Saturday, April 29, 2006

As Far As I'm Concerned, It's Not An Official Search For An Interim Hawkeye Athletic Director Unless Ex-Governor Bob Ray Is In the Middle of It

Before the search for an interim athletic director at the University of Iowa gets too far along, I want to be the first to suggest one particular name.

It's Bob Ray, a former governor and a man who has been the interim head of just about everything else in our state.

Some would say that he was also an interim governor, too, but you won't catch me making any cheap shot comment like that.

Back in my earlier writing life, I showed up unannounced at Ray's office in the State Capitol one day while researching a story.

I knew Ray [pictured at the lower left] appeared at a lot of sporting events -- accompanied by one or two of Iowa's best State Troopers -- so I wanted to ask him about that part of his life.

He took as much time as I needed, and I'll always be appreciative of the man.

I know Fred Mims -- one of the top aides to outgoing Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby -- is the leader in the clubhouse to be the interim Hawkeye boss.

But I also realize it's not an official search for an interim athletic director unless Bob Ray's name is included.

* * *

Still on the subject of the athletic directorship at Iowa, a friend of George Wine sent him this e-mail:

"George, here is something else that is amazing -- and you would know this, being a smart kid from North English:

"Bob Bowlsby was AD from 1991 - 2006, right?

"Bump Elliott was AD from 1971 - 1991, right?

"Forest Evashevski was AD from 1959 or 1960 to 1971?

"That's just three athletic directors in 46 or 47 years. Is there another successful, big-time university that matches that stability? Heck, since '59 we've had 7 'permanent' UI presidents plus 5 interim UI presidents....."

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Iowa should consider itself proud to have the stability it's had in the athletic director's office. It figures that the next man --or woman -- who gets the job permanently will be in it a long time].

* * *

"Igor from Independence", who has had a lot of time on his hands lately, was also thinking about the Hawkeye athletic directorship. He sent this e-mail:

"Ron -- I just had this thought . . . How about Tom Davis as Iowa's next AD? As Johnny Orr might say, 'Wouldn't that be sumpin?' You could have some fun with that on your blog. . . ."

"Igor from Independence"

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Yes, Doctor Tom [middle left] running Iowa's athletic department would really be ironic. After all, it was Bob Bowlsby who pulled the plug on The Doctor when he was Iowa's basketball coach. Even though The Doctor had become the Hawkeyes' winningest coach, Bowlsby didn't renew his contract after the 1998-99 season. Bowlsby wanted Iowa to be a consistent challenger for Big Ten championships, and didn't think Davis was going to deliver. [OK, it's time for all those Steve Alford jokes!] Now The Doctor has completed three sub-.500 seasons at Drake. I know one thing. Being the athletic director at Iowa would be convenient for Davis. He still owns a home near Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where the Iowa athletic department offices are located, and Kinnick Stadium].

* * *

"Veryl from Villisca" writes:

"Fred Mims is the logical person to be interim athletic director at Iowa, I believe, unless they can talk Bump Elliott into coming out of retirement for a year. Mims will probably be a finalist for the job, but until I see the other candidates I'm withholding an opinion. Rick Hartztell [of Northern Iowa] would certainly be a strong candidate, I think, but he'd have to hang up his whistle, unless he could ref Iowa games, too."

"Veryl from Villisca"

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Bump Elliott [middle right] is one of my favorite people in athletics, but I think he saw enough of the headaches connected with the athletic director job to know that he wouldn't want to come out of retirement for a year, or even a month. As for Hartzell being a candidate for the permanent job at Iowa, the first thing I'd tell him is that his days as a major-college basketball referee are over. He's become an embarrassment at UNI, rushing off to officiate big-time games while trying to run the Panthers' athletic department. Imagine this scenario if Hartzell became Iowa's athletic director: He has a meeting scheduled with football coach Kirk Ferentz, but calls Ferentz to say, "Kirk, can we put off that get-together until next week? I've got games at North Carolina and Duke this weekend, and I don't want to miss them."

* * *

"Sergio from the Suburbs" writes:

"I will be sleeping with Julia Roberts before Fred Mims is the permanent athletic director at Iowa."

"Sergio from the Suburbs"

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Better go buy a new suit and some deodorant just in case, Sergio. Underwear is optional. By the way, you can probably pick out Roberts' photo in the collection I posted above].

* * *

"Docile in Des Moines" knows how to put together sentences and paragraphs the correct way. He writes:

"Ron—I think it should have been '. . . urging Buck Turnball and ME to start . . .' instead of “ . . . urging (Buck Turnball and) I to start. . . .' Maybe you should leave the copy editing to Bud; he knows how to do it!

--Cheers, from an old copy editor

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Docile was referring to a sentence I had in an earlier column. I had written "Buck Turnbull and I...." and quickly corrected it to "Buck Turnbull and me...." after hearing from Docile. Thanks, Docile. You deserve another pay raise].

* * *

Travis Simpson of Des Moines writes that he thinks he saw Dusty Baker's Chicago Cubs do something strange the other night:

"Was that a squeeze play I saw during the Cubs game last night? Did someone finally wake up Dusty Baker this season because not only did he shock me last night, but I’ve also seen the squeeze used in at least one other game this season that I watched on TV. I’m not sure I ever saw Dusty call for the squeeze in his first three seasons as manager. Could it be that he’s actually trying this year so he gets a contract extension? Players usually play better in contract years; I guess the same may happen with managers, too.

"When Derek Lee went down, I thought the season was over (and it’s still early to tell if these past few games could be a fluke), but for the first time in a while the Cubs are actually playing the hand of cards dealt to them and not making excuses about the injuries holding them back. When a big-time slugger goes down they revert to playing small ball and letting the young guys play like Cedeno and Murton.

