ran the rumors of Alford replacing Davis at Indiana if Indiana cans Davis past a guy who spends a lot of time critiquing Hawkeye athletics.

“I wonder what Bowlsby has in mind to replace Alford if all this unfolds,” he said. “I like the guy at UNI. Excellent coach and a humble, small-town Iowa boy. What a change that would be.”


But, like I said, Alford is messing up this whole scenario.

His 14th-ranked team [which suddenly will drop to about No. 20 in the next poll] is off to an 0-2 start in the Big Ten. No Iowa team has done that since 1993-94.

After the shocking 65-63 home loss Wednesday to Michigan, the Hawkeyes were blitzed by Ohio State, 81-69, today.

Keep this up and those folks at Indiana may decide that maybe Alford isn’t the guy they want.

“We were really playing well and now we look like a different basketball team,” Alford told reporters in Columbus after today’s game. “It’s unfortunate this came at the start of the Big Ten season, but I told the guys that 0-2 is not the end of the season.”


Unfortunately, those listening to Gary Dolphin and Bobby Hansen on the Iowa radio network didn’t get to hear Alford’s explanation for why Iowa flopped again.

Dolphin said “technical difficulties with our recorder and microphone” prevented him from putting Alford’s comments on the air.

So I had to relay that message to my West Coast Correspondent, who had e-mailed me with this question:

I was wondering something, and maybe you can answer me: When is Iowa going to get itself a basketball coach?”

I was tempted to say, “Not until Greg McDermott signs the contract,” but instead I told West Coast Correspondent that technical problems with the recorder and microphone kept us from hearing Alford’s comments on the postgame radio show.

However, I really can’t say for sure if Alford planned to explain on that postgame show when Iowa aims to get itself a basketball coach.

“Alford’s team is having technical difficulties, that’s for sure,” West Coast Correspondent replied.


Fortunately, the plug wasn’t pulled in Columbia, Mo., on John Walters and Eric Heft, the radio guys for Iowa State.

Cyclone coach Wayne Morgan went on the air after the Cyclones’ 62-59 loss, whether he wanted to or not.

After all, it was Iowa State’s 26th straight Big 12 Conference road loss dating back to February, 2001.

“It’s obviously hard to be very happy or jubilant or anything like that,” Morgan told Walters. “That’s a bad loss, and there are guys in the locker room crying over it.”

Morgan said his players “gave everything they had, A 17-minute stretch in the second half was probably the best 17 minutes we’ve played all year.”

I hate to say something like this about the opening Big 12 game of the season, but it was almost a “must-win” situation for the Cyclones.

Now they must play second-ranked Kansas on Wednesday at Ames and they’re at No. 6 Oklahoma State next Saturday.

An 0-3 Big 12 start would not be promising for an Iowa State team that has an 8-4 overall record and will consider it a disappointment to not make it to the NCAA tournament.


In a sidebar to the advance story on the Iowa-Ohio State basketball game, the local paper had a story headlined:

Clank! Shaq and
Pierce can't shoot

Can someone please tell me what Pierre Pierce's free-throw shooting problems have to do with Shaquille O'Neal's?

The same idiot must have written that story and headline that wrote this headline less a week earlier in the same paper:

Vikings enter
through rear

Like I said earlier, the copy editor who authored that garbage should be dumped out on Locust Street immediately.

Shipping him or her to the farm department would be too unkind. To the farm department, I mean.

Jerry Perkins doesn't deserve that kind of treatment right after Christmas.

After thinking about it, I now have a better idea. Maybe Indianapolis can use him or her.


A feature of Mediacom's TV coverage of Drake's men's team tonight included interviews by announcers B. J. Schaben and Ron Angell of coach Tom Davis and Bulldog player Klayton Korver following the 79-73 victory over Bradley.

"I was going to let Klayton do this by himself," Davis joked, "but he convinced me to come over with him.

