Monday, June 27, 2005

Drake's 'Home' Football Games May Be Played at Valley, Waukee

There’s a chance that Drake’s football team will do something in the 2005 season that’s never been done before.

If the renovation project currently going on at Drake Stadium isn’t completed—and right now no one knows if it will be--the Bulldogs may not play any of their games in Des Moines.

I hear that plans are being made to play three “home” Bulldog games at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines and one possibly at Waukee High School’s stadium if Drake Stadium isn’t ready.

“It depends on the weather and how much progress is being made with the renovation,” Paul Morrison, the Drake historian who has a high-profile position in the university’s intercollegiate sports tradition, told me.

Drake has only four home games on its schedule—Sept. 24 against Austin Peay State, Oct. 8 against Dayton, Oct. 29 against Butler and Nov. 12 against Waldorf.

The Bulldogs’ first three games are on the road—Sept. 1 at Northern Iowa, Sept. 10 at Illinois State and Sept. 17 at Wisconsin-Platteville.

Although the sites of the “home” football games are indefinite, Drake officials definitely want to have the stadium available for the Drake Relays in April, 2006.

“To my knowledge, we’ve never ever played a ‘home’ football game other than at a Drake facility,” said Morrison, who will celebrate his 88th birthday July 25. “We’ve cancelled some home games for one reason or another, but never played any away from Drake.”

One of the home football games cancelled was on Nov. 23, 1963 when Iowa State was scheduled to play at Drake Stadium. That game was called off because of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

It’s been different in basketball. Morrison recalls a time when Drake moved a game against coach Henry Iba’s Oklahoma A&M [now Oklahoma State] team to the Des Moines Armory from Drake Fieldhouse.

Drake Stadium opened in 1925 with a seating capacity of 18,000, and Morrison came to the university as a student in 1935. Ossie Solem was the Bulldogs’ coach when the stadium opened, and Vee Green was in charge when Morrison was attending school.

Indeed, those were different eras in Drake football history. In 1925, the Bulldogs had a 5-3 record that included victories over Kansas State, Kansas and Nebraska, and lost to Oklahoma, Iowa State and Southern Methodist. In 1935, Drake played such teams as Ohio State, Iowa State, Tulsa and the Haskell Indians.

Morrison pointed out that it’s interesting Butler, one of Drake’s opponents in the upcoming season, is also renovating its football stadium.

“There are similarities between Drake and Butler,” Morrison said. “Both are nicknamed the Bulldogs, both had the same strong church affiliation, both schools’ colors are blue and white, and both are neighborhood schools—Butler in Indianapolis, Drake in Des Moines.”


One of the more laughable things in the local paper lately—at least since the equally-laughable Erin Crawford silliness about Johnny Gosch a while back—was the story about the 25 most powerful people in Iowa sports.

I felt very sorry for Randy Peterson, the guy who had to write it. Peterson has been around the place a long time. Heck, I remember when he was doing a bowling column for the old Des Moines Tribune. And, man, that was a while back.

At least he’s one of the few people at the local paper who writes “a crowd announced as 2,200” was at the ballpark when actually there were no more then 1,000 people in the stands.

Peterson must have been the only guy in the office the day the top-25 assignment was handed out. Or maybe it was just his turn to draw the short straw.

I haven’t talked to Peterson about it yet, so I don’t know who assigned him to write the story. Maybe it was publisher Mary Stier, who might have been hoping she’d make the list because she thinks she’s supposed to be on everybody’s list. A better guess is that it was the sports editor, who somehow did get on the list.

Anyway, I have a few observations:

--No newspaper sports editor or sportswriter from a daily or weekly newspaper belongs on the list—especially an editor or writer from a dying paper that no longer has a “voice.” Including people who draw their paychecks from the paper that printed the list immediately destroys the credibility of the project.

--No owner of a local sports team deserves to be on the list.

--Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz should be No. 1 on the list. Nobody is hotter these days than Ferentz.

--Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby should be No. 2. He’s got it rolling.

--Iowa State football coach Dan McCarney should be in the top 5. I don’t agree with his decision on Jason Berryman, either, but McCarney is still a gamer.

--No one with advanced stages of “little man’s disease,” is overbearing and has an identity problem—or all of the above—should be on the list.

--Among several TV and radio announcers who deserved to be considered for the list were Keith Murphy of WHO-TV in Des Moines, John Walters of WOI-TV in West Des Moines, John Campbell of KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids and Iowa football and basketball play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin. Times have changed. Those people carry much more weight now than newspaper editors and writers.

--Mike Hlas, veteran sports columnist at the Cedar Rapids Gazette, deserved a strong look as a member of the list.

--People with Internet jobs—among them Jon Miller of Hawkeye Nation and Steve Deace of Cyclone Nation as well as Des Moines sports-talk radio station KXNO—also should have been considered. Sports on the Internet is becoming so big so fast that newspapers are scared to death of it, don’t know what to do about it and, obviously, don’t want to give credit to those who work in it.

Vol. 4, No. 355
June 27, 2005