"Instead of using the excuse of Prior and Wood being hurt yet again, they are going to their talented farm system and giving the prospects like Sean Marshall and Angel Guzman a chance. And, they haven’t settled with mediocrity with the pitching staff (minus Rusch and Ohman) sending Williams and Wuertz to the minors after poor performances and relying on their best relievers when the situation calls for it.

"Maybe I’m just sipping the Cub fan Kool-aid too much, but there is just something about how this team is playing right now that I think they’ll be able to hold the fort down without Lee and be able to make a run once the roster gradually gets healthy again."

Travis Simpson

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Travis, that was not a mirage you were seeing. Baker actually used a squeeze bunt to score a run. At least I think it was Baker. I'm pretty sure it wasn't Dick Pole, the mannequin who is propped up against the dugout wall wearing a hand-written sign on his chest that says "Bench Coach." But don't get excited about Baker yet. It's a long season and there's still plenty of time for him to screw up things].

* * *

Speaking of the Cubs, it appears Des Moines won't have to put up with yet another Kerry Wood rehab assignment.

Wood, the Cubs' broken-down pitcher, is usually assigned to pitch a few innings for the Iowa Cubs when he's coming off one of his countless injuries.

I think he has been sent here 193 times while rehabbing.

But Wood's tentative first rehab assignment this time is May 7, and the I-Cubs will be on the road. So Chicago reporters are guessing that Wood will be sent to Class A Peoria to pitch.

Nomar Garciaparra was sent to Peoria last year, and attracted a sellout crowd.

You can see what that got him.

Garciaparra wasn't re-signed by the Cubs and is now with the Dodgers.

I hope the same thing happens to Wood.

* * *

It looks like Chief Illiniwek is history at the University of Illinois.

The NCAA and others have been trying to get the Chief terminated for a number of years, and this time they may have succeeded.

The Chief has been Illinois' athletic mascot since 1926. He's a student dressed in Native American attire.

He's been confined to the Illinois campus in recent years. Hard telling what might have happened to him if he'd be allowed inside Kinnick Stadium or Michigan Stadium.

I know it wouldn't have been pretty.

By the way, the photo at the top of this column is Chief Illiniwek, not a prospect to be Iowa's interim athletic director.

* * *

Corey McIntosh, the 2006 California junior college player of the year who led his team to a 37-0 record last season at Fullerton, has signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Iowa State next season.

“Corey provides point guard experience and a winning mentality,” new coach Greg McDermott said. “We like the fact that Corey knows how to win and does it in a way that involves all of his teammates. He provides point guard skills along with the ability to make open shots.”

The 5-11, 175-pound McIntosh was the point guard for the best team in the California junior college system last season. He averaged 14.5 points, 4.5 assists and made 46.2 percent from 3-point range.

McIntosh, who will have two seasons of eligibility, and Wesley Johnson are two of the latest recruits Iowa State has signed. The recruits:

Cory Johnson, F, 6-7, 215, Freshman, Duluth, Minn. (East)

Dodie Dunson, G, 6-3, 185, Freshman, Bloomington, Ill. (Bloomington/Brewster Academy {N.H.})

Michael Taylor, G, 6-2, 175, Junior, Milwaukee, Wis. (Marshall/Chipola {Fla.} JC)

Corey McIntosch, G, 5-11, 175, Junior, West Covina, Calif. (West Covina/Pasadena CC/Fullerton College)

Wesley Johnson, F, 6-7, 190, Freshman, Corsicana, Texas (Corsicana/Patterson School {N.C.}/Eldon Academy)

Alex Thompson, F, 6-9, 215, Junior, Ames, Iowa (Ames/Iowa)

* * *

Drake will host the 2007 NCAA Midwest Regional outdoor track and field meet, president David Maxwell said today during the rededication ceremony of Drake Stadium.

The championship, which draws as many as 1,100 athletes, is scheduled for May 25-26, 2007.

"It's coming," Maxwell told fans during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. "Drake and Des Moines are truly the midwest capital of track and field."

Friday, April 28, 2006

My Column About the Standout Basketball Career That Never Happened Hits Home With Mark Robinson, Who Has Been There, Done That At Marshalltown High

The column about my teen-age basketball exploits, or lack of them, has been the subject of considerable e-mail in the past week.

Indeed, the column brought more attention from readers now than it did when it first appeared as a Sunday newspaper feature 29 years ago.

The first e-mail is from Mark Robinson [right], a native Iowan who now lives in California:

"Great story, Ron.

"Thought I would share this with you.

"We had a hoop at our house in Marshalltown, and kids on the block played there every day. No matter the weather. I recall looking out the side door and seeing Rod and Tom and Steve and others going at it. None of them high school material, and it was December; the ball was hard as a rock.

"I did manage to do well as a freshman at Anson [Middle School], averaging 23 points per game. Your story hit home with me when I recall my high school years. I was supposed to be the next star. At least, that was what of expected of me. I didn't grow beyond my 6-foot frame and I didn't seem to fit the inside game that George Funk preached to us. As a junior, we got to the championship game against Kennedy, and I played a whole minute and got 1 point on a free throw.

"My senior year at Marshalltown, I started two games, only because the junior starters were ill. I managed to score 10 points (high scorer) against Des Moines North.

"Ames, with Terry Carroll and Scott Berguson, kicked our butts in the semifinals my senior year. We Anson kids beat those boys in overtime when I was a freshman (32 points from yours truly), but these kids had come a long way and had added a gigantic player named Schneider along the way. He was the difference. Ames won it all that year and we came in fourth.

"Guess who won the consolation? Yeah, Kennedy...again, with the younger brother of the great Enright in the middle.

"Now, about Murray Wier, whom you mentioned in your article.

"I worked for Lennox Corporate in Marshalltown before they sent us all to Dallas in 1978. While there, they hired Marcia Wier, Murray's daughter. She was absolutely gorgeous. I recalled Murray, in my high school days, coaching East Waterloo when I was a player at Marshalltown. And I asked myself; How did this beautiful creature come from the Ross Perot-looking Murray Wier? She told us a few stories about her dad. Wish I had written them down.