Davis made the comment after Schaben, the play-by-play announcer, congratulated Davis on "a huge win."

The victory gave Drake records of 5-7 overall and 2-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Bradley is 9-3 and 2-2.

"It was a nice win for the team because we've been struggling," Davis said. "We've been giving good effort and not feeling like we've been rewarded ss much as we would have liked.

"I'm real proud of how the team hung in there coming down the stretch. Bradley made some great plays. They made some crucial shots to prolong the game, but we made good plays as well.

"We outrebounded another team here tonight, and that really got my attention because Bradley has been outrebouding its opponents by eight or nine. That's a sign of the scrappiness of this ballclub. When people see Korver get 11 rebounds, that's pretty strong. It's the sign of a sensational game."

Korver, who added 12 points to his outstanding performance, said, "Everybody worked real hard, and that was the key to the win."


After what happened to Nate Kaeding tonight in San Diego, I'd hurry back to Iowa City as soon as possible.


Back to Alford for a minute.

He continues to be a favorite subject of my readers.

From an Urbandale man:

“I would agree that Alford is not a great coach. It’s obvious that he does not see himself as a great coach. However, he is probably an ‘adequate’ coach. He did take his previous team [Southwest Missouri State] to the NCAA and he did better than expected in his first year at Iowa. Since then, he made some mistakes with handling of players and experienced some old-fashioned hard luck last year. I don’t ever see him as a great recruiter. After next year, I am afraid that he will fall back into the pattern of being adequate, but nothing more.”

From a West Des Moines woman:

“Why would so many be thrilled to get rid of Alford? He seems to be getting better as a coach.”

[RON MALY’S COMMENT: Both of those e-mails were written before “Mr. November” suffered through those Michigan and Ohio State debacles. Obviously, things have gotten much worse since].

Vol. 4, No. 297
Jan. 8, 2005

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Who's Working And Who's Not Working In D.M. Media

I received an interesting e-mail from an astute retired editor and writer at the local paper.

Here it is:

“Did you notice that the Drake men’s and women’s teams played a doubleheader at Southern Illinois on Sunday? Rick Brown was there for the men’s game, but he didn’t write anything about the women’s game.

“I don’t understand that, but I don’t understand much that goes on down there.

“The latest story going around is that Diane Graham doesn’t do anything at the Register – and Ken Fuson helps her.

“Fuson is supposed to be their hot-shot features writer, but he only writes one story every two months. In the meantime, Mike Kilen turns out damn good feature stories every few days, and probably for a hell of a lot less money than they are paying Fuson.”

[RON MALY’S COMMENT: Rick Brown is a friend of mine and one of the hardest-working guys in the sports department. I, too, thought it was strange that the paper didn’t assign him to cover both the men’s and women’s games at Southern Illinois. I’m inclined to blame it on his bosses—the sports editor and his assistants. They probably didn’t have enough sense to tell Brown to cover both games. But they didn’t hesitate to assign him to cover games involving Drake, Iowa State and Iowa during a hectic period—some involving large amounts of driving--in December when the collegiate basketball and football seasons were overlapping.

[As for Graham, people have been wondering for years just exactly what it is she does in her job as “managing editor /staff development”—whatever the hell that means. She’s been fooling ‘em for a long time. One guy wrote to me to say he had sent his resume to Graham twice when he was looking for a newsroom job, but got no response from her either time. It shouldn’t be very hard to write an e-mail that says, “Thanks for applying. We have no openings at this time, but we’ll keep your name on file.” Then, again, maybe Graham wasn’t awake on the days she received those resumes.

[As for Fuson and Kilen, both are talented feature writers. Of the two, I know Fuson better, and I’ve always admired his writing—before he left the local paper to go to a newspaper job in Baltimore and after he returned. It’s been a long, long time since the paper won a Pulitzer Prize, and I always thought Fuson was the only hope it had of ending the dry spell. I just wish he was in the paper more often. Kilen, meanwhile, continues cranking out very good stuff].


