Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Alford-Haters Come Down With a Serious Case Of Depression After Indiana Turns Its Back On Our Guy Steve and Hires Oklahoma's Sampson for Coaching Job

It's difficult to tell where there's more depression today -- in Steve Alford's home or in the rest of the state of Iowa.

Indiana cut all remaining ties with the Bobby Knight basketball era by hiring Kelvin Sampson of Oklahoma as its new coach.

A number of Iowans were hoping that Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan would step up to the plate and choose Steve Alford for the job.

Alford was a standout player for Knight at Indiana, and many basketball observers around the nation figured he'd be a natural to succeed Mike Davis as the Hoosiers' coach.

I mean, Alford is Mr. Basketball in the state of Indiana.

But I guess not in Greenspan's mind.

Alford didn't even get an interview out of Greenspan, and now is all but certain to return for an eighth season at Iowa in 2006-2007.

It didn't work out for him at Missouri. It didn't work out for him at Indiana.

"How about Oklahoma?" asked Al Schallau, a native Iowan and a University of Iowa graduate who is trying to find a new job for Alford.

I mentioned in an e-mail to Schallau that a number of Iowans had gone into severe depression now that Alford seems a lead-pipe cinch to be with the Hawkeyes again next season.

Obviously, Schallau has a never-give-up attitude.

Other readers of my columns also kicked in with comments about the hiring of Sampson.

"It's a shocking choice for a proud Big Ten university, as Sampson's graduation rates are comparable to those of Bob Huggins [at Cincinnati]," wrote longtime Iowa booster Barry Crist of West Des Moines.

"Oklahoma is also under an NCAA investigation in basketball, with probable probation looming.

"Greenspan was desperate, and Big Ten presidents are on notice."

However, Gordy Scoles of Bennettsville, S.C., approved of Indiana's hiring of Sampson.

"Indiana picked a great coach," Scoles told me. "He's another really nice guy and his coaching speaks for itself. He's sort of a local guy, born and raised in nearby Lumberton, N.C.

"He played basketball at UNC-Pembroke, which is also close to here, and then he was a graduate assistant at Michigan State. He's a Lumbee Indian, in case you didn't know. That's a regional tribe in this area that is seeking federal recognition.

"Anyway, if I were an athletic director look for a basketball coach, Kelvin would be a guy at the top of my list."

Sampson's Oklahoma team lost to Davis' Indiana team in the 2002 NCAA Final Four. Sampson had a 279-109 record at Oklahoma, and his Sooners played in the NCAA tournament 11 times.

Oklahoma lost to Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the first round of this year's NCAA tournament.

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For the second straight year, Iowa's football team won't hold a spring game. The continuing renovation of Kinnick Stadium will force the final practice, normally played in the stadium, to the team’s practice field again.

The $90 million stadium project is due to be completed prior to the start of the 2006 season.

“As much as we’d like to stage a spring game for our fans,” said athletic director Bob Bowlsby, “their safety is our primary concern. Having an event in the stadium would not be the right thing for the players, fans or workers on the project.”

As was the case last year, the Hawkeyes will hold a controlled practice/scrimmage April 15. The final day of spring workouts will be held at the team’s practice facility with only player families and special guests invited to attend.

“We regret leaving the fans out of the mix,” said coach Kirk Ferentz. “Like last year, we’ll make up for it by staging a few events, which will include our fans, during preseason workouts late this summer.”