"She hooked up with a Lennox employee named Barr Prichard, who was 10 years her elder with a pickup truck that had a sound system that would knock your ears off.

"I always wondered what happened to Marcia Wier."

Mark Robinson

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Most kids are dreamers. I was a dreamer, and evidently so was Mark Robinson. As kids, we think we're going to be the next Murray Wier [left], the next Greg Brunner, the next Fred Hoiberg. It's tough when reality shows its ugly face -- whether that happens when your 7th-grade coach tells you [well, told me] that you'll alternate wearing jersey No. 32 in games with another kid [the other kid way back then was named Clark Looney]. There was only one Murray Wier. Only one 5-9, 155-pound red-haired whirlwind would set a Big Ten scoring record in his senior season for Pops Harrison's Hawkeyes with 272 points, and 399 points overall. Mark Robinson is pictured on the right, and I thank him for documenting his career. I know how he feels. By the way, Mark, I don't know what happened to Marcia Wier, either. If I hear, I'll let you know].

* * *

On the same subject, Gordy Scoles wrote:


"That was a great story about your experience with basketball in 7th grade. Very
common, I would imagine..... Thanks again for a great story."

Gordy Scoles
Bennettsville, S.C.

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Great hearing from you, Gordy. And good luck on your next book].

* * *

Former Iowan Richard Hayman sent this e-mail:

"Mr. Maly,

"Your (literary) shots still go swish! Thanks for the article. (BTW, is
that a recent picture of you?)"

Richard Hayman

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Thank you, Richard. The photo was taken on the field after a football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City in 2004].

* * *

[Ron Maly is a four-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year and also is the best-selling author of "Tales from the Iowa Sidelines," which is in its second printing as both a hardback and softback book. The book is about the rich football tradition at the University of Iowa. Maly has a heck of a lot of fun doing what he's doing. Ron's columns about sports, newspapers, his family, medicine, travel, the people he knows, the people he doesn't know, a few people he'd like to know better, a few people he once knew and is trying to forget, a few people he has already forgotten, and anything else that trips his trigger appear regularly at and When you call 515-201-5495, either Maly or the person who recorded the message on his answering machine will respond].

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Here's a Column for That Guy Who Eats Jalapenos, Cactus and Hot Cheese On His 9-Grain Toast Every Morning, And All Of His Pals

This column is for the guy I know who eats jalapeno peppers, cactus and hot cheese on two slices of 9-grain toast every morning:

Bud Appleby, a former Des Moines Register writer and editor, sent the following e-mail in response to one I received from Igor from Independence:


"I think Igor from Independence must be in a league by himself. He pointed out something stupid he saw in the last paragraph of a Sean Keeler column. I wasn't aware that anybody ever read as far as the last paragraph of any of his columns. I've never been able to get past the first two or three myself.

"On a similar matter, there were some letters to the editor the other day complaining about a cheap shot in a David Yepsen column. For crying out loud, they were reading David Yepsen. What did the expect to find there? Hockey scores?"

Bud Appleby
Des Moines

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: I guess these are tough times for the Register's columnists. Igor from Independence had written earlier, urging Buck Turnbull and me to start editing Keeler's sports columns in the Register because he had found an error that survived all editions in the Sunday paper. I said I had more important things to do. Turnbull must have known I was going to ask him to consider Igor's request because he was a no-show at this week's sportswriters' lunch at the Chinese restaurant. Meanwhile, I'll be checking Yepsen's columns to see if there are any NHL scores in them].

* * *

A man identified as "Double-U Vaclav" of suburban Garnavillo had a question in his e-mail.

"Do newspapers require their sportswriters to answer readers' inquiries?" Double-U Vaclav asked.

"I e-mailed Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch with a question regarding the Cardinals' game last Sunday with the Chicago Cubs. Cardinal players, undoubtedly at the urging of manager Tony LaRussa, asked the umpires to inspect the baseball thrown by the Cubs' Greg Maddux.

"The umps didn't find spit, grease, hair oil or tobacco juice on the ball, nor was there any hint that Maddux, 40, had sandpaper in his glove so he could 'doctor' the ball.

"But Strauss didn't put anything in his game article or sidebars about Maddux and the umpires -- as though nothing had taken place. Yet, John Kruk and his cronies on ESPN's 'Baseball Tonight' made a big deal out of the umps inspecting the baseball. They said Maddux 'had gotten into the heads of LaRussa and his crybaby players.'

"House come Strauss didn't write anything about that brouhaha? Is he in LaRussa's pocket? By ignoring my e-mail, I gotta think Strauss is on the Cardinals' payroll. I told Strauss -- who answered an e-mail of mine one other time -- that I live too far from St. Louis to be able to afford $2.75-a-gallon gas so I can drive to the Cardinals' games. His reports are what I depend on for my news.

"Now, before you think this is a bush-league e-mail from corn country, I've got nothing against Big Bernie Miklasz, who writes sports columns for the Post-Dispatch. He answers me every time I send him an e-mail I think I piss him off with a few of my questions -- especially when the Cardinals lose to the Cubs -- but he always gets right back to me. He's my pick to be Missouri's Sportswriter of the Year."

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Listen, Double-U Vaclav, if I were running a newspaper, I'd have all of my reporters and editors answering readers' e-mails. There are fewer and fewer newspaper readers every day, so the sportswriters had better do all they can to please them. Maybe you caught Joe Strauss on a bad day. Or maybe he didn't have time to answer your e-mail. Could be he was too busy getting a haircut so he could be on Channel 40 this week. I'm glad you like Bernie Miklasz's columns. He's a pretty reader-savvy guy, and I'm glad he answers your e-mails -- even though he's on TV a lot, too].