Speaking of Diane Graham, she’s the person you should contact if you’re interested in being an assistant sports editor of the local paper.

An out-of-state reader says he spotted this ad in

“The Des Moines Register is seeking an energetic and innovative
assistant sports editor to lead an 11-member copy desk in producing of a fully paginated section. Top candidates will have supervisory experience, proven editing and design skills under daily newspaper pressures and proven planning ability. Position also involves coordination with reporting staff, photo editor and graphics department. Candidate should be capable of building on our APSE award-winning section's traditional strengths while adding appeal for new and diverse readers. Send resume and work samples to Diane Graham, managing editor/staff development, The Des Moines Register, 715 Locust St., Des Moines, Iowa, 50304, or send email to When applying, mention you saw this opening listed at Job ads copyrighted by - (c)

[RON MALY’S COMMENT: The guy who tipped me off that the local paper was looking for another assistant sports editor headlined his e-mail, “Another Des Moines Opening.” Ho-hum. That pretty much tells the story].


About the local paper's search for an assistant sports editor, a sharp former newsroom employee said, "I guess if they're advertising, that means they think nobody on the sports copy desk is capable of doing the job.

"I would like to think that this is the result of that headline on the Vikings game in the Monday paper, but I doubt that it is."

The man was talking about this horrible X-rated headline in huge type that was on Page 1 of the sports section:

Vikings enter
through rear

Somebody should be fired over that one.


A guy called me, wondering what’s happened to Marty Tirrell in what was at least his second go-around in central Iowa sports-talk radio.

Tirrell was on the morning shift with Ken Miller at KXLQ, 1490-AM. Until Monday, that is.

“Two people, whom I trust, told me that he was gone as of Monday,” said a man who pays close attention to sports-talk radio in central Iowa. “Why or where he went, I don’t know. They also said Ken Miller would do the morning show by himself.”

I’m told that Miller’s on-air morning hours have been cut back to 7-9 o’clock. I guess they had been 6-9.

After leaving the first time, Tirrell told me that Des Moines sports-talk needed “a kick in the ass.”

So much for Tirrell kicking ass. The problem with KXLQ being a threat to kick some ass is that the station’s signal is so weak that few people can hear it.


Well, so much for that 15-1 record I thought Iowa's basketball team would have heading into the Illinois game later this month.

Michigan took care of that by rolling to a 14-point halftime lead en route to a 65-63 victory over the Hawkeyes in a strange Big Ten Conference opener tonight at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

Attendance has been a problem at home all season for Iowa, and its 15,500-seat building was just one-third full for this game. But the blame for the slim turnout couldn't be totally attributed to lack of interest among fans.

Snow--and lots of it--kept people home.

Some of Iowa's players performed like they should have stayed away, too.

"We had a very poor shooting night and we just didn't guard in the first half," Hawkeye coach Steve Alford told his postgame radio audience. "Having a team ready to play is a head coach's job, and I take full responsibility for that. That group was not ready to play to start the game.

"It was the first time that has happened all year, and it's hard to figure out, being the first Big Ten game."

Michigan (9-5) was an 11-point underdog to a 14th-ranked Iowa team that won 12 of its first 13 games.

Then there was Drake's 61-58 loss to arch-rival Creighton before just 3,014 fans at the Knapp Center. That crowd was held down because of snow, too, as Drake's misfortunes continued in the Missouri Valley Conference.

All in all, it wound up to be a stormy January night for the Hawkeyes and Bulldogs--in more ways than one.

Vol. 4, No. 296
Jan. 5, 2005

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Drake Bid Falls Short; Kroeschell Praises Mike Henderson

Mike Mahon's report on today's Drake-Southern Illinois men's basketball game:

CARBONDALE, ILL. - Drake committed costly turnovers down the stretch
to have an upset bid against preseason Missouri Valley Conference
favorite Southern Illinois fall short en route to dropping a 51-45
decision Sunday.

