Thursday, August 11, 2005

Fred Hoiberg Is Already The Mayor; Now He Should Be The Director

You know me. I say what I think.

That’s why they pay me all this big money to write these columns.

So I’d like to say right now that I’m not being knocked over by the names I’ve been hearing of people who might be Iowa State’s next athletic director.

Knowing that unimaginative search committees and high-priced “headhunters” often interview the folks that reporters put on a list 5 or 10 minutes after someone else—in this case, Bruce Van De Velde—has quit, or been told to quit, that’s pretty scary.

I mean, you’re trying to tell me that Rick Hartzell of Northern Iowa could be the guy who comes into Dan McCarney’s football office at the Olson Building in December and says, “I’d like to be at your Big 12 playoff game against Oklahoma at Houston, but I’ve got a Northwestern basketball game to officiate that night.”

Or imagine the reaction if Hartzell strolled into the office of Cyclone basketball coach Wayne Morgan at Hilton Coliseum and said, “I can’t be here tomorrow night for your game against Kansas. I’ll be at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, working Iowa’s game against Purdue.”

Hartzell seems to spend more time officiating major-college basketball games than he does finding out why people in Cedar Falls and Waterloo prefer to drive down I-380 and watch Iowa’s football and basketball teams instead of watching UNI play.

Hartzell had better show me that he’s getting the job done at his own school before he displays any interest in moving to Iowa State. The first thing I’d insist on if Hartzell demonstrated any desire to get the Cyclone job would be that he quit—and I mean absolutely stop—running off to officiate basketball games in the middle of the winter.

UNI has been embarrassed enough already by critics on ESPN, who say Hartzell shouldn’t be assigned to officiate games that have a bearing on which teams are picked for the NCAA tournament.

But now to my point.

I think Iowa State’s search for a new athletic director to replace Van De Velde should start and stop with Fred Hoiberg.

He’s already been The Mayor for lots of years.

Now it’s time for him to be The Director.

The timing is perfect. Hoiberg, who will turn 33 in October, had heart surgery recently, which will likely end his NBA career. The Minnesota Timberwolves or any other pro team would be foolish to try risking his health any further.

It’s time for Hoiberg to retire from basketball.

It’s time for him to show some direction to Iowa State, his alma mater.

There are those who think an athletic director should be a backslapper, a handshaker, a guy who can join a group of fans before a football or basketball game and get them feeling good about their team and themselves.

Hoiberg could do that.

He also could convince those same fans that they should be contributing money to the program, which—after all—is a big part of being an athletic director these days.

Hoiberg would be the perfect front man. He knows college athletics and he knows people. Best of all, he knows Ames. He knows Iowa State and Ames can be big-time, and with McCarney and basketball coach Morgan he knows that time is now.

There are plenty of associate and assistant athletic directors at Iowa State to do the nuts-and-bolts work that’s required.

Don’t say Hoiberg is too young.

If Barry Alvarez had enough confidence in 35-year-old Bret Bielema to make him the next Wisconsin football coach, Iowa State should have enough confidence in Hoiberg to make him the next athletic director.

This is not to say that people like Bobby Elliott at Kansas State and Fred Mims at Iowa wouldn’t be able to do the job.

But Hoiberg could do it better because he knows Iowa State better. It’s time for The Mayor to be The Director.


The first Iowa State athletic director I interviewed was a man named Gordon H. Chalmers.

His friends called him “Slim.” I didn’t know him long enough to call him “Slim” because Iowa State fired him shortly after I wrote a newspaper story about him that appeared on Christmas Day. In the story, he said some nice things about the University of Iowa and made a comment about how the “Big Ten will always be the Big Ten.”

I guess some people at Iowa State didn’t want to hear that.

Chalmers, who had come to Iowa State after being an assistant football coach at Army under the legendary Earl “Red” Blaik, was at Iowa State from 1959 through 1966.

He was followed in the athletic director’s job by Clay Stapleton, who had been the Cyclones’ football coach from 1958-1967. McCullough showed more balls than your typical football coach-turned-athletic director, and lasted in the job from 1967-1970.

The smartest things he did were to hire Johnny Majors as Iowa State’s football coach and Maury John as the basketball coach.

Lou McCullough, who had been a Cyclone football assistant and later was on Woody Hayes’ staff at Ohio State, was Iowa State’s athletic director from 1971-1982. A number of people disliked McCullough, but I got along all right with him, and I think he did a pretty good job.

Max Urick succeeded McCullough and stayed in the job from 1983-1993. He was a friendly, outgoing, approachable guy, and he did an excellent job. No one could have done any better at the time.

Gene Smith followed Urick. Smith seemed to have a lot going for him and was one of those guys whose name was on a headhunters’ lists of promising athletic directors. Iowa State swallowed the bait.

It turned out that Smith was someone who would look you squarely in the eyes and tell you what you wanted to hear, whether it was true or not. He also didn’t believe in doing background checks on people he hired.

Smith, whose years at Iowa State were 1993-2000, is still fooling ‘em. He went from Iowa State to be the athletic director at Arizona State, and now is the athletic director at Ohio State.

Van De Velde’s first year at Iowa State was 2000. I had left the newspaper scene by the time he got the job, so I had no reason to deal with him.

My only one-on-one conversation with Van De Velde was a year ago. I wrote in an Internet column that I found it strange he wasn’t present for McCarney’s appearance with reporters at football media day.

Someone sent Van De Velde the column, and he called me—explaining that he had other responsibilities that day and was unable to attend McCarney’s press conference.

He said that maybe he and I could have coffee sometime, either in Ames or Des Moines.

Unfortunately, we still haven’t had that coffee. I guess Bruce has been busy.


Years Name Notes

1903-1914--S.W. Beyer [Iowa State's first faculty representative; also world renowned geologist; Beyer Hall was named after him]

1914-1919--Clyde Williams [Coached football from 1907-12; started Iowa State basketball program in 1907; Clyde Williams Field was named after him]

1919-1923--Charles Mayser [Coached football and wrestling]

1923-1924--Hugo Ottapalik [acting]; [Long-time Iowa State wrestling coach]

1924-1931--T.N. Metcalf [Left Iowa State to be athletic director at University of Chicago, replacing Amos Alonzo Stagg]

1932-1945--George Veenker [Iowa State football coach 1931-1936; golf course on campus was named after him]

1945-1958--Louis E. Menze [Iowa State men’s basketball coach 1929-1947]

1959-1966--Gordon H. Chalmers [Came to Iowa State from West Point as assistant football coach under Earl Blaik]

1967-1970--Clay Stapleton [Iowa State football coach 1958-1967]

1971-1982--Louis G. McCullough [Was a former Iowa State assistant football coach]

1983-1993--Max Urick [Former Iowa State associate athletic director]

1993-2000--Gene Smith [Now athletic director at Ohio State]

2000-2005--Bruce Van De Velde [Came to Iowa State from Oklahoma; Iowa State graduate]

Vol. 4, No. 365
Aug. 11, 2005