* * *

[MORE OF RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Pictured are Des Moines Register sports columnist Sean Keeler on the lower right; Register political columnist David Yepsen on the lower left; St. Louis Post-Dispatch baseball reporter Joe Strauss on the middle right and Post-Dispatch sports columnist Bernie Miklasz on the middle left. Igor from Independence was hoping to send me a current photo of himself, but those plans had to be scrapped when he ran out of film for his 1932-version Speed Graphic [upper left]. So I did the next-best thing and used a photo at the upper right of the column of another man named Igor. It's Igor Stravinsky, the famous Russian music composer who died in 1971. When he wasn't writing music, Stravinsky was rumored to be a very astute media critic].

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Keep Your Eye On Fred Mims, Who Could Become Iowa's Interim Athletic Director--Then, Who Knows, Maybe the Permanent Boss

Here's a name to remember:

Fred Mims.

Mims [right] is a loyal veteran of the University of Iowa athletic department, and could have a very interesting future at the school.

"Fred has been in the department for 30 years, and would make a capable interim athletic director," George Wine said.

Mims is Iowa's associate athletic director for student services and compliance. Wine says Mims would qualify as a capable person to lead Iowa's athletic department -- at least in the short term -- when Bob Bowlsby leaves after 15 years as athletic director this summer.

Bowlsby, a class act who has been an outstanding director for the Hawkeyes, will become the new athletic department leader at Stanford University.

"David Skorton is also leaving as Iowa's president, so a new athletic director is not likely to be named for at least a year when a new president is in place," said Wine, a retired Iowa sports information director who has authored two books on Hawkeye athletics.

If Mims lands the athletic director job on an interim basis, and does well -- and there's no reason to think he won't do well -- it certainly would be possible for him to get the job on a permanent basis.

Wine has worked with, and around, Bowlsby for a number of years. Wine probably knows what makes Bowlsby tick as well as anyone.

Like me, Wine says he was "shocked" that Bowlsby took the Stanford job.

"Stanford hiring Bowlsby was the best-kept secret since the Big Ten introduced Penn State as its newest member," Wine said.

"How this was pulled off in today's world of intense media scrutiny is truly amazing. No one in the state of Iowa or the San Francisco bay area had a clue."

Wine has much admiration for the job Bowlsby has done at Iowa.

"Bob gave Iowa a good 15 years and leaves a program that is in good shape financially and has excellent facilities," Wine said.

"I always thought his greatest strength was as a fund-raiser, and it's probably fitting that a multi-million dollar renovation of Kinnick Stadium is being completed as he walks out the door."

Bowlsby pulled off perhaps his biggest move when he surprised virtually everyone with the hiring of Kirk Ferentz as the Hawkeyes' football coach prior to the 1999 season.

There was strong sentiment among Iowa fans for Bowlsby to hire former Iowa player Bobby Stoops, but Stoops signed with Oklahoma instead.

When I was doing research for my book, "Tales from the Iowa Sidelines," Bowlsby told me that "the talk about Bob Stoops had been around even during the last couple of years Hayden [Fry] was our coach. That was always the package --'Hayden needs to retire and we need to hire Bob Stoops.'

"[But] Bob had been at a couple of places that were different than Iowa. I think he may have thought, and others may have thought, that this should be a turn-key deal. You go out and tap him on the shoulder and offer him 'X' number of dollars and that's the end of it.

"But it doesn't work that way. We had a number of quality candidates. I talked with Bob over the course of this process.I called him the first day after Hayden's retirement -- and he was the first guy I called. Through that process, we set up an interview time."

Stoops has been very successful at Oklahoma, but Ferentz has done well at Iowa, too. He has been a big winner and the Hawkeyes have become a consistent top-10 team nationally.

The jury is still out on Iowa basketball coach Steve Alford, who has not yet become the huge winner that Hawkeye fans want.

But, through the uneasiness, Alford's 2005-2006 team won 25 games and seized the Big Ten postseason tourament championship.

"Isn't it ironical that Tom Davis came from Stanford to Iowa nearly 20 years ago, and now Bowlsby is going in the other direction?" Wine asks.

Bowlsby didn't renew the contract of Davis, who became Iowa's winningest basketball coach, after the 1998-99 season. Alford then took over.

Davis has completed three seasons as Drake's coach. and has yet to have a winning record there.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

In a Stunning Development, Class Act Bob Bowlsby Resigns As Iowa's Athletic Director to Take Job At Stanford. Replacing Him Won't Be Easy

This is a shocker.

Bob Bowlsby has resigned his position as athletic director at the University of Iowa and will accept a similar position at Stanford University.

He is expected to continue his duties at Iowa until mid-summer. The announcement was made today jointly by Bowlsby and Stanford.

Replacing him at Iowa won't be easy.

Bowlsby, a class act, is completing his 14th year at Iowa and has led the department to unprecedented growth and success. His departure is the second major loss for the university in the last six months.

President David Skorton announced his resignation to take the Cornell presidency earlier this year.

The following is a statement by Bowlsby:

“I have been offered an extraordinary opportunity to assume the Director of Athletics’ position at Stanford University. My involvement with the position has occurred over the last three weeks and the entire process has transpired quite rapidly. I look forward to the challenges and the rewards which come with the duties.

“Stanford is an exceptional academic institution which also supports a very broad based and highly successful athletic program. I look forward to building on the traditions and successes of the past and to developing plans for the future.

“I want to thank my colleagues in the Department of Athletics at Iowa. Our staff is an outstanding group of coaches and administrators who are devoted to the best values of intercollegiate athletics. I also want to thank President David Skorton for his tremendous support. I could not have asked for a better colleague and friend.

“Finally, I want to thank the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and fans of The University of Iowa. I have taken pride in representing your University every day of my 15 years at Iowa.”

Bowlsby has directed the $90 million dollar renovation of Kinnick Stadium, which will be completed this fall. The football program has experienced unmatched success under Kirk Ferentz.

