Wednesday, March 30, 2005

After Shocking the World at Olympics, Wariner Ready for Drake Relays

While becoming the surprising winner of the 400-meter gold medal in the 2004 Olympics one night last summer in Athens, Jeremy Wariner was wearing sunglasses, two earrings with fake diamonds and a necklace.

But his choice of jewelry for the race wasn’t the most interesting thing about the lean 165-pounder.

Wariner, a 20-year-old white man, was already pretty obvious in a race dominated by blacks.

In a month, he’ll be competing in the Drake Relays, and a guy asked him today how his life has changed since the Olympics.

“I get noticed a lot more at track meets and when I’m at the mall, I get recognized every once in a while,” Wariner said. “But, honestly, it’s still the same as it was. I’m still out there training as hard as I can every day.”

Wariner, a student at Baylor University, will run the men’s invitational 400 at the Drake Relays on April 30.

“I ran there [at Drake]in my freshman year, and I loved the atmosphere,” Wariner said. “Baylor had a lot of support there, which helped a lot. My coach thought it would be a good idea to go back there this year as a professional athlete to run the open 400 instead of just a relay.”

Although he’s now a pro runner, Wariner figures he can still enjoy the collegiate feel of the Drake Relays.

“It’s going to be a little different for me—especially not being out there with my team from Baylor,” he said. “But I’ll be hanging around [the athletes from Baylor] most of the time. The atmosphere [at Drake] is wild.”

USA Track and Field called Wariner’s victory in Athens a “shock to the world…..With his win in the personal best time of 44 seconds, Wariner became the youngest gold medalist in the event since Steve Lewis, 19, won in 1988 and posted the fastest time in the world since Michael Johnson in 2000.”

After Wariner won in Athens, the Associated Press reported that Alleyne Francique of Grenada said, “I’ve never seen a white man run that fast. It was a blazing race, man. The kid is good.”

Francique was expected to be Wariner’s biggest threat, but finished only fourth.

Wariner is succeeding in races that have been dominated by black athletes.

Asked today about breaking down stereotypes, Wariner said, "I really don't pay attention to most of that stuff. I let everybody else talk about that. I just go on about my business every day."



Of the Jeremy Wariner interview, Drake sports information director Mike Mahon said, "We set a Drake Relays record for the longest teleconference at 45 minutes with Wariner conducting his first press conference of the year.

"We had 62 media representatives from all four corners of the country,
including Fort Worth/Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New
Jersey, Washington D.C., and Raleigh, N.C."

An Internet columnist from West Des Moines says Mahon and Drake ran their usual class show.



Sophomore offensive lineman Chris Felder has been forced to leave the University of Iowa football team for medical reasons, coach Kirk Ferentz said today.

Felder, a 6-7, 297-pounder from Oelwein, has battled back problems much of this past year and will not be able to continue playing. He'll remain on scholarship and continue his education at Iowa.

“All of us within the Iowa football family are disappointed Chris won’t be able to continue his football career,” said Ferentz. “At this point, our goal is to make sure he completes his education and receives a degree from the University of Iowa. We’ll continue to support Chris’ efforts.”



Joel Hilgenberg, a Pro Bowl offensive lineman respected for his durability and versatility during a 10-year career in New Orleans, was elected as the sole member of the Saints' Hall of Fame, class of 2005.

He will become the 34th person to be enshrined in a special wing of the Saints' Hall of Fame Museum. A portrait of Hilgenberg will be on permanent display in the museum. Hilgenberg will be honored formally during the upcoming National Football League season.

Hilgenberg, who played his entire NFL career with the Saints from 1984-93, ranks 12th on the team's all-time list for games played with 142. He was a fourth round draft choice [97th overall] from the University of Iowa in the 1984 NFL draft, where he had been a two-time all-Big Ten selection at center.

Hilgenberg was a member of four playoff teams during the Jim Mora era, including the 1991 squad that won the first NFC Western Division title in club history.

Hilgenberg was a member of an NFL dynasty. His uncle, Wally Hilgenberg, was an Iowa great at offensive guard and linebacker during the 1960s, and a defensive playmaker for the Minnesota Vikings. Joel's older brother, Jay, was a dominant Iowa center who later played for the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX and in seven consecutive Pro Bowls (1986-92). The Hilgenberg brothers ended their careers playing together as members of the Saints in 1993.



Farm editor Jerry Perkins, one of the two best writers at the local paper, climbed off his John Deere tractor [all farm editors drive a Deere, don't they?] long enough today to send out an update on Don Muhm--a former farm editor at the paper.

It's refreshing to know that Muhm is asking for the proper liquids while regaining his health.

From: Perkins, Jerry
Sent: Wednesday, March 30, 2005 10:01 a.m.
Subject: Don Muhm

Don is in intensive care at Methodist Hospital after suffering heart problems on Monday. His wife, Joann, says he is alert and is asking for Bud Light. Doctors say he's suffered no brain damage, but he has some heart damage and had to be resuscitated by EMTs who responded to Jo's 9-1-1 call. He is expected to be in intensive care for a couple more days and in the hospital for another 10 days.

We'll get a card going around biz [NOTE: I think that means the business department]in a day or so if you want to sign it.

Vol. 4, No. 328
March 30, 2005

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Hold the Humor--Greenway 15th Hawkeye on Playboy Preseason Team

All right, put your game-face on

This is no time for any R-rated humor.

The following is being written without me saying that it's just the bare facts:

University of Iowa senior linebacker Chad Greenway has been named to the prestigious [that's the Iowa sports information office's term, not mine] Playboy magazine preseason all-America team.

Greenway, a 6-oot 4-inch, 244-pounder from Mount Vernon, S.D., becomes the 15th Iowa player named to the Playboy team.

It marks the third straight year at least one Hawkeye has made the team. Last year defensive end Matt Roth made the team. Placekicker Nate Kaeding and offensive lineman Robert Gallery made the list in 2003.

Greenway was a first-team all-Big Ten selection by both the media and the coaches last year. He was named to Pro Football Weekly’s first all-America team.

Greenway was also named Iowa’s special teams player of the year. He had 113 tackles in 2004 with eight for a loss of 23 yards. Greenway had three interceptions and returned one for a touchdown.

Greenway is also a candidate, along with teammate Abdul Hodge, for the 2005 Butkus Linebacker of the Year Award.

Iowa's Kirk Ferentz was Playboy's preseason coach of the year in 2003. Forest Evasevski [1957] and Jerry Burns [1965] were honored as preseason coaches of the year earlier.


Alex Karras DT 1957

Curt Merz E 1959

Larry Ferguson RB 1961

Karl Noonan E 1964

Gary Snook QB 1965

John Niland OL 1965

Craig Clemons DB 1971

Larry Station LB 1985

Dave Croston OL 1986

Tim Dwight WR 1997

Jared DeVries DT 1998

Nate Kaeding PK 2003

Robert Gallery OL 2003

Matt Roth DE 2004

Chad Greenway LB 2005


Forest Evashevski 1957

Jerry Burns 1965

Kirk Ferentz 2003

Monday, March 28, 2005

Stephen A. Who? Bullard Robbed in 'Dream Job' Attempt

Borrowing from the “I’m-the-smartest-person-in-the-world-and-everyone-else-is-dumb” writing style of Stephen A. Smith, I’m going to say right now that Matt Bullard was robbed.

Bullard was so much smoother and so much better generally than Dee Brown in the ESPN “Dream Job” competition, that he should sue somebody for finishing second.

Bullard, a former basketball player at Valley High School, Colorado, Iowa, the Houston Rockets, a team in Greece and probably in a few YMCA noon leagues, was voted off the “Dream Job” show last night—meaning Brown will become ESPN’s newest NBA analyst.

Yes, that’s the Dee Brown who used bad grammar on the final show of the series.

Yes, that’s the Dee Brown who didn’t have nearly the polish of Bullard.

If Dee Brown is what Stephen A. Smith and other folks want on their NBA telecasts, that’s what they’ll get.

I don’t watch them [the NBA telecasts, I mean], so don’t bother telling me how bad Brown is when he’s screwing up the English language on the telecasts.

He’s Brent Musburger’s problem now.

Stephen A. Smith was one of the judges on the ESPN panel. Stephen A. Smith likes to throw his opinions around as a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and now he’s throwing his opinions around as the man who thinks he’s already an ESPN legend.

I turn TV on, and there’s Stephen A. Smith criticizing someone. I turn sports-talk radio on, and there’s Stephen A. Smith criticizing someone.

I hear that Stephen A. Smith is going to have his own show on ESPN.

No problem. Now Stephen A. Smith will be able to watch Dee Brown to his heart’s content on NBA telecasts, and he’ll be able to interview him, too.

Back to Bullard for a minute.

Matt and my youngest son played together on a Little League Senior League All-Star team a number of years ago.

I used to work with his dad, Chuck, at the local paper.

So I have a conflict of interest in this matter.

Chuck had some athletic skills himself. He and I played a tennis match many years ago on the courts at Valley, and he beat me. Not that he pummeled me. He just beat me.

I’m just glad I didn’t have to play basketball against his kid.


I’ve been watching NCAA tournament games for a while, and I can’t recall a weekend that could compare with this season’s Elite Eight competition.

Saturday’s games – Illinois over Arizona and Louisville over West Virginia, both in overtime – outdid Sunday’s North Carolina and Michigan State victories over Wisconsin and Kentucky, but the weekend was full of unbelievable drama.

As for the Final Four, I’m picking Illinois to sneak past Louisville, 89-85, and Michigan State to escape North Carolina, 96-95, in overtime on Saturday, then Illinois to stop the Spartans, 75-72, for the title.

On the other hand……I’ve already written that North Carolina is the best thing since Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, or words to that effect.

Oh, well, I’ll stick with Illinois winning the championship.


I know this is a free country and every person is supposed to be able to earn a buck whenever he or she gets the chance, but this Mike Krzyzewski thing on TV is getting ridiculous.

The Duke basketball coach is in so many commercials and acting gigs that I fully expect him to be sitting in the crowd, as a possible winner, at the next Academy Awards show.

If Coach K isn’t starting a commercial while driving a new car [probably his “loaner” car], he’s got a starring role in an American Express TV ad.

During part of the American Express commercial, a glittering shot of Cameron Indoor Stadium [Duke’s basketball arena] is shown.

It’s an obvious promotional piece and recruiting tool for Duke University. Any prospect – basketball prospect or chemistry prospect – who is wavering between Duke and some other school certainly gets help on making his or her decision from the commercial.

Part of what Coach K says during the piece is this:

“I want you armed for life. I want you to develop as a player I want you to develop as a student. I want you to develop as a human being. My life isn’t about playing games”……and then he talks about his American Express card.

I always did like Cameron Indoor Stadium. I wonder if I can still get a student loan.


