Thursday, March 03, 2005

Iowa State Holds One of the Keys to Alford's Future

Obviously, there are plenty of people who’d like to see Steve Alford fired as the coach of Iowa’a underachieving basketball team.

And I’ve got the answer to how the process can be hurried along.

But it has nothing to do with what happens in Iowa City.

The solution is in Ames.

One of the fastest ways co convince the athletic department bosses at Iowa that Alford isn’t the guy who will be the long-term answer to the basketball problems is for Wayne Morgan and his Iowa State team to continue winning.

People at Iowa don’t like it when their teams flop and Iowa State’s don’t.

I mean, if Iowa State goes to the NCAA tournament and Iowa doesn’t, watch out.

Hawkeye fans will be in an uproar. The night when Iowa hosts an NIT game and 4,000 people show up in 15,500-seat Carver-Hawkeye Arena, a red flag will go up the pole.

Especially if Iowa State wins an opening-round regional game in the NCAA tournament, then maybe a second game.

Morgan is already proving he can out-recruit Alford. Once he shows he’s going to consistently win more games and have more postseason success, Alford will have to take his act and his hair-do to Division II.


I’ve been trying to figure this one out all day.

Iowa and Iowa State won big home basketball games last night, but no columnist from the local paper wrote about either team this morning.

Both games—Iowa vs. Ohio State and Iowa State vs. Missouri—had postseason implications, and there was the emotional final last game by Cyclone TV analyst Gary Thompson in Ames.

Still, no column.

Frankly, there should have been a columnist at each place.

I hope it wasn’t a situation similar to what happened to my old friend, Marc Hansen, a few years ago.

Hansen drove to Iowa City for an important Big Ten game, thinking he was going to write a column for the next morning’s paper.

When he called to talk to the guy who was the sports news editor that night, Hansen was told that there wasn't room for his column.

So Hansen didn’t write one.

That’s a true story. Stuff like that actually happens at newspapers these days.
Maybe that’s why circulation keeps plummeting.


Harry Baumert, this one's for you.

I see Newsweek has ruffled the feathers of some news purists who are upset that editors attached Martha Stewart’s 63-year-old head to the body of a much younger female model on the cover of this week’s issue.

Newsweek called it a “photo illustration.”

That must mean it’s time for critics to write some of those idiotic stories about what an awful thing it is that a photo was doctored up by somebody.

As though anything those critics write is going to sell one more copy of whatever publications they work for.


The Academy Awards show was already bad enough. Putting Chris Rock on there as the emcee made it even worse.

I hear Rock won’t be invited back. Good. Now he can go back to being on TV at his usual 2 a.m., and I’ll be asleep.


Damn it, I figured I had a good idea for the local paper’s new sports editor.

When Bryce Miller jumped into the story of that Valley High School wrestler who is transferring to Roosevelt, I figured, now, here’s a sports editor we can trust to get to the bottom of a controversy and produce a four-part series that will be a candidate for one of those “Best of Gannett” awards that the local paper wants to win so badly.

I suggested that Miller should go up to Iowa State, interview football player Jason Scales—a former football standout at Valley—and give some further impact to his four-part series.

But Miller let me down. After writing one story on the situation, he bypassed investigative reporter Tom Witosky, deluxe high school reporter John Naughton and the copy girl, and instead farmed the next story out to someone named Megan Hawkins.

I didn’t know Hawkins was a sportswriter. Well, hell, it could be she is. It’s just that nobody has told her yet.

Now Miller has apparently let the story drop. And there are still so many questions to be answered.

Gee, I hope he didn’t get upset when I pointed out that he had lots of holes in his only story on the controversy.


Let’s see, Ron Santo has had both legs amputated, he's got insulin-dependent diabetes, he’s got cancer and he’s got heart disease.

And he also played for, and now broadcasts games for the Chicago Cubs.

If all those things aren’t bad enough, Santo was also kept out of baseball’s Hall of Fame again yesterday by the veterans’ committee.

Man, that’s what I call kicking a man when he’s down.


A guy doesn’t get much in his Sports Illustrated these days.

The March 7 issue arrived in my mailbox this afternoon, and it was a skinny 70 pages.

Something tells me those advertising salespeople had better hit the streets.


Ryan Dempster is a baseball pitcher who has had arm problems in the past.

He may also have had head problems.

Consequently, he should fit in very well with the Chicago Cubs.

The Chicago Tribune reports that there were many misconceptions about Dempster in the off-season, including a published report that he went streaking last year after a night out with his teammates at a Lincoln Park restaurant.