The athletic department is in fiscally sound shape, a testament to Bob’s leadership ability.

Monday, April 24, 2006

All I've Got To Say Is It Must Be a Slow News Century. And Didn't We All Know That Frank Leahy Didn't Really Resign As Notre Dame's Football Coach?

Bud Appleby of Des Moines, who has written and edited plenty of news stories over the years, didn't think much of the Sunday paper.

Unless I'm mistaken, he's referring to the Des Moines Register.

Here's his e-mail:

"There was one -- count 'em, one -- byline news story in the 10-page Iowa News section of the Sunday paper. There were also three columns. Everything else was either AP or a handout."

[RON MALY'S COMMENT: I guess National Public Radio knew what it was talking about, Bud, with that recent critique of the Register. I'm figuring it's been a slow news century so far for what once was The Newspaper Iowa Depends Upon].

* * *

Igor from Independence sent this e-mail to Buck Turnbull and me:

"Hi, Buck & Ron --

"You guys should volunteer to edit Keeler's column. Sunday he writes in the last graf -- 'If throwing away a year of eligibility makes he and Degand happy . . . '

"Unbelievable! Did they change that in your edition? Just curious."

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Nothing changed in the city edition, Igor. I'll check with Turnbull to see if he wants to be the volunteer editor for sports columnist Sean Keeler. I've got more important things to do].

* * *

Meanwhile, a few of us are trying to figure out the Register's obituaries.

In the obits last week was one for Louise Bote Pack.

Just one problem. A man -- a smiling man -- was pictured in the obituary.

The next day there was a much larger obit for Louise Bote Pack in the paper. That time, a woman was pictured.

She was smiling, too.

We're wondering if that was the way the Register handled correcting the photo of a man in a woman's obituary the day before -- or if the family of the deceased person had to pay for two obituaries, one of which had the wrong photo.

Hey, folks, these are crazy days in the newspaper business.

* * *

Longtime Iowa fan Al Schallau sent an e-mail regarding a book written by retired football coach Lou Holtz:

"If you have not read the Notre Dame biography of Lou Holtz -- 'UNDER THE TARNISHED DOME,' -- you can buy a used copy for a couple bucks. I read it from beginning to end. It is a full biography of the Lou Holtz [middle left] saga at Arkansas, Minnesota and particularly Notre Dame.

"The book also confirms something that Jim Zabel has been telling me for many years--that Frank Leahy [lower left] did NOT resign as head football coach at Notre Dame. Zabel has always pointed out that after the Fainting Irish game against Iowa in 1953, Leahy never coached another game for Notre Dame.

"The next week, Notre Dame journeyed to Los Angeles for their season-ending game against USC. Leahy did not make the trip -- reportedly for health reasons. In January, 1954, Leahy reportedly 'resigned for health reasons' and Terry Brennan was named Notre Dame's new coach.

"Zabel has always said that Father Hesburgh escorted Leahy out the door as football coach because Notre Dame's administration (particularly Father Hesburgh) were incensed by Leahy having taught his players to fake injuries to stop the clock. Many national columnists (particularly Grantland Rice) hammered Notre Dame brutally after the Fainting Irish game, and Father Hesburgh said, 'No more.'


Al Schallau

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Leahy paid a stiff price for ordering his Notre Dame players to flop on the field, faking injuries to stop the clock that enabled the Fighting [or Fainting] Irish to tie Iowa, 14-14. Before each half ended, assorted Notre Dame players collapsed so the officials would stop the clock. Consequently, the Irish scored touchdowns in the final seconds of each half. Iowa coaches, players and fans thought the phony injuries robbed them of an opportunity to score a huge upset. When he returned to Iowa City, Hawkeye coach Forest Evashevski [lower right] pounced on the Fainting Irish theme by paraphrasing the words of sportswriter Grantland Rice with these words:

"When the One
Great Scorer comes
to write against our name,
He won't ask that we won or lost,
But how we got gypped at Notre Dame"

* * *

I'm starting to think there might actually be a man named Dick Pole who sits in the Chicago Cubs' dugout.

For years, I've seen what I thought was a mannequin sitting in the corner of the dugout behind manager Dusty Baker [upper right].

He didn't talk.

Hell, he didn't even move.

People kept saying it was Dick Pole [upper left], who is listed as Baker's "bench coach."

Frankly, I thought it was a joke.

But a couple of days ago Pole was interviewed by Ron Santo on WGN-radio.

He actually said a couple of things.

I'm still not 100 percent sure Pole is alive, but my research will continue.

Nile Kinnick Was Larger Than Life As Iowa's Heisman Trophy Football Player in 1939. Now, 63 Years After His Death, His Story Will Be On Stage

The University of Iowa athletic department and Iowa City's resident professional theatre company, Riverside Theatre, are partnering to create a new theatrical production to be performed at Hancher Auditorium.

"Kinnick," a play that will add another layer of excitement to the start of the 2006 college football season for the nationally-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes and the celebration of the completion of the two-year, multi-million dollar renovation of the stadium named in honor of arguably the university's most famous student-athlete.

"Kinnick" will run Sept. 1 at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2 at 5 p.m., and Sept. 3 at 2 p.m. The Saturday performance will feature an optional pre-performance tailgate at Hancher, which will begin after the football game.

Tickets will go on sale May 1 and will be available for purchase at the Hancher Auditorium box office, (319) 335-1160 or 1-800-HANCHER. Tickets will also be available on-line at www. Tickets are $30 for adults and $10 for children/students.

Nile Kinnick was the University of Iowa's most decorated student-athlete and the only Hawkeye to win college football's most prestigious award, the Heisman Trophy. He was also considered to be an accomplished student and charismatic leader who gained national attention -- first as the "Cornbelt Comet" and then as an almost symbolic "All American Boy."

The Riverside Theatre and the university will present the new, multi-media, play that documents his achievements and illuminates the turbulent historical period, 1939-1943, during which he both thrived and died.