Lisa Bluder, Iowa’s women’s basketball coach, didn’t particularly like it that her team was assigned to play at Southwest Missouri State in tonight’s WNIT game.

Bluder obviously wanted a home game, but didn’t deserve one.

The reason she didn’t get one is because Iowa’s women don’t draw flies at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The lousy attendance is something that needs to be addressed before next season.

Iowa’s average home crowd in the 15,500-seat arena was 3,970—pretty bad for a team that has a 23-9 record.

Only 2,456 fans showed up for the Hawkeyes’ opening WNIT game against Creighton, and Iowa hasn’t played at home since The turnout at Cedar Rapids for a victory over Arkansas State was 4,797.

Maybe some thought should be given to playing all of Iowa’s games at Cedar Rapids.


Bruce Pearl may have the last laugh after all.

Pearl, who was the centerpiece in an Iowa-Illinois basketball recruiting controversy 16 years ago, was hired today as the new coach at Tennessee.

Pearl was on Tom Davis’ staff at Iowa when he secretly tape-recorded a conversation with prize high school prospect Deon Thomas.

Thomas last week used such words as “snake” and “evil” in describing Pearl to the Chicago Tribune.

But evidently Tennessee didn’t care what happened in 1989.

School officials agreed to pay Pearl $800,000 a year, plus incentives, to rebuild the program. Pearl is the sixth head coach the school has had in 16 years.

For Pearl’s sake, this will be a fresh start. It’s good that he’s away from Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he would be continually reminded of the mess in the midwest that he was in 16 years ago.

By the way, before Pearl was hired at Tennessee, Creighton coach Dana Altman took his name out of consideration for the job.

That means Altman will continue to be a strong factor in the Missouri Valley Conference, where he has been a big winner with the help of some outstanding high school recruiting in Iowa.

Vol. 4, No. 327
March 28, 2005

Monday, March 21, 2005

Tar Heels Best in the NCAA--Maybe the NBA, Too

Like I said the other day, there's really no good time to talk about North Carolina's basketball team.

That is, unless you're a Tar Heels fan.

Which I'm not.

Awesome. Incredible. Unbelievable. Fantastic.

All of the above.

Those words should more than take care of Roy Williams' juggernaut, right?

Notice, I didn't say athletic.

I'll leave that one for Billy Packer.


The North Carolina team that steamrolled Iowa State, 92-65, yesterday in Charlotte is ovviously the best in the NCAA tournament.

Heck, maybe even the NBA.

If the Tar Heels don't win the collegiate championship, blame coach Roy Williams.

That's why they pay him all those millions of dollars, isn't it?


Speaking of Billy Packer, what TV producer was feeding him information or what newspaper was he reading before the CBS telecast of the Iowa State-North Carolina game?

Packer was trying to make Iowa State feel good in the last half when he said the Cyclones know how to win championships in St. Louis, where the Final Four will be played in a couple of weeks.

He added that Iowa State won its third straight NCAA wrestling title Saturday in St. Louis, andhad five individual champions.

Sorry, Billy.

Right conference. Wrong school.

It was Oklahoma State of the Big 12 that won the NCAA wrestling championship with 153 points to 83 for second-place Michigan.

The status of wrestling at Iowa and Iowa State, meanwhile, is sinking to new depths.

Iowa finished seventh with 66 points, Iowa State 10th with 57.


Iowa State basketball coach Wayne Morgan short-changed Cyclone network play-by-play announcer John Walters and fans of the team by stiffing the postgame radio interview show today.

Instead, assistant coach Damon Archibald answered Walters' questions.

Listeners were told that Morgan was unavailable because hehad to appear at the NCAA interview site.

Morgan owes it to Cyclone fans to appear on the postgame show, for which he is paid.

He should have made arrangements to answer questions from either Walters or commentator Eric Heft immediately following the game, as Iowa coach Steve Alford did when Gary Dolphin and Bobby Hansen on the Iowa tournament broadcast.

There's no excuse for Morgan, who has been uncomfortable on other postgame shows during the season, missing the broadcast on the final Iowa State game of the season.

He should take a lesson from Iowa State football coach Dan McCarney, who never fails to appear for broadcast responsibilities, whether he wants to or not.


Jared Homan turned in a sensational performance in his Iowa State finale--scoring 19 points and grabbing a career-high 20 rebounds against North Carolina.

"Jared Homan was on the biggest stage of his college career and performed like a star," said Archibald. "He was absolutely fabulous on both ends of the court."

I want to repeat that I think Homan is going to help an NBA team next season because has some strong basketball skills, plus a large amount of toughness.

He used his senior season to develop a considerable amount of basketbll maturity. There were times earlier in his career when the competitive Homan appeared ready to get himself into big trouble by perhaps throwing a punch at an opposing player during the heat of a game.

But lately he has harnessed that competitiveness, and seems ready to take his abilities to the professional level.


Speaking of emotions, after Iowa State had fallen behind by more than 20 points in the last half yesterday, Packer said, "I don't like what I'm seeing. This game could get very dangerous."

The outspoken commentator was upset that Iowa State's Curtis Stinson threw an elbow at a North Carolina player while driving in for a lyup. On the player, however, itwas Stinson who fell to the floor in a heap.

Nothing came of Packer's fears. There were no further physical incidents.


It's not often that a coach gets on a postgame radio show and talks about how good nother team and another conference are.

After North Carolina's 27-point victory, Archibald told John Walters that the Atlantic Coast is "the No. 1 conference in the country, and [North Carolina] won the conference. You're talking about the best team in the best conference."


There are good NCAA stories all over the place, but one of the best involves the Northern Iowa pep band.

Because Bucknell's band was on spring breawk, the school arranged to have the UNI band to perform with its fans at Oklahoma City.

Bucknell provided T-shorts and $150 for pizza for the UNI band.

Who needs Bob Huggins' snarls when the NCAA tournament has something like that?

Vol. 4, No. 326
March 21,2005

Deon Thomas on Ex-Iowa Assistant Pearl: 'He's Evil'

Bruce Pearl was an energetic young assistant coach on Tom Davis' basketball staff at Iowa when the ugly "Deon Thomas Incident" surfaced.

That was 16 years ago, and now -- with the NCAA tournament in full swing and with Pearl a big part of it -- Thomas is, in a way, in the picture again.

Here's a story the Chicago Tribune carried today on the situation:

Still in a whirl over Mr. Pearl

Former Illini Thomas refuses to forgive the UW-Milwaukee coach

By David Haugh
Tribune staff reporter
Published March 21, 2005

Sixteen years later, on the other side of the world, the wound remains open and Deon Thomas has neither forgiven nor forgotten Wisconsin-Milwaukee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl.

"It's kind of hard to forgive a snake," Thomas said by phone Sunday from Israel, where he plays professional basketball for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Thomas believes he speaks for many former teammates and current Illini fans in condemning Pearl, the former Iowa assistant coach who secretly recorded a conversation in 1989 implicating Thomas and former Illinois assistant coach Jimmy Collins and forwarded it to NCAA investigators.

The bad feelings run so deep in some parts of Illini Nation that the boos for the Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach before Thursday's NCAA Chicago regional semifinal at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont might be louder than the "Bruuuuuuuce," cheer when Bruce Weber is introduced.

"I don't really want to use the word, but he is evil," Thomas, 34, said of Pearl. "What else can you say he is?"

Thomas, Illinois' all-time leading scorer, stayed up until the wee hours of Sunday morning to watch highlights of the Illini's NCAA tournament victory over Nevada on ESPN Israel--Thomas' method of keeping up with his alma mater. Asked his immediate reaction once he realized Illinois' next opponent would be Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Pearl, Thomas laughed loudly before pausing to collect his thoughts.

"I've moved on with my life and things are going well here, but when you see so many people that were affected by what [Pearl] did, it still bothers you," Thomas said. "I won't say I wish him the best, because I want Illinois to kill them when they play [Thursday]. That would be sweet."

Thomas reiterated his 16-year-old contention that he never admitted to Pearl being offered $80,000 and a Chevrolet Blazer by Collins as an inducement to sign. His voice rising, Thomas referred to those accusations Sunday as "lies that hurt people."

The most compelling part of the transcript of an April 8, 1989, taped conversation between Pearl and Thomas, the former Simeon star who originally had offered Iowa a verbal commitment, revolved around two questions.

In a phone call initiated by Pearl, he asked Thomas if he was upset about Collins offering him money and a car during a recruiting visit. According to the transcript, Thomas answered, "Yeah, somewhat."

In a follow-up, Pearl asked Thomas if the offer bothered him. "No, not really," the transcript said.

A year later, the NCAA slapped Illinois with two years' probation, a postseason ban in 1991 and scholarship and recruiting restrictions. But the report never referred specifically to Pearl's allegations because they were never proved. Investigators had uncovered enough dirt in other areas to penalize coach Lou Henson's program.

But once it became common knowledge around Champaign that Pearl had cooperated with the NCAA investigation, even if the evidence he submitted was not used against Illinois, fans attached a "Public Enemy No. 1" label to him that has stuck for 16 years.

It did not matter to Illinois supporters that then-Iowa coach Tom Davis encouraged Pearl to record the conversations or that Iowa athletic officials at the time bought the electronic equipment necessary to pull it off. Pearl was the one considered a snitch by many in his profession. He was the one who received blame for setting the Illinois program back during Thomas' tenure.

Good as he was, Thomas never led the Illini to the Sweet 16, and he partly blamed the sanctions.

"We might have been able to do some damage in the tournament when I was there, but what hurt us was the Curse of Pearl,"' Thomas said. "I have never seen Bruce Pearl since that happened and I don't care to ever see him. I have nothing to say to him if I did. Talking to him about this would give him a sense of importance that he doesn't deserve."

Told that Collins, now the Illinois-Chicago head coach, feels just as strongly and still refuses to shake Pearl's hand after Horizon League games, Thomas understood.

"I wouldn't either," he said. "Because of jealousy, someone took away coach Collins' lifestyle and his job. He messed up my future. How can you forget someone like that?"

Collins did not return a phone call Sunday but told the Tribune in an interview about the rift last month that Pearl "created this monster and it's here." Henson, the retired coach living in New Mexico, has decided to decline all interview requests this week to discuss the Pearl incident.

"I don't think I'm going to get involved," Henson said. "I think it's better if I just steer clear of all that."

Reached Sunday on his cell phone, Pearl also sought to quell the controversy so his Wisconsin-Milwaukee team and campus community can focus on the biggest week of their athletic lives.

"I cooperated with an NCAA investigation and provided information, testimony, documents and tapes as part of that," Pearl said. "I'm sorry that the situation hurt Deon Thomas. In many ways he was a victim. But sometimes you have to choose to do the right thing when you see something that is wrong. I'm hoping that this is the last time I'll have to revisit this."

He has been a head coach long enough to know that is probably wishful thinking.

