Thursday, October 20, 2005

Cyclone Coaches Have Done That 'Mr. September' Thing for Years, But No One Could Do Any Better Job At Iowa State Now Than Dan McCarney

I've heard from a couple of e-mailers about the Iowa and Iowa State football teams.

A central Iowa man wrote: "Ron, since this is that rare time of the year when the World Series and college football must share time on Sports Center, perhaps it's appropriate to apply baseball nicknames to Iowa's college football coaches.

"Reggie Jackson earned enduring fame while a New York Yankee as 'Mr. October' as he led the team to World Series championships. Therefore, should we start referring to Dan McCarney as 'Mr. September' and Kirk Ferentz as 'Mr. October/November?'"

On basically the same subject, a central Iowa woman wrote: "I think the Cyclones use so much energy and adrenaline preparing for the Hawks [in September] that they are emotionaly drained for the important games in their conference. On the other hand, the Hawks put more emotion and importance on their conference games. Every game the Cyclones lose tarnishes the Iowa win."

For years, Iowa fans, coaches and players have been saying that Iowa State places so much emphasis on the early-season game against the Hawkeyes that it winds up doing harm late in the season.

It all began when Cyclone teams coached by Donnie Duncan [pictured on the upper left] won consecutive games from Iowa in 1980, 1981 and 1982.

Photographers were able to get classic shots of Duncan being carried off on the shoulders of his players, happily waving to Iowa State fans in both Jack Trice Stadium in Ames and Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

In those days, reproductions of those photos were framed and placed on walls in the athletic department at Iowa State.

I'm not sure even Hayden Fry, who hadn't been Iowa's coach all that long, realized how strongly Iowa State's coaches, players and fans felt about the intrastate rivalry.

The Iowa-Iowa State series had been interrupted for 43 years, and was started again in 1977--two years before Fry was hired to coach the Hawkeyes.

Beating Iowa gave Iowa State's coaches and players instant star-status, and it wasn't until after Duncan's 10-7, 23-12 and 19-7 victories in 1980, '81 and '82 that Fry seemed to catch on.

But, once he caught on, there was no letting go until late in his Hawkeye coaching career. Fry's teams won 15 consecutive games in the rivalry from 1983-1997.

Iowa fans pointed out that Duncan's teams paid a hefty price for placing so much emphasis on the early-season games against Iowa.

The 10-7 victory over the Hawkeyes in 1980 was the third in a string of five that began the Cyclones' season. Iowa State later went into a tailspin and finished with a 6-5 record.

Duncan's Cyclones went 5-5-1 -- with one of the victories over Iowa, 23-12, in Ames -- in 1981. Iowa State lost its last four games. The 1982 season was Duncan's last. After winning at Iowa City, 19-7, in the second week, the Cyclones lost their last four games and finished 4-6-1.

By that time, Iowa State fans also were wondering if too much emphasis was being placed on the Iowa rivalry. So down came the framed photos of Duncan being carried off the field. For all I know, they're buried in some closet at the Jacobson Building now.

New coach Jim Criner got the message -- look at Iowa as just another game--even though we all know it isn't.

So Criner promptly lost his 1983 opener to Fry's Hawkeyes, 51-10. To prove it was no fluke, he was buried by Iowa, 59-21, in the 1984 opener. Iowa blitzed Iowa State, 57-3, in 1985, then helped send Criner packing with a 43-7 victory over the Cyclones in 1986.

McCarney [pictured on the right] certainly knows the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry from both sides. He's been around the football field a long, long time. The one-time Hawkeye player was on Bob Commings' and Fry's staffs at Iowa from 1977-1989, and he has been Iowa State's head coach since 1995.

McCarney's Cyclones won five straight over Iowa from 1998-2002, and now--after a 23-3 victory Sept. 10 at Ames--they're 6-2 in the last eight games of the series.

The victory over Iowa has clearly been the highlight of Iowa State's 2005 season. I know McCarney enjoys beating the Hawkeyes, but he certainly knows by now that it's much more than a one-game year.

I'm convinced that no one could do any better job as Iowa State's coach right now than Dan McCarney, and I'm sure he'll get the Cyclones headed in the right direction -- starting with a victory Saturday over Oklahoma State.


University of Iowa president David Skorton issued a statement today in which he said there will be no further school action on the pink visitors' locker room in Kinnick Stadium at Iowa City.

That's the end of that. So let's move onto something important.


Vol. 4, No. 397
Oct.21, 2005