Iowa native and Iowa graduate Jackson Doran has been cast in the title role. Doran has been a long time favorite with Riverside audiences, having appeared in numerous productions with the company over a 10-year period. He now resides in Chicago.

The production of "Kinnick" imagines a live, old-time radio broadcast honoring him just after his death. It juxtaposes scenes recreated from Kinnick's own diaries and letters with extravagant commentaries from sportscasters and gossip columnists of the time interspersed with singing jingles and advertisements as well as images and popular music from the period.

The original script is by Riverside Theatre co-founder, Bruce Wheaton.

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: I like this idea. The more I researched my book, "Tales from the Iowa Sidelines," the more I realized what an unbelievable person Nile Kinnick was as a University of Iowa student and football player in the late-1930s. With the leadership of coach Eddie Anderson, Kinnick brought Hawkeye football back to life in a 1939 season that saw him win the Heisman Trophy. I'm glad "Kinnick" is coming to the Iowa City stage 63 years after Nile's death. The man led a storybook life, and I'm glad to see the university is remembering him again].

* * *

Jon Miller, publisher of Hawkeye Nation, writes:

Once a Hawkeye, always a Hawkeye...or so the adage goes. To say it is one thing, but to see it is another. That love and spirit was on full display Sunday in Ottumwa as several Iowa basketball legends gathered together and played a game to benefit another Iowa great, Kenny Arnold.

Jon Miller was the master of ceremonies for this event and he has filed a diary of his experiences, plus some information on how you can lend a Hawkeye hand to Kenny Arnold.

There have been times in my nearly eight years of marriage to my wife when she has asked me why Iowa fans have such a strong bond and identity with their favorite team and school. She is not from this state, so I can understand where she is coming from. I have met many a sports fan from other states around this country and have rarely seen the level of loyalty, devotion and love that Iowa fans show to their beloved Hawkeyes.

The easiest way I know how to describe the bond is to say that it’s almost like the Hawkeyes are a member of your own family; you love them all the time, they can irritate you some of the time, but at the end of the day, family is family and those bonds last forever.

Such an outpouring of loyalty, devotion and love was on display Sunday in Ottumwa as the Second ‘Because We Can for Kenny Arnold’ Legends Game took place on a near picture-perfect Iowa spring day.

This event is set up to raise funds for the Kenny Arnold Trust, an account that helps Arnold battle through the after effects of a brain tumor that reduced him from 200 pounds down to 125 pounds in recent years.

Arnold is not in great health even today, but the man’s spirit seemed unbreakable as he was laughing throughout the two-hour event. Read more about Arnold's plight and the efforts to help him HERE.

Arnold arrived at the Indian Hills Community College gymnasium shortly before tipoff, and he was eagerly sought after by most in attendance.

Though there were more heralded Hawkeye greats from the past on hand, such as Bobby Hansen and Greg Stokes, this was Arnold’s day.....

Many of you have e-mailed me asking how to contribute to Kenny Arnold’s Trust. You can certainly do this, and it would be greatly appreciated. Send your check or money order to the following address:

Kenny Arnold Trust
c/o US Bank
270 West Seventh Street
Dubuque, IA 52001

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Story Of the Kid Whose Shots All Went Swish: His 7th-Grade Coach Told Him He Could Wear His No. 32 Jersey for Only Half Of the Team's Games

I was trying to make some sense out of what was in an old cabinet in the garage the other day -- something I do about every 10 years.

Stuck in a plastic bag was a newspaper clipping from May 29, 1977.

At the time, editors of the "Iowa Living" section were looking for stories for a series called "Those Were the Days."

In the story I wrote, there was a box, in italics, that said, "This is another in a series of responses from Register staff writers to a request for stories about turning points in their lives. Several of the stories actually are about turning points; others are about incidents remembered in vivid detail. This one is about neither."

Here's what I wrote:

I guess it happened when I was 11 -- the first time someone told me I was going to be a star.

Jack Fulton and I were shooting baskets in the alley behind my house in Cedar Rapids one spring afternoon. My shots at the goal my dad had attached to the garage were following the usual pattern.

From 10 feet the ball swished the net. From 12 feet...swish! From 15 feet...swish!

"You know," Fulton finally said after watching me make basket after basket in the era of the now-outdated push shot, "I'll bet you get four varsity basketball letters when you get to high school."

I blushed, of course, when I heard that. After all, Jack -- three or four years my senior, already well on his way toward attaining his eventual height of 6 feet 7 inches and a very good player himself -- was the resident basketball genius in tour neighborhood.

So when he said I had the tools to get four varsity letters, that meant I'd get four varsity letters. Upon hearing the news, I knew there would be no end to my accomplishments as a basketball player.

Murray Wier was an outstanding player at the University of Iowa in those days. I have never been much for hero-worship, but I did admire the things Wier -- a small man playing a large man's game -- could do with a basketball.

So I probably identified with him. After looking at the size of my parents -- both under 6 feet -- i realized I was not destined to be a 6-7 Jack Fulton or even a 6-3 Anybody Else.

But forget that. I could shoot. Man, could I shoot.

I knew very early, of course, that I would someday surpass of of Wier's records at Iowa. The crowds would cheer when I dashed out of the locker room onto the Iowa Fieldhouse court.

I would lead the Hawkeyes to the Big Ten championship, become an all-American and go on to perform great deeds in a professional league.

But, as all the great ones say, none of it came easy. It took practice. Countless hours of it.

The first time I shot at a basket, the ball I used was not even a basketball. It was a football. That was the kind of neighborhood we had. A ball for all seasons.

I would shoot anything to sharpen my eye. AMy mother still chuckles when she recalls the early morning sessions in the backyard I had with a mangled, frozen orange peel and a waste basket.

Orange peel? Waste basket? Yes, you'd be surprised how good it makes you feel to hear the "clang" a frozen orange pool makes when it hits a metal container at 7 a.m.