"This is not news," Pearl said. "What's news is that UW-Milwaukee is in the Sweet 16. Our players are news. The Horizon League is news. A No. 12 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed. That's the story. This isn't."


FOX Sports

Texas Tech head coach Bobby Knight said he would have fired current Indiana coach Mike Davis if he had been at the school for another season, according to Sporting News Radio.

Knight also reportedly said over the weekend that he stayed at Indiana too long because of players he liked despite being at odds with the school's administration.

"I stayed at Indiana six years too long because of the administration. The administration handled a lot of things poorly," Knight reportedly said on the radio.

"I was working for an athletic director [former IU AD Clarence Doninger] that didn't know his ass from third base. I ended up staying because of the kids that I liked and the people I did like rather than focusing on the real negatives there."

Knight apparently doesn't think highly of Davis, one of his former assistants at the Bloomington, Ind. school.

"They created that for themselves," Knight said, referring to Indiana's hiring of Davis. "The guy that's coaching there is a guy that I told Pat [Knight's son] we were going to replace at the end of the season. There's no way that I would have kept the guy any longer than that. That's their problem."

Knight's Texas Tech squad toppled Gonzaga, 71-69, Saturday, allowing the veteran head coach the opportunity to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1994.

The sixth-seeded Red Raiders face No. 7 seed West Virginia in Thursday's regional semifinal.

Vol. 4, No. 325
March 21, 2005

Friday, March 18, 2005

Worry About 'Heels Later, Let Me Enjoy This One Now

Wait a minute.

Before someone rushes up to holler, "Bring on North Carolina!" let me enjoy this one for another day or so.

I mean, how often does Iowa State beat Minnesota in anything?

Heck, how often does Iowa State even play Minnesota in anything?

So before we start drawing up X's and O's for Sunday's NCAA second-round game between Iowa State and North Carolina in the Charlotte Coliseum, let's sit back and think about how nice it was that the Cyclones brought their "A" Game today and rolled past Minnesota, 64-53, in the first round.

And while we're thinking about that "A" Game, let's thank dairy farmers Dave and RaNae Homan of Remsen that their son Jared has been a Cyclone for four seasons.

The 6-10, 245-pound Homan thoroughly outplayed 7-foot, 270-pound Minnesota stiff Jeff Hagen today.

Homan scored 14 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, had seven blocks and made two steals while Iowa State dominated a Big 12-Big Ten postseason matchup.

"I think Jared has been one of the premier post guys in the country all year," Cyclone coach Wayne Morgan told announcer John Walters and the Iowa State radio audience on the postgame show.

"The whole country got to see a guy with a big, big future ahead of him."

I've been saying all season that I think Homan will be able to help an NBA team next season.

If that doesn't work out, he'll certainly have a chance to make money somewhere else as a basketball player. He's matured into an outstanding front-liner, and even threw up a few 15-footers today for the benefit of NBA scouts.

But let's ponder Homan's professional career later. He'll have at least one more collegiate game, and I expect him to bring his tool box, his lunch pail and some big-time competitiveness Sunday against North Carolina.

He'll certainly be no surprise to Tar Heels coach Roy Williams, who watched him play in those Iowa State-Kansas games when ol' Roy was toiling for the Jayhawks.

Today's victory improved Iowa State's record to 19-11--a tribute to Morgan, whose team was in serious trouble in the early weeks of the Big 12 season.

The Cyclones lost their first five conference games and appeared headed nowhere. The NIT, where they fared so well last season and which they wanted no part of this season, seemed doubtful after they lost to Colorado at home and couldn't beat anybody on the road for so long.

But with Homan and sophomore guards Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock, there was no give-up.

Now, here they are, with the opportunity to pull off one of the all-time big upsets in NCAA tournament history against North Carolina.

Iowa State built a 10-point halftime lead against Minnesota, and never was seriously threatened in the last half.

TV announcers Jim Nance and Billy Packer tried to insert some drama into the game by making a big deal out of Stinson's limp to the bench with 13 1/2 minutes left in the game, but Stinson came back as strong as ever 3 minutes later after having the his ankle taped.

Stinson's field goal gave the Cyclones a 48-41 lead. With Iowa State ahead, 58-53, he again hurt the finger on his left hand that will require surgery after the season.

But that was no problem, either.

Iowa State had more than enough left in the tank to survive another day.

The Cyclones were too quick, too good defensively and outshot Minnesota [44 percent to the Gophers' 33 percent] in the first game against the Gophers since a 36-point victory at Ames a dozen years ago.

By the way, the word is that Iowa State would like to talk Minnesota coach Dan Monson into bringing his team to the new Wells Fargo Arena in downtown Des Moines for a game next season.

Good luck.

After seeing what Morgan will have on his team--guys like Stinson, Blalock, Rahshon Clark and others--why would Monson want to help Iowa State pack the house in Des Moines?

Vol. 4, No. 325
March 18, 2005

I Forgot--The Only Hawkeye Miracles Are in Football

OK, I was wrong about this one.

Cincinnati didn't choke.

Although the TV announcers kept reminding us that the Bearcats were "athletic," the important thing was that they were good.

A lot better than Iowa.

Coach Bob Huggins got his players to remember that it was the Hawkeyes they were matched up with, not Kentucky.

Strangely, Iowa's players seemed flat emotionally when the game began, and then it was easy to stay flat when Cincinnati kept blocking their shots.

After being mentioned in the same breath with the NIT for so long, I thought the Hawkeyes would've wanted to hang around a while in the NCAA. It didn't happen. It was a very short stay.

A few people foolishly thought Steve Alford--well, all right, assistant Craig Neal then -- might be able to draw up a clipboard-full of plays that would pull off a coaching miracle in the first-round game at Indianapolis.

Forget that idea, too. The only miracles in Iowa City these days arew drawn up in the football offices.

No doubt about it, Cincinnati was the better basketball team--better by a long way--today at the RCA Dome.

It was like men playing boys. And the men were from Cincinnati.

The Bearcats didn't let Iowa up for air, and deserve the opportunity to play Kentucky in a second-round game Saturday.

The Hawkeyes deserved to go back to Iowa City, let their hair grow again and resume lifting weights, Bud Lights or whatever it is they lift in the off-season.

"Give them credit," Alford said of seventh-seeded Cincinnati on his postgame radio show. "they're a very hard-wolrking team, and Bob had them going today.

"We've played against teams that were this athletic [there's that word again]. Cincinnati played very well against us and I didn't think this was one of our better games."

Although I felt going in that Cincinnati was the team that faced the pressure and Iowa was the team that shouldbe able to come into this game with a loose attitude, it was the Hawkeyes who were tight.

Cincinnati [25-7] broke to a 23-5 lead and Iowa [21-12] never really recovered. The Hawkeyes cut the deficit to three points early in the last half, but Cincinnati's defense, rebounding and surprising shooting ability were the difference.

The Hawkeyes were successful on only one of their first 14 field goal attempts, and most TV sets in places other than Iowa City, Davenport, Solon, Cedar Rapids, West Des Moines and Mason City might have been clicked off on a warm March

Eighteen holes at Willow Creek sounded like a better idea. Right, Bob Downing?

"Where's the scoring?" CBS play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg asked after Iowa had missed its first seven shots.

Naturally, Pierre Pierce's name had to be brought into the convrsation between Enberg and commentator Jay Bilas.

Bilas said he thought Iowa could have been an Elite 8 team if Pierce were still playing.


Bilas should have done his homework. He should have known that Iowa was a better team without Pierce.

It was when Pierce was in the lineup, and not in court, that the Hawkeyes played some of their worst basketball of the season--in the first two Big Ten games against Michigan and Ohio State and later in that debacle at Northwestern.

After the game, Iowa play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin asked Alford why the Hawkeyes couldn't get any offensive flow going early.

"Cincinnati pressures very hard, but there's it's no more pressure than we see out of Illinois and some of the other teams that we play in the Big Ten," Alford answered. "We just couldn't get it going today."


Although Iowa's fans expected more, Alford cut his players some slack.

"This is our first time here [in the NCAA tournament] with this group, so I think there was a lot of inexperience," he said. "We just have to build from it. They did a heck of a job getting us here, now we have to build from it."

Vol. 4, No. 324
March 17, 2005

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Diane Graham Out--Was It Her Idea or Theirs?

Diane Graham will soon be history at the local paper.

Graham, who is called “managing editor/staff development,” is leaving the paper April 7.

However, in a memo to people in the newsroom today, Graham said she may re-enter the journalism field after “an extended hiatus.”

“It seems ludicrous to talk about retirement just yet,” Graham said. “But after 30 years with the Register, I’ve decided I need to step away from work for a time.”

Sources weren't certain if Graham's decision to depart the newsroom job was hers or someone else's.

A former editor and reporter at the local paper who has followed Graham’s career said, “I bet they don’t replace her.”

Graham has often been a target of people both inside and outside the newsroom. They haven't understood her job responsibilities, and have wondered if she did, either.

In another development at the local paper, something happened that a close-watcher of the often-strange news operation can't figure out.

He was talking about the appointment of Suzanne Behnke as deputy news editor.

"They still don't have a news editor, but they have made somebody deputy news editor," my source points out.

"I don't know what this means for Kurt Helland, who had been doing this job since the last news editor quit."


Graham’s memo to the staff:

From: Graham, Diane
Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2005 12:22 PM
Subject: Thanks


As you already know from Rick and Paul, I will be leaving the Register this spring. I 'm not going to use the "R" word. It seems ludicrous to talk about retirement just yet. But after 30 years with the Register, I've decided I need to step away from work for a time.

It's been a particularly challenging year for me personally, and I'm grateful for how accommodating folks here have been. Still, after some serious deliberations and no small amount of agonizing, I've decided to take an extended hiatus from a regularly scheduled job. With the exception of when Dan and I traveled to China to adopt Maya, this marks my first significant break from full-time work since college.

People have asked what my plans are. The honest truth is I don't have many. I'll enjoy the summer with Maya before she goes to kindergarten. I'll take some time just for me and for my family. And after that, I'm open to anything. Right now, I can't imagine it not having to do with journalism.

When I first walked through the doors, I was a 19-year-old intern who thought I'd be gone the next summer after picking up a journalism degree from Drake. I had no ties to Iowa. I wasn't fortunate enough to grow up reading the Register. I knew it was a respected newspaper. Yet even when I accepted a full-time job, I thought I'd stay one more year.

Blame bad math skills, if you'd like. But the truthful answer is I discovered I had landed in a magical place for doing journalism. It was a newspaper that cared deeply about its mission, that day-in and day-out did it exceedingly well, and was able to do it because we have a room full of wonderful, passionate, caring people.

That is what I will miss most. The people. I've always told other journalists -- and just about every person I've ever recruited -- that the thing that makes the Register special is its people and the way we all care about great journalism. But that also comforts me. I know all that talent will be delivering a must-read newspaper to my doorstep every day. That will help ease my withdrawal pains!

