Sunday, February 26, 2006

Steve Alford Is Embarrassing the University of Iowa, His Hawkeye Basketball Team and the Fans By Not Confronting the Rumors That He's Going to Indiana

Steve Alford is embarrassing the University of Iowa, his Hawkeye basketball team and the school’s fans by refusing to confront the rumors centering around Indiana’s search for a new coach.

Alford, who is in his seventh season at Iowa, is the No. 1 candidate to replace Mike Davis at Indiana.

That fact is mentioned by broadcasters in the first 30 seconds of every national telecast of a Hawkeye game, and it’s discussed continually these days by Iowa and Indiana fans on the Internet.

Yet reporters from Iowa newspapers and TV and radio stations have been instructed to not ask Alford anything about the Indiana rumors. Those intimidated reporters –- afraid that they will be scolded by Alford and those who work for him –- follow the instructions like little dogs attending obedience school.

The University of Iowa is a proud institution with proud graduates and proud fans. Those graduates and fans should not be forced to wait for answers to whether a guy who has had two winning records in the Big Ten intends to move from one conference school to another.

Until Alford says otherwise, there here is every indication he will be bailing out of Iowa City in a few weeks. What else are we to believe?

It’ll happen whenever the Hawkeyes lose in the NCAA tournament. Right now, that appears to be sooner rather than later.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta has already said he wants no part of the Indiana job and is staying put. Alford says nothing, and thinks that’s enough to satisfy people in Iowa.

It’s not enough for me.

I just want Alford to say something.

Something like, “I appreciate the interest from Indiana, but I’m happy at Iowa.”

Something like, “I know there is talk circulating about me going to Indiana. However, at this time I’m too busy trying to help our Iowa team win a Big Ten championship, so any reaction from me will have to wait until the season is over.”

Instead, Alford says nothing, and Iowa fans expect the worst.

They figure Alford is gone.

Some undoubtedly think he may have already cut a deal with Indiana. They think it will be announced a few days after Iowa’s season is over.

Those fans feel the Iowa coaching job has suddenly become a poor second-cousin to the Indiana job.

Kids, who know nothing of the basketball legacy established at Iowa by coaches such as Sam Barry, Rollie Williams, Pops Harrison, Bucky O’Connor, Ralph Miller, Lute Olson and Tom Davis are suddenly made to believe that some hotshot-in-the-wings coach is supposed to do well in the minor leagues at a place like Iowa City before being ready for the big leagues at Bloomington.

That’s a laugh. The caliber of Indiana basketball began slipping in Bobby Knight’s final seasons there. It has continued that way –- even worse –- under Mike Davis.

What all of this Alford-to-Indiana stuff has done is overshadow a neat story at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It’s a story about a Hawkeye team with a starting lineup made up mostly of players [four out of five] from the state of Iowa that led the Big Ten standings for about six weeks.

In a sport at which black players excel, Alford has started a lineup that includes four white athletes. That’s unheard-of these days.

This could have been a team with a Big Ten regular-season title. It may still happen, but the Hawkeyes have dug a sizable hole now They’ve lost games at places like Northwestern and Minnesota, and they couldn’t win Saturday at Illinois.

If someone says Iowa blew the championship, who can call it an untrue statement?

Northwestern and Minnesota are opponents that teams going after championships need to beat. Illinois is not a great team. Saturday’s game was winnable for Iowa. It didn’t happen.

Now, instead of asking what went wrong at Illinois, Iowa fans are asking their friends if they think Alford is going to Indiana.

Fine way to ruin a season.

Greg Brunner, Jeff Horner, Erek Hansen, Adam Haluska and Mike Henderson deserve better.