Southern Illinois, winning its 29th straight MVC home game, improved
to 11-2, including a 2-0 mark in the league.Drake fell to 4-6,
including a 1-2 conference mark.

The Bulldogs limited the three-time defending MVC champion Salukis to
their lowest point total in 147 games dating back to a 51-46 home
victory against Northern Iowa Feb. 17, 2000.

Drake managed to outrebound the Salukis, 35-29, while a stifling zone
defense limited Southern Illinois to just 41.8 percent shooting. But
the Bulldogs committed 23 turnovers, including 11 unforced errors
that proved detrimental.

"We defended well and we won the rebounding battle," said Drake coach
Tom Davis. "We just couldn't put enough points on the board. We
talked before the game about putting forth a great effort and letting
the chips fall."

Sophomore forward Klayton Korver led Drake with nine points and a
career-high nine rebounds. Senior forward Pete Eggers and sophomore
center Aliou Keita scored seven points apiece for Drake with Keita
blocking four shots.

Trailing 41-34 with 9 minutes 30 seconds left, the Bulldogs scored
six straight points to cut the deficit to 41-40 following a short
jumper by Josh Powell.

Drake made just two of its final nine shots of the game, while
committing three turnovers.

After a jumper at the top of the key by Joshua Warren gave Southern
Illinois a 43-40 lead, junior guard Chaun Brooks answered with a
jumper to pull the Bulldogs within 43-42. Warren hit another basket
to give the Salukis a 45-42 lead and the Korver was called for travel.

Drake managed to cut the lead to 47-45 following a three-point play
by Keita with 1:39 left but the Bulldogs missed their last five shots
of the game.

Drake's bench outscored Southern Illinois, 16-8

Drake's pressure defense forced Southern Illinois into eight
turnovers in the first half but the Bulldogs couldn't take advantage
en route to a 26-21 intermission deficit.

Southern Illinois guard Darren Brooks scored a game-high 12 points
while forward LaMar Owen added 10.

Drake will return to the Knapp Center to open a three-game, five-day
homestand, playing Creighton Wednesday followed by games with Bradley Saturday and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Jan. 10.


Tom Kroeschell is a Drake graduate who handles the public address responsibilities at the Drake Relays.

Kroeschell, now the sports information director at Iowa State, sent me this e-mail today regarding the late Mike Henderson, the well-known and well-liked sports facts-and-figures man:

"Mike Henderson was one of my greatest mentors. I can't think of anything I know about track and field that he didn't teach me. I just don't have the words to tell you all he did for me. I don't have any words to describe the emptiness I feel after his departure. First Pete Taylor and then Mike. Two great people who went before their time. And, may I say, along with you they were people who treated newcomers to their professions with kindness at the height of their careers."

Henderson died Thursday of complications from emphysema and sleep apnea. He was 63.

He served as the information director with the Girls High School Union since 1973. His razor-sharp memory for names, numbers and faces made him one of the most respected figures on the Iowa sports scene, and he was regarded as one of the top sports statisticians in the country.

"Mike's passing leaves a tremendous void in the Iowa athletic scene," said Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union executive director Troy Dannen. "He showed a tireless dedication and commitment to both girls and boys athletics for over three decades.

"Mike devoted his life, both personal and professional, to interscholastic athletics in Iowa. He worked 12- to 16-hour days which stretched deep into the night to ensure the Iowa Girl had the recognition and attention she deserved. For Mike, the job was never done. He always believed there was always something else he could be doing that would give a new level of attention and interest to the students and schools of this state. He could count every coach and media member in this state as a friend, and those people respected and appreciated his work. The Iowa Girl lost a friend and supporter with Mike's passing."