My last day will be April 7. I had hoped to wrap up some projects before exiting, but our business doesn't seem to have tidy endings. That has made my decision especially difficult. There are some exciting and cool things unfolding right now.

There's time to chat before I leave, but let me end by saying that I hope that what lies ahead is half as rewarding as my time with the Register has been. Thanks to everyone. You are all special people.


Here's the announcement on Behnke's appointment as deputy news editor:

From: Church, Gage
Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2005, 2:30 p.m.
Subject: Staffing announcement

I'm pleased to announce that Suzanne Behnke will be stepping into the new role of Deputy News Editor.

Suzanne began at The Register in 2000 on the night copy desk. Since then, she's served as State Editor of the Metro & Iowa desk and as day news editor, overseeing the features copy editing and design operation.

In her new role, Suzanne will be "second in command" of the entire copy desk operation. She'll fill the nightly news editor's seat two or three times a week and continue to work with the day desk once a week.

Please join me in congratulating Suzanne.

Vol. 4, No. 323
March 16, 2005

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Horner, Haluska, Brunner Saved Alford's Coaching Job

This is a very busy week.

Lots of places to go, lots of people to see, lots of e-mails to read and respond to, lots of basketball games to watch, lots of multi-millionaire Cub pitchers to not feel sorry for.

So let’s get with it.

The first e-mail is from “Captain Cook” of Urbandale:


“Maybe we have to re-think the Alford coaching job.

“I tended to be on the critical side as well, but he is about even in close games this year. His teams seem to begin the season well and, provided they haven't completely self destructed, start to recover to a respectable level at the close of the season.

“I do not like his postgame comments concerning coaching decisions--maybe he just talks more than most coaches. There are also times when his teams look as though they wish they were somewhere else. Who is responsible? Players or the coach, overlooking the fact that the coach recruits the players?

“What has happened to Erek Hansen? He should get more rebound than he does simply by accident. Over the years, the post position has been a problem with Alford. If I were him, I would be looking for an assistant who was an ex-post player who made a little bit of talent go a long way, especially on defense.”

[RON MALY’S COMMENT: Mr. November has obviously saved his job with the late-season recovery program. Jeff Horner, Adam Haluska and Greg Brunner have rescued the ship. If what those guys have done makes Alford a better coach, so be it. Alford is now taking his team to Indianapolis for the NCAA tournament, and people in Indiana think he’can do no wrong. An Indiana fan said to a guy I know the other day, “Can we steal Alford from you?” The Iowa guy said, “You can have him very cheap.” The Indiana guy couldn’t believe it. As for Erek Hansen, I agree that he needs coaching from someone who knows how to work with big men. Hansen is quick, he’s a shot-blocker and he can certainly maintain a strong presence around the basket. But he needs coaching].


A reader informed me a few days ago about a 14-year-old eighth-grader from Minneapolis who is being recruited by the women’s basketball programs at both Iowa State and Iowa.

I said it was more sick than strange.

Here are a couple of e-mails I’ve received on the situation:

Said “Captain Cook:”


“I agree - let the kid be a kid for a couple more years.”

From George Wine of Coralville:


“Which is sicker--recruiting eighth-grade girls or molesting them?

“Both are bad.”


Another e-mail from George Wine:


“What surprised me about all the ESPN commentary on the NCAA field
is that nobody wondered whether Iowa got in because of Bowlsby's position on the selection committee.

“I thought sure Billy Packer would ask him something about that on
the CBS one-hour show, but he just tossed a lot of softball stuff.

“The only guy I saw who was pissed at Iowa's inclusion was the young guy from Sports Illy whose name I cannot think of. He and Clark Kellogg almost came to blows over it.

“The only [other] time the NCAA took a seventh-place Big Ten team was in 1990 when the league was the best in college basketball. Indiana got in at 8-10 that year.”

[RON MALY’S COMMENT: Bob Bowlsby is the present Iowa athletic director and the former Northern Iowa athletic director who is chairman of the NCAA tournament selection committee. I, too, couldn’t believe it when no one from CBS questioned him after Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa were picked for the 65-team field. My opinion is that Iowa State and Iowa deserved to be chosen. I’m not so sure about UNI, which was knocked out in its first game in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. But I’m glad the Panthers were picked over Notre Dame. The Sports Illustrated writer Wine was referring to is Seth Davis].

Writes the Rev. David Mumm of Des Moines:

Hi Ron,

I would think Dick Vitale would have more legitimate argument about Northern Iowa not being in if the Pathers had chosen to fill a 15 or 16 role in the tournament. The 11-5 battles are usually among the better games, because they involve teams that do deserve to be in the tournament.


The Iowa State-Minnesota game Friday in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament may not be the end of the rivalry between the Big 12 and Big Ten universities.

A Cyclones-Gophers basketball game at Wells-Fargo Arena in Des Moines and a future football series between the two schools could be in the works, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Here’a story the newspaper carried today:

When the Gophers men's basketball team plays Iowa State in Friday's first round of the NCAA tournament in Charlotte, N.C., it will be the first meeting between the two teams since the 1992-93 season.

It appears unlikely fans of the two regional neighbors will have to wait a decade for another meeting.

Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi and Iowa State AD Bruce Van De Velde have had conversations about the two schools playing in football and men's and women's basketball.

"The women's teams are going to be playing an home-and-home series," Van De Velde said. "I hope we can re-establish it on the men's side too -- in basketball and football. I think it would be great for the fans."

Maturi said a men's basketball series likely wouldn't begin next season. When a football series would begin hinges largely on whether the NCAA increases the schedule to 12 games, something that could happen next month.

"It's something I'd like to see happen," Maturi said. "I know the sensitivity of both coaches, there are some merits. The coaches understand there are recruiting implications, positive and negative.

"[Scheduling is] not as easy as people think, but I do think it's something we're looking to do."

Iowa State has expressed interest in the Gophers playing the Cyclones at the new Wells-Fargo Arena that is currently under construction in downtown Des Moines.

The two schools played 10 times in men's basketball from 1957 to '71 and again for a stretch in the late '80s and early '90s. In football, the two schools have played only three times since 1924 and not since 1997.

Iowa State was scheduled to play at Minnesota during the 1999 football season, but the Cyclones backed out of that game.

--Jeff Shelman and Rachel Blount [former sportswriter at the local paper]


Kirk Speraw, who lettered as an Iowa basketball player in 1978 and 1979, has another successful team as the coach at Central Florida.

Alan Schmadtke of the Orlando Sentinel wrote this story about him, which was sent to me by a Des Moines reader:

Alice Speraw stood at the back of the room, saw her son on the podium at the Atlantic Sun Championship and started to cry.

Two years after nearly losing his job, Kirk Speraw had just secured his program's first back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. He started talking about growing up in Iowa, about dreaming of the NCAA since he was old enough to dribble a ball.

Four decades after young Kirk sprawled out on the living room floor, television in sight, basketball at his side, Alice Speraw suddenly listened to him pause in front of reporters.

"He was talking about how winning never gets old, how much it means to him," she says. "I thought, 'He's thinking about his dad.' But he didn't say anything. He started talking about something else."

It is, after all, the Speraw way.

Adds Alice: "Wouldn't his dad's buttons be popping off his vest?"

Kirk Speraw probably was born to coach.

Eugene "Bud" Speraw reared his only son from the sidelines in Sioux City, Ia., where for three decades he coached football, basketball, baseball and track. Sandwiched among school, homework, chores and living with two sisters, Kirk did what coaches' sons do: He helped and he absorbed.

"When he was a basketball assistant at Central [High School], I kept the stats," Speraw says. "We'd go to the head coach's house after a game, and he and my dad would talk about the game. I'd be there tallying up stats. I went on road trips and kept up with all the numbers. All that rubbed off, I'm sure."

Bud's boy grew up to be a four-sport letterman and an all-state guard at North High, a good enough athlete to turn down small-school scholarships and walk on for Lute Olson at Iowa.

By the time he married Tracy Moser two years out of college, his career path in coaching was set.

"I probably had it in the back of my mind all along," Speraw says. "I'd been around it all my life."

Says Tracy Speraw: "He's his dad."

Bud Speraw was, by family accounts, a quintessential Midwesterner -- tall, matter-of-fact, clean-cut, patient. He never smoked or drank. He quietly roamed sidelines and dugouts, tucking his emotions away for another time.

It's the same sort of man UCF has had as its basketball coach since 1993. In a time of chest bumps and self-promotion, Bud's son preaches passing and teamwork, defense and details. Success, he says, speaking the same words he heard as a boy, comes from togetherness, not from bold headlines or stirring quotes.

The Golden Knights embrace their Capt. Kirk, their Mr. Vanilla.

If they only knew.

"People underestimate how competitive Kirk is," says former UCF assistant Jorge Fernandez, now an assistant at Miami. "They see laid-back and reserved on the bench. But he's the ultimate competitor. That son-of-a-gun hates to lose. Hates it."

He has much to like these days. UCF is in the midst of its finest run since its Division II glory years nearly 30 years ago (1975-78). The Knights are 70-25 in the past three seasons, with three appearances in the A-Sun Championship game, two tournament titles and one shared regular-season title.

The 15th-seeded Knights (24-8) will be big underdogs when they play second-seeded Connecticut (22-7) Friday in the NCAA first round at Worcester, Mass., but it can be argued that Speraw's program is more ready for next year's move to Conference USA than UCF's much-hyped football program.

"This is the product of a lot of work on a lot of people's part," says Speraw, 48. "The last three years especially, players bought in to what we wanted to convey."

There was a time -- and not long ago -- when three consecutive winning basketball seasons at UCF was enough to get the coach a better job. But in a coaching era of constant ambition and trading up, Speraw is a mid-major enigma. He'll step into C-USA as the second-longest tenured coach at any league school; Rice's Willis Wilson will have him beat by a year.

Close friends have urged him to look into openings at schools that have more appreciation for basketball than UCF, particularly after last year's school-record 25-win season. Speraw declined.

Since leaving Lon Kruger's staff at Florida to take over at UCF in 1993, Speraw hasn't interviewed for another job.

"Kirk's biggest priority is his family," says Wartburg College Coach Dick Peth, a teammate of Speraw's at Iowa. "Tracy and the kids, they keep him grounded, and they're a big support system. They helped him get through the tough years."

The Speraws have four children, whose ages range from 6 to 18. Each was born at one of his coaching stops -- Lakeland (assistant at Florida Southern), Pensacola (head coach at Pensacola Junior College), Gainesville (assistant at Florida) and Orlando.

"We've moved enough that we know that's what happens in coaching," Tracy Speraw says. "But Kirk hasn't thought much about leaving because we love Orlando, our kids love Orlando and they're at the [high school] age where they really don't want to leave. I'm sure Kirk will say, 'Never say never,' but honestly, he has a lot of emotion invested in UCF."