Dempster hopes the rumor eventually will go away, although it continues to spread in Internet chat rooms.

"I've never, ever ran down any street of Chicago naked," he said, adding that he never has seen any of his teammates do it either.


The Tribune also says, it’s only spring training, but former Cub Sammy Sosa has already shown that he's an "impact player"--at least when it comes to the first-quarter profits of Cubs owner Tribune Co.

As sports-page readers know by now, the Trib writes, the Cubs were so eager to send Sammy packing that they agreed over the winter to pay in the neighborhood of $16 million just to get out of the final year of the outfielder's contract.

The Cubs' parent company would presumably like to put the Sosa trade behind it.

But it can't. At least not until it releases its first-quarter earnings.

It turns out that the company has been put in the unusual position of having to publicly spell out, in its financial results for the period ending March 31, the multimillion-dollar cost of pushing Sosa out the clubhouse door.

"As you know, Sammy Sosa is now a Baltimore Oriole," Tribune chairman, president and chief executive Dennis FitzSimons told a media-industry investment conference this week, in the company's first public discussion of the Sosa trade's financial effect.

"While this trade will not impact our full-year results," he said, "there is a timing impact."

Because the timing of the trade caused the Tribune to "accelerate" the payment of Sosa's salary, FitzSimons said, the company's first-quarter net income will be reduced by nearly 3 cents per share--which works out to something over $9 million on an after-tax basis.

FitzSimons' disclosure sent a chuckle rippling through the crowd of institutional investors, a number of whom were amused to learn that a major corporation's financial results could be skewed by the sudden departure of a baseball player.



Carla and I have lined up a pretty neat spring bus tour of the state, and we
hope you'll give it consideration for a mention.

We're catching several Iowa attractions at significant times in their
histories, as you'll note in the attached release.

Not directly mentioned but worth pursuing, story-wise: We'll be doing the
Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend with new executive director Rhonda
Miller, who has done a terrific job in that community. She led the effort to
build the wonderful new Park Inn Motel [where we'll stay], so grotto visitors
could have overnight accommodations; she now heads up the grotto operation,
and she's also co-president of that Ladies Aid group that is fixing our

Thanks. And heck, come on along with us.

Chuck Offenburger
Cooper, Ia.


"OK, OK, I believe," writes Dennis Dodd, senior writer for CBS Sportsline.

"After underestimating Iowa all these years, it's time for some love. Lose Robert Gallery? No problem. No running game? A recipe for getting to the Capital One Bowl, naturally. Kirk Ferentz to the NFL? It hasn't happened yet.

"It'll be tough for anybody to beat Southern Cal's Matt Leinart-Pete Carroll connection.

"That means the Hawkeyes have developed into a legit powerhouse. Why fight it? Iowa is No. 2 in CBS's pre-spring top 25. Makes sense, at least in early March, that the Hawks navigate a tough schedule and play in a 'natural' Rose Bowl matchup against Southern California.

"Ferentz added another top 10 recruiting class to a roster that went 10-2 and tied for the Big Ten title last year. Drew Tate was the bowl and conference player of the year. This is the signature program for a revitalized Big Ten. Enjoy it while all the running backs are healthy.

"Besides, it's better to overrate than underrate.

"Spring outlooks:

"1. Southern California: The coaches can use the practice more than the players. Five assistants have left the program. It will basically take two coaches to replace former offensive coordinator Norm Chow. Steve Sarkisian is the new quarterbacks coach. He'll be working with 29-year-old OC Lane Kiffin, the old receivers coach. Matt Leinart needs to start developing new relationships right away and not hang his head over the loss of Chow. Why they're ranked here: Twenty-two-game winning streak, back-to-back titles. Duh.

"2. Iowa: After losing seemingly every running back on the roster to injuries, Iowa is loaded with healthy RBs. The spring will be spent sorting out the new hoss. Look for a battle between junior Sam Brownlee and sophomore Albert Young. Oh, and there's Tate, the Big Ten offensive player of the year. The defensive line needs to be remade, but how hard can that be? Ferentz won with a sixth-string RB last year. Why they're ranked here: Three consecutive top 10 finishes. Three consecutive New Year's bowls. Eighteen consecutive home wins. Iowa won't go away, so why fight it? Warren Holloway left a calling card for the country not to forget the Hawkeyes. His game-winning touchdown catch in the dying seconds against LSU in the Capital One Bowl is being called the greatest in school history."

Vol. 4, No. 314
March 3, 2005