In addition to his duties at the IGHSAU, Mike served as the chief statistician for the Drake Relays and Drake men and women's basketball for over 30 years. His love for track and field led to his work as chief statistician at seven NCAA outdoor track and field championships, 12 Missouri Valley Conference indoor meets and four Big Eight outdoor meets. He served on the games committee for the first-ever National Collegiate Women's cross-country meet in 1974.

Mike's devotion to Iowa girls' high school athletics led to countless awards and recognition, including the Iowa High School Athletic Association's Media Award, service awards from prestigious organizations such as the Drake Relays, the Iowa High School Swimming and Diving Coaches Association, National Athletic Coaches Association and the Iowa Coaches Association. He was inducted into the Iowa Track Coaches Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Iowa Swim Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2001.

Vol. 4, No. 295
Jan. 2, 2005

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Tate's Hail Mary Pass Keeps the Iowa Miracle Alive

The Drew Tate story keeps getting bigger and bigger.

University of Iowa football with Kirk Ferentz at the controls keeps getting bigger and bigger.

When does it end? Well, I’ll tell you this. Thirty-thousand Hawkeye fans at the Capital One Bowl game today and many more thousands watching on TV and listening on the radio hope it lasts forever.

When sophomore quarterback Tate fired a 56-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to Warren Holloway as the final precious seconds ticked off the clock, he might have put himself in position to be elected Iowa’s governor.

The touchdown pass was the first of Holloway's collegiate career. And the guy is a fifth-year senior!

"It really hasn't hit me yet," Holloway said in the postgame interviews. "Maybe in a month or so."

For a second or two after the play began, Tate was worried.

"I thought I overthrew him," he said. "Once Warren caught it, he wasn't going down."

It was a miraculous finish to a miraculous 30-25 victory over LSU and a miraculous 2004 season that spilled over to the first day of 2005.

When Rob Brooks, sideline reporter on the Iowa radio network, rushed up to Holloway after the game, the 5-10, 188-pound senior wide receiver from Homewood, Ill., said the winning play was called the “all-alert.”

Holloway, who caught 28 passes all season and three in this game [but only four in his first three seasons as a Hawkeye], was alert enough to be on the receiving end of Tate’s 20th completion in 32 attempts as Iowa wound up a 10-2 season and made sure it will be ranked among the nation’s top 10 teams in the final polls.

And you know what else?

The Hawkeyes will be favorites to win the 2005 Big Ten Conference championship and will be ranked in everybody’s top 10 [can top five be asking too much?] next August. What’s more, Tate will get plenty of mention as the first-team all-Big Ten quarterback and a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Back to the final play for a minute. Let’s face it, Iowa’s offense seemed just as disorganized as LSU’s defense when it began.

Oh, sure, Tate and Holloway will no doubt tell their grandchildren that the winning play was designed under calm, cool conditions, but actually it was pulled off in the craziest kind of atmosphere anyone could imagine.

But somehow, Tate – who often seems to have eyes on both sides and the back of his head as well as the front – saw Holloway streaking downfield.

Holloway caught the ball at the 10-yard line and darted into the end zone as time evaporated.

“We’ve found different ways to win,” Ferentz told the ABC-TV audience afterward. “Different guys have stepped in to help us out. How fitting for a guy like Warren Holloway to do that at the end of the game.

"I don't know if you could write a better script. Nobody would believe it if you did."

Iowa could settle for nothing less than Holloway’s dash to the end zone. Obviously, there would’ve been no time remaining for a possible game-winning field goal by Kyle Schlicher.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who have great hearts,” Ferentz said in his postgame radio comments to Gary Dolphin and Ed Podolak. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been around a more resilient group of athletes in any sport.”

Of Tate, Ferentz said, “He’s a guy who keeps trying to make the play. He’s got some magic to him—there’s no question about that.”

The Tate-to-Holloway scoring pass came with dramatic suddenness after LSU – playing its final game under Nick Saban, who is headed for the Miami Dolphins – took a 25-24 lead with 46 seconds remaining.

Again, Iowa had a running game that was virtually non-existent. That’s nothing new, of course. It’s been that way all season.