For a while, UCF appeared poised to divest itself of him. He had raised expectations at a school once regarded as a graveyard for basketball coaches, only to become a seeming victim of his own success.

When Speraw arrived in '93, none of UCF's previous Division I coaches -- Chuck Machock, Phil Carter and Joe Dean -- still were in the profession. UCF, in fact, was the last coaching stop for each. They fell victims of inadequate funding, poor administrative support and, in the case of the first two, woeful facilities.


I know this right now. I’m going to miss ol’ Stoney in the TV booth.

That would be Steve Stone, who put in so many seasons on the stations that carried the Chicago Cubs’ games.

Stoney couldn’t get along with manager Dusty Baker and some of the players last season, so he’s gone elsewhere.

But they haven’t been able to shut him up yet.

The Chicago Sun-Times carried this story today on some of the things Stoney has been saying:

Steve Stone may no longer be in the booth, but the former Cubs broadcaster still is plenty vocal with his opinions. Appearing Monday in his regular stint with WSCR-AM (670), Stone gave his take on the injury problems confronting Cubs pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.

"Mark has had a couple of different ailments," said Stone, citing the Achilles problem that sidelined Prior last spring. "I know it's the elbow flaring up now. But the history of baseball is replete with gentlemen with leg problems, and they develop into arm problems."

On those who've questioned Prior's toughness, Stone said: "I won't name names, but coming out of camp last year at times was [the opinion] that Prior probably wasn't tough enough. That he had to pitch with pain. That he has to go out there, that's what major-league pitchers do.

"I have to believe if he's telling you he's hurting, he's hurting. And because they can't find a cause doesn't make the pain any less real. So you've got a multimillion-dollar talent, you want to keep running him out there and saying he's not tough enough?

"Well, I'll tell you what: Let him go and see if anybody else picks him up."

As for Wood, Stone said the oft-injured ace needs to be willing to make adjustments in his pitching style.

"Wood has shown no adaptability," Stone said. "He wants to throw the ball 95 to 96 [mph]; he wants to throw it at times through the catcher. When he loses his mechanics, he can't get them back again. Somebody is going to have to tell Kerry the object of the game is to pitch. That's why they call you a pitcher. If not, they call you a thrower.

"And if they call you a thrower, and if you keep saying you can't change your mechanics, and if in fact your mechanics are partially responsible for you getting hurt every year, you've got a couple of choices: You can take all the money you've made --which is a bundle -- and you can go sell cars. Or you can make some adjustments and try to stay around this league for 10 years.”


Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune writes about Gene Wojeciechowski, who has written a book titled, “Cubs Nation: 162 Games, 162 Stories, One Addiction.”

Wojeciechowski [try that saying name six time quickly!] chronicles the 2004 Cubs’ season, which ended poorly—as so many other Cub seasons have ended.

The author told Greenstein that only two Cub players wouldn’t talk to him one-on-one for the book— right-fielder/slugger Sammy Sosa and relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth, both of whom have since been traded.

Wojeciechowski said Sosa, who was the highest-salaried Cub player, wanted to be paid for his time. Farnsworth, after agreeing to be interviewed, made him wait three hours in the dugout, then told him he wouldn’t do the interview.


This got my attention right away.

The AP story was about the top editor of the newspaper in Mankato, Minn., who has quit rather than cut newsroom jobs to meet budget targets.

Now, I can think of nine or 10 editors at other papers who I wish would make the same decision as Deb Flemming.

On Tuesday, The Free Press reported the decision by editor Flemming to leave the company on April 9 as part of a broader cost-cutting plan. She informed her staff on Monday.

"Clearly, my leaving kept additional folks in the newsroom,'' she said. "You need people to do the job. Without people, it will impact the quality of the product you give readers.''

Flemming, 50, said she wouldn't be looking for another newspaper job, at least right away. "I've been doing this for 25 years and I'm really looking forward to a change.''

The daily newspaper is owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. of Alabama, which publishes daily, weekly, and semiweekly newspapers in more than 200 communities in the United States.

Publisher Ken Lingen said the financial pinch was due to "getting our budget in line with industry standards'' rather than unexpected expenses or revenue shortfalls.

Flemming said she came to her decision while working on a plan to bring newsroom full-time staffing to an industry standard that calls for about one newsroom employee for each 1,000 in circulation. The Free Press has a daily circulation of 22,500.

With 30 staff members, the paper was considered overstaffed, Flemming said.

Vol. 4, No. 322
March 15, 2004

Monday, March 14, 2005

Arrogant Huggins, Cincy Right Where Iowa Wants Them

If you ask me, Steve Alford and his Iowa basketball team have those fat-headed Cincinnatis right where they want them.

The headline on Paul Daughterty’s column in today’s Cincinnati Enquirer said it all:

Potential UC-UK matchup has us licking our chops

No mention of Cincinnati’s first-round game. No talk about Iowa.

Hell, the Hawkeyes might as well put their jockstraps away and start searching for off-season jobs at Cub Foods.

Daugherty said Cincinnati is already looking forward to a second-round game against Kentucky.

How about those words “has us licking our chops?"

Did this guy learn his newspapering from the master of the "we" and "us" -- the late Al Grady?

Forget about Thursday’s game against lowly Iowa at 1:50 p.m. in Indianapolis,
Daugherty is saying.

Bring on Tubby Smith’s Wildcats.

All of the Cincinnatis are arrogant.

The players are arrogant.

I even hear that the ball-boy is arrogant.

The school president, too.

Huggins is more arrogant than Alford.

Daugherty may even be arrogant, although these are tough times for newspapers, so it's probably not a good idea for sportswriters to be arrogant in public.

Cutting through all this arrogance,here’s what Daugherty wrote:

Let's get ahead of ourselves.

Let's take it two games at a time. Let's overlook. Iowa-Shmiowa.

We aren't playing. We aren't coaching. We don't have to worry about players' heads being elsewhere. All we have to do is watch. So let's get too high about Saturday.

Let's start yapping this morning and keep yapping until Thursday, at least. Then, when Kentucky beats Eastern Kentucky and UC (fingers crossed here) beats Iowa, we can really start slinging the trash. My god, the talk radio will be magnificent.

UC-UK? You kidding?

"That's what everybody wants to see," observed UC's Eric Hicks.

UC could have had a better club than this, for its first showdown with UK in more than 14 years. Or at least one playing better than this group played Thursday night. But the timing can't be helped. "Over the last 14 years, I've learned I don't have a vote," said UC coach Bob Huggins.

Hand it to the Tournament Selection Committee. These gentlemen have a sense of humor. They know how to get things done. The last time UC and UK met was Nov. 28, 1990. The next time they met threatened to be never. Huggins and Tubby Smith are good friends: Smith spoke at Huggins' basketball clinic as recently as last fall.

They're frequent guests at celebrity roasts and golf tournaments.
Still, UK has not scheduled UC.

The notion is that the Wildcats view the Bearcats the same way the Bearcats view Xavier. Cincinnati needs Kentucky more than vice versa. Could be.
Thanks go to committee chairman Bob Bowlsby and the boys laying waste to that hotel suite in Indianapolis for giving us what we want.


"I came here four years ago," said UC's Jason Maxiell. "Each year, I asked Coach P (former UC associate head coach Dan Peters) and Huggs, 'Can we play Kentucky?' It never happened."

If the Bearcats can get their heads back into the daylight, it just might. After losing to South Florida, you wonder if it will. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Huggins was so pleased with his players after the South Florida debacle, he ordered them on a bus at 6 a.m. Friday for the eight-hour trip home. "It reminded me of junior college," said senior Nick Williams, late of Chipola College.

The coach's displeasure with his players lingered. As of 7:30 p.m. Sunday, he hadn't seen them since they got off the bus. Nor was he looking. Huggins watched the pairings at home; his players watched them elsewhere, but not as a team.

The first college team I covered was the 1984 Virginia Cavaliers. That team lost its opener in the ACC Tournament. The loss ticked off then-coach Terry Holland so much, he called officials from the NIT and asked them not to offer his 17-win team a bid.

As it turned out, Virginia made the NCAA Tournament and reached the Final Four, before losing by three to Akeem Olajuwon-led Houston.

Anything can happen. But we digress.

The troops aren't quite rallied yet. They have a few days.
"We can't afford for somebody to have a bad day," Huggins said. "We can't bring people off the bench to compensate, because there virtually is no bench."

It says here Huggins has done one of his better coaching jobs this year. This is a team with a come-and-go point guard, no great player, no offensive consistency more than 10 feet from the basket and no depth on the front line. How many more times might UC have won with one player it could count on to play big when the clock got small?

Even so, the Bearcats had only one bad loss, on Thursday night. They lost twice to Louisville, one of the hottest teams in the country. Losing to Wake Forest, Illinois and by one at Charlotte were not capital crimes.

On the flip side, the Bearcats don't have any monumental wins.
They have shown they can hang with a Kentucky-caliber team, at least at home, taking Wake down to the wire. But they haven't beaten anyone with a pedigree.

The question for the Bearcats this week will be: Does the South Florida loss wake them up, or shake them up?

"I don't think they have a confidence problem," Huggins said.
Fantastic. Let's dispatch with the preliminary Thursday and get straight to the main event.


No such talk out of Minnesota.

Iowa State is being treated with a little more respect by the newspaper folks up there.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune took time out from trying to figure out why Vikings coach Mike Tice scalped his Super Bowl tickets to write something about the Gophers’ NCAA game against Iowa State at 11:30 a.m. Friday in Charlotte, N.C.

Jeff Shelman was able to shoehorn this story between the Tice and Randy Moss stuff today:

Dan Monson sat in the front row as the Gophers men's basketball team awaited word of its first NCAA tournament berth since the 1998-99 season.

Around him were very tangible reminders of just how long and arduous the rebuilding of the Gophers program has been.

When Monson arrived in Minneapolis in the summer of 1999, he was fresh from leading Gonzaga on a tournament run that included a first-round victory over the Gophers, and he was only days away from getting married.

On Sunday afternoon, as the long-awaited invitation came -- the eighth-seeded Gophers will face No. 9 Iowa State in a first-round game Friday at 11:30 a.m. in Charlotte, N.C. -- Monson was with his wife and three children.

Yes, the rebuilding of the Gophers from an academic fraud scandal that made Minnesota the punch line of jokes about student-athletes into a NCAA tournament team was a long one. That's why the cheers in the basement of Williams Arena were loud when the pairings flashed on the television screen.

"When you look back and reflect back and this program keeps heading in this direction, you're going to look at this as a benchmark," Monson said. "But we're not looking at this today, we're looking at what this team accomplished. This is a team day, this is about three seniors [Jeff Hagen, Brent Lawson and Aaron Robinson] who persevered through the process and never wavered ... Right now this is a lot more about them than the process."