I was an authority on every church gymnasium in Cedar Rapids. I played in tiny gyms, big gyms that had low ceilings, gyms that had wooden floors that were so dead the ball wouldn't bounce.

I even joined a church seven miles from my home so I could playh for the basketball team. All in the interest, of course, of preparing myself for stardom.

I performed my great shooting act at the YMCA, the Community House and at just about every outdoor court in every alley in town.

We had no team at Lincoln, so my first stop as a school player was at Wilson Junior High. Was I ready when the coach posted the time for the first practice of our seventh- and eighth-grade team? Was Harry Truman at Democrat?

It bothered ma a little at first that all of the eighth-graders and 90 percent of the seventh-graders were taller than I was. No matter. I woujld outshoot all of them, I told myself.

And, of course, I could do that. Sitting 10, 12, 15 or 20 feet out on the court, I could whip any 6-footer in pure shooting.

But when it came to running the fast break, playing defense and rebounding, I guess I still had a thing or two to learn.

The coach saw it right away. That's probably why he said I could wear my No. 32 jersey only in every other game.

"The other times," he snapped, "another kid will wear the jersey."

Looking back now, the guy -- fool that he was -- was tryhing to tell me something. Like, "Flake off, kid. Basketball is not your game."

I tried not to let it bother me that I dressed for only half the games. Whenever Fulton would ask how I was doing, I'd brighten up and say, "Jack, I'm outshooting all of 'em."

In my private moments, I told myself I would grow and be able to rebound as well as shoot. I would zoom all the way up to 5-10 or 5-11. I'd show 'em. A nd, of course, I would continue my unbelievable shooting.

But you may as well know now. My competitive basketball career all but ended with that seventh-grade team. I made a pass at playing for the sophomores, but I learned the same tough lesson: not tall enough, not quick enough.

At some point in the next year or so, I made the decision that if I could not display my shooting arts in the great arenas of the nation, I would do the next-best thing and write about the shooting of others.

A poor alternative, to be sure. But in my mind, I would always know I could outshoot 'em all.

I can still do it, of course. I will take on any of you hotshots out there -- all of you 7-foot, full-ride scholarship, all-America superstars -- in a no-holds-barred shooting contest.

I'll go one-on-one with you anytime. Your driveway or mine.

You see, I will forever feel that seventh-grade coach was wrong. Don't forget, my shots go swish.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I Think It's Nice That the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves Gave The Mayor An Office Job, But It's Time for Him To Be Back In Iowa Where He Belongs

Now my big question is this:

How soon does Fred Hoiberg sell his house, pack his bags, call the moving van and get back to Iowa?

That's what The Mayor is supposed to do, you know.

The officeholder from Ames...the guy who played his guts out 100 miles-a-minute...the kid you wanted shooting a one-and-one at the free throw line when the Cyclones were behind 75-74 with 2 seconds to play...his job is back in an arena near you in our state.

I think it's a neat thing Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor did -- giving Hoiberg a job in the team's front office after the soon-to-be 34-year-old Iowan decided it was too dangerous to continue his playing career because of heart problems.

But let's get back to reality.

Consider me old-fashioned, but I think Iowa is where Hoiberg belongs -- not Minnesota, a place we make jokes about.

Give Hoiberg a year. Maybe two. Then somebody in this state should offer him a job --preferably a job in basketball, certainly a job in athletics.

When Bruce Whatever-His-Name-Was had the door shown to him at Iowa State a while back, I suggested that Hoiberg was the guy who should be the university's next athletic director.

He was, after all, Mr. Clean-Cut and a guy everyone at Iowa State adored. He could back-slap with the best of them while hobnobbing with the alumni on the mornings of big football games at Jack Trice Stadium, and he'd bring a new look to Cyclone athletic department. He'd sell tickets.

Not just to basketball games. To everything.

Sure, he'd get the grads to put their dollars in the university's cash register, too.

But The Mayor wasn't ready for that yet.

He still had the NBA on his mind. He talked to a few teams, but got nowhere.

Hey, there's no pro basketball team in America that wants to risk putting a guy on the court who's had his chest opened up to fix an aortic aneurysm. No owner wants to be the pioneer who puts the first guy wearing a pacemaker into the lineup during an NBA game.

Some of them may have heard how Hoiberg tells the story about his first day home from the surgery.

The Mayor, the father of four young kids, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he climbed a few stars, fainted and fell. He was unconscious for 2 minutes, and when he woke up he was in the arms of his wife, Carol.

"Don't leave me," Carol said.

"I remember the look on her face when I came to," Hoiberg said. "I just can't imagine what that must have been like for her.....I just can't put her through that again."

[Hoiberg is pictured at the top. Fred and Carol's wedding photo is below it].

Hoiberg's problems actually started when he was at Iowa State.

In his sophomore year, he learned he had a problem with his aortic valve, but it wasn't considered life-threatening then. He was monitored by Iowa State with echocardiograms.

He averaged 11.6 points in that 1992-93 season, which saw Johnny Orr's Cyclones go 20-11 and lose to UCLA 81-70 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Hoiberg scored at a 20.2 clip in 1993-94, which turned out to be Orr's last. Iowa State had a disappointing 14-13 record and didn't even get picked for the NIT. It didn't help matters that the truck center Loren Meyer was riding in was hit by a train in Des Moines at about 3 o'clock one morning.

I don't think anybody has figured that one out yet. But maybe it convinced Orr it was time to get out of coaching.

Then in came Tim Floyd to coach Hoiberg's final season. The Mayor was the Cyclones' captain, and the team went 23-11, beat Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament and lost to North Carolina 73-51 in the second round.

Included in that season was a phenomenal performance Hoiberg turned in at Hilton Coliseum when No. 3-ranked Kansas came to town.