The Hawkeyes ranked last in rushing among the nation’s major colleges, and ran for just 58 yards today.

Somehow, some way, Tate, the Hawkeyes and a brilliant defense kept winning all season.

“Kirk Ferentz is the national coach of the year in my opinion,” TV analyst Ed Cunningham said. “What this team went through. His father passed away. The son of [defensive coordinator] Norm Parker passed away, all of the injuries they went through.

“Brian Ferentz, his son, nearly had to have his leg amputated in the off-season [the result of a staph infection]. Three years in a row with 10 wins [11 in 2002]. Unbelievable.”

The TV announcers kept telling the audience about how Norm Parker spent all or some of last night in an Orlando hospital because of problems with his diabetes.

Remember, Parker missed Iowa's first three games this season after having a toe amputated because of circulation problems in a leg.

The Hawkeyes' defense has obviously played much better since his return.

There will those who will say that LSU's players didn't perform as well as they could or should have because Saban was a lame-duck coach. But make no mistake about it, Iowa's defense stuck it to LSU early in the game because it was playing the way Parker's defense usually plays.

On this New Year's Day, the Hawkeyes would not be denied.


The e-mailers were writing to me minutes after the game ended.

From a proud Iowa fan:

"How about those Hawks?

Iowa has made me proud to say I'm a Hawk. There are not enough adjectives to describe the adversity, determination, guts and ability they did today. Go Hawks!!!!"


For a different look at today’s game and Iowa's football future, here’s what Pete Fiutak of wrote:

"There have been some classic bowl finishes over the years, but you'd be hard pressed to find one that ended with such a well-executed final play. This wasn't some wing and a prayer Hail Mary; Drew Tate's last-second 56-yard touchdown pass to Warren Holloway was right on the money threading it through the LSU secondary for the score. Considering how limited the Hawkeyes were offensively, to crank out the game it did showed just how much heart and just how good this program is. Kirk Ferentz's team demands to be considered among the elite, and it would've kept that status even if Tate didn't complete what might go down as the greatest throw in the great history of Iowa football.

"How amazing is it that the Nick Saban era ended on a defensive breakdown? His defense did a fantastic job all game long, and then it unbelievably blew the coverage on the play sending Saban off to Miami on the most sour of notes. He's leaving one of the nation's most loaded programs led by a quarterback in JaMarcus Russell who officially arrived as a big-time playmaker. Will Saban be happier dealing with the Dolphin mess? Hopefully, but he's going to have many moments when he'll realize he left a fantastic situation. Worse yet, along with the national title, he'll always be remembered as the defensive whiz of a coach whose team blew it in the 2005 Capital One Bowl.

"No one is going to mention Iowa QB Drew Tate in the 2005 Heisman race, but he'll certainly deserve preseason consideration. Would Matt Leinart or Jason White have carried the 2004 Hawkeyes the way Tate did? Could you imagine how good Tate would've been with Adrian Peterson, LenDale White or Reggie Bush in the backfield? Tate defines the word moxie, always making plays out of impossible situations, and now he'll forever hold a special place in Hawkeye hearts for one big moment capping off one fantastic year.

"So what's next for Iowa? If the Hawkeyes could survive an injury-plagued season at running back and still the offense to work, it should enjoy next season. QB Drew Tate was able to work well considering he didn't have any running game to help him out, and he should put up similar passing numbers with the return of Clinton Solomon and Ed Hinkel to throw to. The line was a bit of an issue for the nation's 117th ranked rushing game, but four starters return and historically, experienced lines under head coach Kirk Ferentz become killers. The linebacking corps will be among the best in America with Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway, but the line will need to patch some gigantic holes with the loss of all four starters including DE Matt Roth and DT Jonathan Babineaux. The secondary could quickly become a strength with corners Jovon Johnson and Antwan Allen."

Vol. 4, No. 294
Jan. 1, 2005