There was only one thing that could be considered a negative Sunday: The 8 and 9 seeds have the unenviable task of taking on the No. 1 seed -- North Carolina in this case -- in the second round. No. 1 seeds are 68-12 since 1985 against either No. 8 or 9 in second-round games.

Still, when the season began, there were no expectations that the Gophers would reach the tournament. They were inexperienced, they lacked a proven scorer and were coming off a 12-18 season.

"A year ago today, that's when everybody started taking off and [the tournament] became difficult to imagine," Hagen said. "But once the new guys came around, we realized we had a chance to do this."

As this season progressed, the idea of reaching the NCAAs seemed more plausible. In non-conference play, the Gophers hung with Alabama and Oklahoma before losing, then won at Nebraska. In Big Ten play, the Gophers got off to a fast start and proved they could win on the road. And down the stretch, the Gophers won their final four regular-season games and solidified a NCAA tournament berth with a victory over Indiana in the Big Ten tournament.

Monson wouldn't say the Gophers (21-10) were certainly in the field until the pairings were announced.

"I've said for two weeks [this team's] deserving and the committee rewards teams that are deserving," Monson said. "They certainly did that today."

Said Lawson: "There was a lot of suspense watching that show, but it was really exciting. We were expecting it to come, but I was a little bit nervous wondering if it would come. When it came up we were really relieved."

The draw and the geography are intriguing for several reasons.

Despite being separated by only 215 miles of Interstate 35, the Gophers and Cyclones haven't played since the 1992-93 season, a 99-65 Iowa State victory at Hilton Coliseum.

Coached by Wayne Morgan, the Cyclones are extremely athletic and have several eye-catching victories in the past six weeks. After opening the Big 12 season with five consecutive losses, Iowa State (18-11) won seven in a row, beating Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas in the process.

"Obviously the 8-9 game is the toughest game in the first round, and I think it's going to be a huge challenge for us, but these guys have faced challenges all year," Monson said. "We have a higher seed in the NCAAs than we had in the Big Ten going into the season."

Guard Vincent Grier is much of the reason. The left-hander leads the Gophers, averaging 18.1 points per game, and he's carried them at times. His reward? Grier gets a return trip to his hometown of Charlotte, N.C.

"It's like a dream come true," said Grier, who spent his freshman season at UNC Charlotte but hasn't been back since last spring. "I'm going to be like a new dude in the city, it's been so long since I've been home."

Monson said he thought it was fitting that the Gophers will travel to Charlotte.

"I think it's almost poetic justice that Vince came in here and came to our house, came to Minnesota to help us fulfill our dreams," Monson said. "He carried us through to those dreams and now we can go back, and he can bring us back to his place and hopefully we can do the same thing in his home."


Then there’s Northern Iowa.

The Panthers – who were made to seem like some second-cousin with droopy eyes, a chronic cough and a limp by TV announcers yesterday – play Wisconsin at 6:20 p.m. Friday in Oklahoma City.

A couple of Wisconsin newspapers were fairly nice to UNI today.
A headline on Jon Masson’s story in the Wisconsin State-Journal in Madison said:

Badgers familiar with Northern Iowa

Masson’s story:

Many of the players for the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team didn't know much about Northern Iowa, their opening foe in the NCAA tournament Friday in Oklahoma City.

But the two coaching staffs are well-acquainted.
"Greg (McDermott) knows us better than 90 percent of the coaches out there," Badgers coach Bo Ryan said of his counterpart at Northern Iowa. "He knows what we do. That's a tough matchup for us."

McDermott said the biggest connection is with former UW director of basketball operations Saul Phillips, in his first season as an assistant at North Dakota State.
"I've known coach Ryan for a number of years," McDermott said.

"Saul was my grad assistant at Wayne State (in the late 1990s). As a result of that, I've gotten to be close with Bo and his staff. Obviously, when Saul went to (UW-)Milwaukee and Wisconsin with Bo, I followed his progress. (I) just have tremendous respect for the job they do and have known 'Gardo' (assistant Greg Gard) and Robby (associate head coach Rob Jeter) and that whole gang there. It's going to be a fun game for us."

Ryan said he still kids McDermott about the time UW-Platteville, where Ryan coached, defeated Northern Iowa when McDermott played there (Platteville won, 72-68, Dec. 3, 1986).

"I have pictures of Greg McDermott in a uniform on a videotape that can go to the highest bidder," Ryan said. "He's always been a great competitor and always a coach that's been anxious to learn about the game, X's and O's-wise. He studies a lot of tape. Saul Phillips has worked with him. Saul promises that he hasn't given away all the secrets we have."

UW senior forward Zach Morley said he also knows the Northern Iowa coaches because they recruited him as a freshman at Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College.
"I know they are a tough team," Morley said.•


The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Mark Stewart wrote this story for today’s paper:

After watching the Wisconsin Badgers' offense go south Sunday afternoon, maybe the NCAA selection committee deemed it best to send the rest of the team in that direction, too.

The Badgers' seventh straight run in the NCAA tournament begins Friday in Oklahoma City, where they will face Northern Iowa at 6:20 p.m. It's a team with which UW coach Bo Ryan is quite familiar.

The Panthers (21-10) are coached by Greg McDermott, against whom Ryan once coached when McDermott was a player at Northern Iowa in the late 1980s. In recent years, McDermott worked with former UW assistant Saul Phillips, a former player of Ryan's at UW-Platteville.

Milwaukee fans should be familiar with Panthers, too. Last year, they nearly beat Georgia Tech in a first-round tournament game at the Bradley Center before falling, 65-60.

"Greg knows us better than 90% of the coaches out there," said Ryan, who watched the selection show at the United Center in Chicago after his team's 54-43 loss to Illinois in the Big Ten tournament championship game.

"He knows what we do. You take a look at how they play and what they bring to the table and it's a tough matchup for us."

Vol. 4, No. 321
March 14, 2005

Sunday, March 13, 2005

In the Old Days, I'd Have Told Vitale, Bilas to Shove It

Well, I guess that’s settled.

Dick Vitale won’t be invited to speak at Northern Iowa’s basketball banquet this season or any other time soon.

Jay Bilas, either.

Just when I was getting ready to write that the state of Iowa today turned into a College Basketball Heaven because Iowa State, Iowa and UNI were chosen for the 65-team NCAA tournament, both Vitale and Bilas went on TV today to criticize the selection committee for including the Panthers in the field.


In the old days, I probably would have told Vitale and Bilas to shove it when I heard them say something like that.

Or at least shove their words.

But now I’ll be satisfied just saying that Vitale and Bilas should have to sweep the floor at halftime of the UNI-Drake game next season in Cedar Falls.

I know one thing. That would pack the arena.

Don’t forget, they were both looking for ratings on today’s TV show. So they had to say something to make an Internet columnist mad in West Des Moines, as well as UNI fans around the world.

If they said chairman Bob Bowlsby and his tournament selection committee did everything perfectly, there’d be no reason to have a show, right?


Vitale, who usually displays a soft spot in his heart for underdogs when he’s talking about collegiate basketball on ESPN and ABC-TV, said nothing good about UNI on ESPN after the pairings were announced.

Vitale was steaming when the show began.

“I have two teams that should be in the tournament that aren’t in the tournament,” he said.

I’m talking about the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. I think anytime you go 9-7 with the depth of the Big East Conference, I think they belong in [the NCAA tournament]. They beat the likes of Connecticut, Boston College and Villanova…….

“I think they got a raw deal last year, and they a raw deal this year.”

Vitale went on to say that the “Mid-American Conference got flat-out robbed. Miami of Ohio won the regular-season title, and they should have been in.

“That answers another question—who should be out? When you say two should be in, two should be out.

“Check UAB [Alabama-Birmingham]. I can’t understand it. They had a good year. They won a lot of basketball games. But check their pre-conference schedule. I don’t believe UAB should be in over Notre Dame or Miami of Ohio.

“[Then there’s] Northern Iowa. Look at Northern Iowa’s record against top-50 teams. I don’t believe Northern Iowa should be in over those two [Notre Dame and Miami of Ohio].”


Digger Phelps, who was an underachieving coach when he was at Notre Dame and is a guy who has been playing second-fiddle to Vitale on ESPN for a number of years, also thought the Fighting Irish got screwed by the selection committee.

At least he didn’t pick on UNI to prove his point. Not on the TV show anyway.

However, Bilas agreed with Vitale about Northern Iowa.

“I don’t agree with Northern Iowa and UAB being in over Notre Dame,” he said. “But that’s really a small thing to argue about with the committee.”


Bob Bowlsby, the Iowa athletic director who is chairman of the NCAA tournament selection committee and is a former athletic director at Northern Iowa, did another smooth job fielding questions from CBS announcers after the 65-team field was announced.

The one question he didn’t have to answer was whether Steve Alford will be back as the Hawkeyes’ coach next season.

Alford got off the hot seat when his Hawkeyes made a late-season run, and there’s no way Iowa can fire him now.

So those who support the website and other Alford-haters are going to have to wait another year or start buying Drake season tickets.


The early line……

I like ninth-seeded Iowa State’s chances against No. 8 Minnesota at Charlotte, N.C.

I think 10th-seeded Iowa, has a strong shot at upsetting No. 7 Cincinnati at Indianapolis. Alford won’t out-coach many guys, but Cincinnati’s Bob Huggins is a guy he can beat. Huggins’ teams are usually overrated and don’t last long.

Eleventh-seed UNI will have problems with No. 6 Wisconsin at Oklahoma City, but it would be great if the Panthers could pull off an upset just so Vitale and Bilas would have to eat their pre-tournament words.


After the 65-team field was announced on CBS, Bowlsby was asked:

“One of the more burning questions I’m sure you’ll be hit with is this: If there’s a surprise among the No. 1 seeds it’s Washington. Oklahoma State had been talked about as a possibility. If Oklahoma State had played earlier in the day [at the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City], could they have supplanted Washington as a No. 1?”

“We looked at a lot of different institutions on line one, and it was an ever-evolving process,” Bowlsby said. “We were able to put together some contingency plans that involved five or six institutions. Depending on how things went in the four major games today, we had a number of scenarios that we were prepared to implement.

Washington has had a tremendous year. They’ve had a lot of good wins. We felt they deserved to be on line one.”

Vol. 4, No. 320
March 13, 2005

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Strange or Sick? Iowa, ISU Courting 8th-Grade Girl

These are strange times, my friends.

How strange?

Strange enough that an eighth-grade girls’ basketball player is receiving considerable recruiting attention in Minneapolis.

Strange enough that Iowa and Iowa State are among the 30 universities and colleges that are paying attention to her.

Actually, to me, this is more than strange.

It’s sick.

I found out about Tayler Hill, a guard from Minneapolis South High School, in an e-mail sent to me by a guy who follows women’s collegiate basketball closely:

The e-mail:

“According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Iowa and Iowa State are among about 30 women's teams that are trying to recruit a player from Minneapolis who is still in the eighth grade.

“There should be a rule against that.”

I agree.

The Star-Tribune story was written by John Millea, who once worked at the local paper.

Here’s what Millea wrote about the 14-year-old, 5-foot 9-inch Hill:

"She talks in her sleep before big games," [said her father,] Paul Hill, before the game.

"And she talked in her sleep last night."Hill scored a team-high 18 points [in a 54-49 loss to Lakeville in the state girls’ tournament] on a mix of long-range shots and drives to the basket, showing no fear. She was the only girl on either team to play all 32 minutes.

After the loss she was already thinking of next season, when all five South starters will be back.

Sitting courtside was a woman who is thinking five years down the road. Gophers coach Pam Borton, who had watched 6-3 and very uncommitted Kennedy junior Jenna Smith in the previous game, stayed in her seat for the South-Lakeville contest. Borton is part of a long line of college coaches who are courting Hill, whose favorite class is algebra and whose homeroom teacher is "Mr. H" [Ron Hustvedt] at Anne Sullivan Communication Center, a K-8 Minneapolis public school.

The day before the game, the home of Paul and Monique Hill and their five kids received calls from coaches at Illinois, Iowa and Iowa State. Thirty or so schools have made contact, including Tennessee, Kansas, Penn State, USC, UCLA and the Gophers. Since Paul doubles as his daughter's summer AAU coach, college coaches can contact him as "coach" rather than "dad."

Tayler, who is 5-9 and should add a couple more inches, was selected to the Star-Tribune All-Metro first team after leading the metro in scoring this season with a 22.1 average. That might not have been a high enough honor, according to Minneapolis North coach Faith Patterson, whose team has won four 3A titles since 1998 and is going for No. 5 this week.

"I think she's the metro player of the year, quite honestly," Patterson said. "She's smart, she knows the game and she reads defenses well. She keeps moving, she's in great shape, she's very athletic. She knows what she's capable of, and she's smart enough and savvy enough to get it done."


The same e-mailer who thinks there should be a rule against recruiting 8th-graders also has a comment about another subject:

“On another matter,” he wrote, “every time the proposed race track in Newton gets in the news, it is reported that NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace will design the track.

“Just how much expertise does it take to design a race track? I'm willing to bet that he comes up with one that is oval.”

Good thinking. The day they put in a square race track somewhere in Iowa—or anywhere else—we’ve got a scoop.”


I laugh these days every time I look at Bobby Knight on the Texas Tech bench.

One of the first things I see is the “O’Reilly Auto Parts” logo on the front of his black sweater.

With that in mind, I fully expect Iowa's Steve Alford to show up for a game sometime soon with a logo on his suitcoat that says “Hy-Vee Meat Counter.”


Memo to the NCAA tournament selection committee:

Iowa State lost a tough game in Kansas City to Bobby Knight’s Texas Tech team, 64-56, yesterday in the Big 12 tournament. Iowa lost to Wisconsin in Chicago today, 59-56, on a buzzer-beating shot that was launched from Kankakee by Alando Tucker in the Big Ten tournament.

Regardless of the defeats, the Cyclones and Hawkeyes are playing very, very well late in the season. Both teams should go dancing.


E-mailer Mark Robinson calls it sad that Gene Keady has coached his last game for Purdue:

“Well, that's the end of the Old Guard in the Big Ten.

“Gene Keady was the last of the long-tenured Big Ten basketball coaches to say farewell. Oh, Izzo and Ryan have a head start, but almost all the other coaches are basically starting from scratch [OK, Alford has had 6 years to take Iowa to the all too familiar precipice of missing the NCAA tournament for all too familiar reasons].

For me, it was a sad day. Not because we won, but because another Great Teacher called it quits. And he did it just in time. This Purdue season will be forgotten in a heartbeat by Purdue fans.

I recall thinking back in the 90's that Keady seemed to possess some sort of magic, winning Big Ten Championships right and left. At least, it seemed so.

I recall the Old Guard: Bob Knight, Tom Davis, Lou-Doo, Jud, a lot of victories there. A TON of victories.

Now we have a bunch of newbies [yeah, even Izzo is still a newbie by Keady's standards].

Don't ask me to list those current Big Ten coaches who I believe will be remembered for their great works and those who will be forgotten in time.

Keady was a character, a great coach, and a credit to the Big Ten. He earned his stripes the hard way, and survived to tell about it.

Best regards,


[RON MALY’S COMMENT: Keady’s days at Purdue are over, but I’m betting he’ll turn up on a basketball bench somewhere next season—maybe not as a head coach, but as an assistant. With that haircut, his teaching knowledge and his scowl, how could any team go wrong by not having him on the payroll? ESPN would show up for a game just to get some more footage of the super-glued hair].


I wondered all season what had become of Jon Sundvold, who had been the commentator on Big 12 Conference “Big Monday” basketball games.

Instead of Sundvold, viewers this season got former coach Fran Fraschilla—and I thought it was a bad trade-off.

I asked Mike Green at Iowa State what he knew about the change, and here’s what he told me:

”From what I had heard, ESPN decided they wanted to go with someone different and they basically let Sundvold go. Jon did the Big 12 ESPN ‘Big Monday’ games for the last five years.

“However, I heard that ESPN wanted a former coach and more of a
‘name’ for the ‘Big Monday’ games.....I think Jon is
still doing some Missouri telecasts, but he is not doing as many games as he used to.’’

The ironic thing is that Sundvold—the younger brother of former Iowa State assistant coach Bob Sundvold—basically replaced Gary Thompson as the No. 1 Big 12 TV commentator five years ago.

That move was supposedly made to to give Big 12 telecasts a "new look."

I guess Sundvold's look got old in a hurry.

Thompson recently recently retired as Iowa State’s regular-season commentator.

Vol. 4, No. 319
March 12, 2005

Thursday, March 10, 2005

It Looked Like Keady's Hemorrhoids Were Acting Up

This obviously wasn’t what Purdue coach Gene Keady had in mind.

The poor guy came to the Big Ten basketball tournament in Chicago hoping to stay through Sunday.

But whenever the TV cameras zeroed in on him today while he was sitting on the bench, he looked like his hemorrhoids were bothering him.

And, obviously, there wasn’t enough Preparation H in the building to ease Keady’s pain.

He belonged back home in West Lafayette, Ind.


So Iowa’s game against the Boilermakers—a 71-52 Hawkeye victory--turned into the Gene Keady Swan Song.

It was an embarrassment for the man with the perpetual scowl who put in 25 seasons with the Boilermakers.

A few days earlier, he joked that maybe he’d have to go to Chicago in an empty bus.

It turned out he should have. His players might as well have stayed home.


Keady drew some laughs in the postgame press conference that was carried on the Iowa radio network.

He was talking about injuries to his players.

Why did we have so many injuries?” he asked. “We’re going to investigate the floor—our floor. I’m serious about that.”

When Keady heard some chuckles from reporters after saying those words, he abruptly switched gears.

It could be my bad coaching,” he added. “You can’t blame it on the floor.”

More chuckles followed.

It was that kind of day.


It was like pulling teeth to get Keady to stand still long enough for ESPN’s sideline reporter to talk with him after the game.

“I guess one thing good about losing is that you’re so mad you don’t get emotionally involved,” Keady told the reporter.

“It’s been a long season. The kids never gave up, and I’m proud of that. It was a tremendous run for Pat [his wife] and I and Purdue. Thank you for asking.”

The reporter kept pulling Keady back to the microphone.

“For 25 years, this university has been a part of your family. What will you miss the most?” the reporter asked.

“The kids, teaching, practice, competition, the arenas,” Keady said.

“What will Gene Keady do next?” the reporter asked.

“Whatever my wife tells me,” he answered.


ESPN announcers Brent Musburger and Steve Lavin kept trying to convince viewers that Keady and Iowa’s Steve Alford are comparable to John Wooden and Al McGuire in terms of coaching ability.

Musburger started the afternoon by saying he wasn’t buying any talk that Alford is on a coaching hot-seat.

When the Hawkeyes began raining in one three-point basket after another, Musburger quickly had them in the NCAA tournament.

We’ll see.

They’ll take a 20-10 record into tomorrow’s game against Michigan State.

They’ll need to win that one to get any serious consideration for the NCAA.


One team that’s definitely going to the Big Dance, in my opinion, is Iowa State, which rolled past Baylor, 77-57, in the Big 12 tournament.

Look for the Cyclones to get there regardless of what they do in their next game against Texas Tech.

No way was Iowa State going to be upset today. The Cyclones soared to 17-0 and 21-1 leads against a Baylor team that finished its season with a 9-19 record.

Rashon Clark, who scored 19 points against Baylor earlier in the season, had a career-high 20 today.

“For whatever reason, he really plays well against Baylor,” coach Wayne Morgan said on his postgame radio show.


“We have all the respect in the world for Coach Knight and his program,” Morgan said. “We know he’s one of the all-time great coaches.”

Vol. 4, No. 318
March 10, 2005

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Despite the 4-Month-Old Joke, Fuson Will Do Well

As you know, I’ve got correspondents all over the place.

After all, this column doesn’t just wake up in the morning and automatically become the well-oiled, smooth-running machine it appears to be.

Everything depends on me getting a lot of help.

To name just a few of my helpers, there’s my “West Coast Correspondent,” my “Eastern Iowa Correspondent,” the reader who prefers to go by “Pissed Off in Pocahontas,” the very dependable “Singapore Correspondent” from that far-away place, a guy who refers to himself simply as “Rural Iowan,” the sharp-eyed "Eastern Iowa Woman," the sharp-tongued “Alive in Clive” and, of course, the famous “Greta in Graettinger.”

There are eight or nine others-—"Priscilla From Pisgah" and “Hi, This Is Crazy Chris From Coralville" among them--who have strong opinions and don’t mind sharing them with me.

This is the time of year when a number of those folks come out of the woodwork, out of the machine shed or just out of the car after driving back from a two-month snowbird stay in Florida.

I mean, “Eastern Iowa Correspondent” has spent the last couple of months trying to figure out how Steve Alford and his Iowa basketball team went from having a 12-1 record in December and was en route to the Final Four to wondering how soon his dad—Sam Alford, I mean—is going to come out of retirement so he can help the kid keep his $800,000-a-year job.

“Eastern Iowa Correspondent” also said in an e-mail to me that news is traveling slowly these days.

You used that line several months ago about how Alford’s teams and Kirk Ferentz’s teams have something in common—they both peak in November,” the guy wrote. “Ken Fuson just used it now.”

I had to check ol’ Kenny’s most recent column in the local paper to find out what “Eastern Iowa Correpondent” was talking about.

It turned out that Kenny, a good friend of mine and a guy I predict will thoroughly overshadow Dave Barry when it comes to writing funny stuff, used the “Peaking in November” line to help illustrate how simple it is to be a humor columnist.

Actually, I heard the "Peaking" line from Bob Brooks, the radio and TV sportscaster from Cedar Rapids who did the play-by-play on the first football game Iowa ever scheduled—a 24-0 loss to Grinnell on Nov. 16, 1889.

Brooksie and I sat next to each other on press row at the Drake-Iowa game Nov. 30 in the Knapp Center when the Hawkeyes won, 91-75.

By the way, on that historic day 116 years ago when Iowa had its first football game, Jim Zabel and Ronald Reagan were sharing the "Sound Off" responsibilities at the WHO-radio studios in Des Moines. Jim Walden was bringing them coffee.

Here's the start of my Dec. 1, 2004 column that was headlined:

Iowa's Ferentz and Alford Have Something in Common

A guy who spends a lot of time around the University of Iowa’s football and basketball scene was telling me this one before the Hawkeyes demolished Drake, 91-75, last night at the Knapp Center:

“There’s a joke going around that Kirk Ferentz, the football coach, and Steve Alford, the basketball coach, have something in common,” the guy said.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Both of their teams peak in November,” he answered.

Now, I know Ken Fuson is a busy guy and probably didn’t realize I used the “Peaking in November” line in my column last December. And I suppose Diane Graham--who reads all of my stuff--was asleep at her desk, so she couldn't tell him.

Heck, if he had asked, I gladly would have given the "Peaking" line to Kenny at the time. Anything to help out a fellow columnist, you know.

Here’s what “Eastern Iowa Correspondent" said in his e-mail to me:

“I see Ken Fuson wants Steve Alford to "be a gentleman and go quietly" without demanding a big buyout. He also anonymously [thank God] quoted me about Alford and Ferentz having one thing in common -- their teams both peak in November. That line must be circulating, because I don't even know Fuson. How long has he been doing a column? He wasn't writing one when we left Iowa in late December.

“I haven’t heard anything that indicates Alford is all done. The Iowa wrestlers took some pressure off him by placing fourth in the Big Ten meet, their worst finish in 38 years. Hey, that goes back to the days of Eric Wilson! Thank God for Kirk Ferentz and his football team.”

[RON MALY'S COMMENT: Even though I've written plenty of times that Alford has outworn his welcome in Iowa City, I agree with "Eastern Iowa Correspondent" that he'll be back for another season. But if attendance at Carver-Hawkeye Arena doesn't improve big-time next year and if Iowa doesn't get into the NCAA tournament when Greg Brunner and Jeff Horner are seniors, it'll be adios, Stevie-boy. As for Eric Wilson, he was Iowa's very first sports information director. When he was doing publicity work, not all of the football players were wearing helmets and none wore face-guards. As for the Hawkeyes' wrestling program, where's Dan Gable when he's needed? As for Ken Fuson, he's in the early stages of being the local paper's replacement for Dave Barry, the syndicated humor columnist. Kenny will do just fine. As I said earlier, Barry's humor can't hold a candle to the stuff Fuson will be writing once he gets on a roll].


Is Jeanette Trompeter gone yet?


A reader e-mailed me with this comment:

"Is there any question about who is No. 1?"

The reader then sent me a copy of Richard Cirminiello's ratings of Big Ten football coaches in Here they are:

Best Coach – Kirk Ferentz, Iowa – If there was any doubt Ferentz was among the Top 5 coaches in college football, he put that to rest in 2004. With no healthy scholarship backs on the roster, he turned the offense over to young quarterback Drew Tate, leaned on his defense, and willed the Hawkeyes to an eight-game, season-ending winning streak. After three straight ten-win seasons, Iowa is a legit national power, which is why Ferentz is the target of nearly every athletic director and NFL GM with a vacancy.

Most Underrated – Joe Tiller, Purdue – It’s been so long since Purdue stunk, it’s easy to forget how Tiller rescued the program eight years ago. He’s put the Boilers on the next rung below Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten, and has appeared in more bowl games than all other Purdue coaches combined. Tiller will always favor the pass, but has proven to be so much more than just a great coach for producing fantasy numbers.

Most Overrated – Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin – For good reason, Alvarez will forever be a legend in Mad Town, but back-to-back Rose Bowls in the late 1990s shouldn’t give him lifetime immunity from criticism. The Badgers have been eminently average the past five seasons, struggling to find balance on offense, and dropping at least one game as a heavy favorite every year.

Coach on the Hot Seat – Joe Paterno, Penn State – JoePa isn’t going anywhere until he says so, but the scrutiny he’s been feeling from the media and the fans is going to intensify with another season of mediocrity in Happy Valley. Penn State has been in a five-year freefall, prompting many to wonder aloud if the coach should step aside. Paterno has the defense to get back to the Big Ten’s first division in 2005, but desperately needs more production from his offense.

Bucking for a Promotion – Glen Mason, Minnesota – Mason has won at places like Kansas and Minnesota, where his talent and depth were always a couple of tiers below the conference elite. Although he’s yet to get them over the hump, he has helped make the Gophers an annual factor in the Big Ten. Mason has owned Joe Paterno since 1999, and could wind up replacing him whenever the legend decides to step down.

Best Offensive Coordinator –Terry Malone, Michigan – The Wolverine offense has been one of the nation’s most explosive balancing acts since Malone assumed his current position three years ago. He’s also one of the game’s better recruiters, landing the top in-state prospect each year since 2001.

Best Defensive Coordinator – Brock Spack, Purdue - No conference has a better collection of defensive coordinators, so you could finger Jim Herrmann (Michigan), Norm Parker (Iowa), Tom Bradley (Penn State) or Bret Bielema (Wisconsin), and not look foolish. At a school better known for its quarterbacks, Spack has done a magnificent job of annually taking athletic defenders and transforming them into a stingy, opportunistic unit.

Best Off-season Hire – Ron Zook, Illinois – Scoff if you must, but Zook was miscast as the replacement to a legend like Steve Spurrier. In a pro town where the pressure’s dramatically lower, he’s liable to surprise people. Zook will still get out-coached some Saturdays, but he’s already brought a much-needed energy boost and a crack recruiting staff, led by Mike Locksley, to Champaign.

Worst Off-season Loss – Rob Ianello, Wisconsin – Charlie Weis didn’t want Ianello in South Bend because of his work as a tight end coach. He wanted him because he’s widely regarded as one of the premier recruiters in the country. Ianello has been a recruiting coordinator at Alabama, Wisconsin and Arizona, earning attaboys at every stop.


If somebody can explain to me what that story in the local paper said the other day about Mediacom's Chicago Cubs' telecasts this season, e-mail or call me. The thing was too confusing to those of us who had our sportswriters' lunch today at the Oriental restaurant in West Des Moines. When those deep-thinkers can't figure something out, you know it's written poorly.


Susan Chandler of the Chicago Tribune writes today:

"They're talking about it at Boeing Co. headquarters. They're trying to figure it out on Yahoo's Boeing message board. They're speculating about it on Capitol Hill.

"Who is the female Boeing executive who had an affair with Boeing Chief Executive Harry Stonecipher?

"Stonecipher, a 68-year-old married man, was forced out of his job Sunday because of a consensual sexual relationship with a Boeing executive who did not report to him. The affair was of relatively recent origin, having started in January, Boeing Chairman Lewis Platt told reporters Monday.

"But the Chicago-based aerospace manufacturer wouldn't name the female executive or provide any more details about her relationship with Stonecipher, except to say that she was a long-term Boeing employee, and she is still with the company.

"On Tuesday, Boeing said it isn't through looking into her role.

"An investigation into her actions is continuing," said a company spokesman. Among the things being looked at is whether the executive may have traveled at company expense or spent other company money in connection with the affair.

"An investigation into Stonecipher's actions determined that he hadn't misused company money, Boeing said Monday.

"Stonecipher was brought back from retirement to reinforce ethics at Boeing and restore its reputation with its largest customer, the Pentagon. The affair was uncovered after an anonymous tip from an employee, the type of internal vigilance that Stonecipher had encouraged.

Boeing doesn't have an explicit policy that prohibits employees from dating or having extra-marital affairs. Stonecipher was let go because the romantic entanglement "reflected poorly on Harry's judgment," Platt said, and because embarrassing details could hurt the company if they came out.

Employment attorneys said Boeing is being prudent by not taking action against the female executive until it knows the facts....."

[RON MALY'S COMMENT: Poor old Harry Stonecipher. They bring the guy out of retirement, and then he has a problem like this. Well, hell, maybe it's not a problem after all. Don't forget, Harry is 68. I'll bet there are plenty of 68-year-old guys who'd like to have his problem. For all I know, the guy's next job might be as an actor in the erectile dysfunction commercials that talk about the difficulty associated with having those 4-hour erections].


My "Singapore Correspondent" e-mailed me this AP story he noticed on the website:

Field of Dreams still draws fans

Town offers other attractions to stream of visitors

DYERSVILLE, Ia. (AP) -- More than 15 years after Ray Kinsella built it, people still come to the Field of Dreams.

Just like Shoeless Joe Jackson, throngs of baseball fans -- 65,000 a year -- are drawn to Dyersville to see the ballpark Kevin Costner's character built in a cornfield in the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams."

The field reopens for the season April 1, two days before the first major league baseball game takes place. But while the famous cornfield is by far the town's biggest attraction, there are many other things to do and see here.

Dyersville calls itself the "Farm Toy Capital of the World." Here you'll find the National Farm Toy Museum, doll and woodcarving museums, and several companies that manufacture die-cast replicas of farm equipment -- Ertl, Scale Models and SpecCast. Annual toy shows held in November, March and June also draw visitors.

"All the other attractions were here before the Field of Dreams," said Karla Thompson, executive director for the Dyersville Chamber of Commerce.

Dyersville is also home to the St. Francis Xavier Basilica, built in 1889, featuring twin gothic spires, 64 windows and a marble foundation beneath the altar. Services are held every Sunday, including two in Latin. "People come up from Des Moines (190 miles away) just for the Latin mass," Thompson said.

The National Farm Toy Museum opened in 1986, three years before the movie. It features over 30,000 toys and exhibits with tractors, implements, trucks, miniature farm dioramas, and toy manufacturing information.

"The higher the detail, the less 'toy' they become," said Anne Reitzler, the museum's manager. "They become more collectible."

On March 19 and 20, the Farm Toy Museum welcomes the Midwest Toy Truck show, a smaller version of the bigger show held each November, which typically attracts 8,000 to 10,000 people. The Summer Farm Toy Show is scheduled for June 3 to 5.

[RON MALY'S COMMENT: I took batting practice at the Field of Dreams park a few years ago when I visited there. Try as I might, I couldn't hit the ball into the cornfield. But I hit several pitches to right-centerfield that would have been singles and doubles. Sign me up, coach].

Vol. 4, No. 317
March 9, 2005