Hoiberg scored 32 points that included an unbelievable 17 straight in the last half in a 69-65 Iowa State victory. Less than a month later he soared to a 41-point performance against Colorado.

With that kind of stuff as a backdrop, it would be only natural for Hoiberg to come back to Ames or some other place in Iowa to provide athletic leadership.

He's an Iowan, and our state needs him.

Heck, if Iowa State can't find a place for him, maybe Iowa can.

An assistant basketball coach waiting in the wings to be a head coach. An assistant athletic director who later gets elevated to the top job.

Now, wouldn't that be something? Maybe it could be the Dan Gable scenario all over again, where a Cyclone legend makes it big as a Hawkeye.

Nah. Couldn't happen.

Iowa State won't fall for that crap again.

Oh, well, just get back to Iowa, Fred.

Maybe you can move to Ames and become the real mayor. You'd win in a landslide.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

'Docile in D.M.' Underwhelmed By Register's Early Tornado Coverage; In the Old Days, They'd Have 'Gotten Reporters Out Of the Office Lounge'

"Docile in Des Moines," a man who spent many a day and night in the Des Moines Register newsroom, had some things to say about the newspaper's early coverage of the mess in Iowa City:


"Thanks for providing the NPR thing [on how bad the Register has gotten under Gannett Co. ownership]. It’s worth $2 to me should you need reimbursement!

"Did you notice the 'coverage' of the Iowa City tornado today? Not too bad, all things considered, since only one reporter worked it out of the Des Moines office. But in the old days, the Register would have had 10 people working the phones from Des Moines. If they didn’t have 10 folks in the newsroom when the twister hit, they would have gone to the Office Lounge and hustled the folks back to work. And they would have come willingly. (I know that, because I have witnessed it!) They would have rousted the Iowa City bureau chief and hustled [photographer] Harry [Baumert] down from Cedar Rapids. With 25,000 plus students, tons of alums and more folks interested in Iowa City than just about anyplace in Iowa, it would have taken an act of God to keep The Register from having a line story on that calamity. And you can bet your ass City edition would have been on the streets of Iowa City this morning. My guess is that Iowa City didn’t know about a tornado if they relied on the Register for coverage today."

Docile in Des Moines

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Dear Docile, this was another prime example of how they don't do things the way they used to at 8th and Locust. Old-timers keep hoping things will change, but they won't. That's why National Public Radio became the latest to criticize what's going on at the paper. By the way, Docile, I didn't have to pay the $4 fee to get a transcript of the National Public Radio report. An understanding reader sent me the text. So save your $2. I'd tell you to spend it at the Office Lounge -- if it was still there.].

* * *

"Hawkeye from Harlan," a man who gets around, also had the Iowa City tornado on his mind when he sent this e-mail to Jim Zabel:

"Hey, Z, you'll love this story. As I told you on the phone yesterday afternoon, we dined as planned with [some folks] at a new downtown restaurant called Joseph's in Iowa City.

"After we had finished eating, and a storm was raging outside, we were all sent to the basement because a tornado had been spotted south of town by the airport.

"Some of the diners had too much to drink. One came over to [former Iowa play-by-play announcer] Ron Gonder and said, 'You look just like Ron Gonder!' When told that he was, she said, 'My God, I can't believe I'm talking to Ron Gonder.'

"Steve Alford and his new coaching staff were standing about 10 feet away, and I asked if she was an Iowa basketball fan. Her husband snarled, 'Let me tell you what I think about that."\'

"I put an arm around his shoulder and said, 'Not too loud because Alford is right over there.' His wife said, 'My God, I can't believe I'm here with Steve Alford!'

"Then someone smelled gas, and we decided it might be safer outside than in the basement. When we got out the door the town was dark and looked like it had been hit by . . . well, a tornado.

"But after a fair amount of astonishment and confusion, we managed to find my car in a darkened ramp and got home OK. We survived to eat another day.

"And the best part of the story is, in all the confusion WE NEVER PAID OUR BILL ! ! !"

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Zabel [right] became a legend when he was the Iowa football and basketball play-by-play announcer for WHO-radio in Des Moines. He'd wander around a dining room until he found someone to buy him a drink [or several] and a meal. Indeed, he'd be proud of what happened to "Hawkeye from Harlan" and his group. "Z" will probably be at the restaurant next week].

* * *

I see Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker is talking like outfielder Felix Pie of the Iowa Cubs might be called up after the injury last night to Angel Pagan.

Baker made his comments to Chicago reporters after the Cubs' 2-1 loss at Pittsburgh last night.

I think bringing Pie to the bigs at this time is a dumb idea. Jacque Jones is due back in the lineup Monday at Los Angeles. How much playing time is Pie going to get when that happens?

Leave Pie with the I-Cubs and bring him up when the Cubs fall out of the race -- something that'll happen sooner rather than later as long as Baker is the manager.

[AND FINALLY....Baker is obviously reading everything I write. The Cubs didn't call up Pie today, but promoted right-handed relief pitcher David Aardsma from the I-Cubs. Aardsma hadn't allowed a run in seven innings for Iowa. The addition gives Chicago 12 pitchers].

* * *

A Joyous Easter to everyone!

Friday, April 14, 2006

It Didn't Cost Me $4, But I've Got the National Public Radio Report On How Bad the Des Moines Register Has Gotten Under Gannett Co. Ownership

I told you in my earlier column today that I had no intention of spending $4 to find out how bad the Des Moines Register has gotten in recent years.

And I didn't.

Spend the money, I mean.

Thanks to a very kind reader, I now have a copy of the transcript of the National Public Radio program that was critical of the Register.

After reading the text, the newspaper -- both present and future -- looks no better than I figured it would look.

Indeed, it looks worse.

Register publisher Mary Stier [right] is among those interviewed. Naturally, she defends the paper.

Also interviewed is Jim Flansburg, a retired Register editorial page editor and columnist. Naturally he's critical of the paper.

Here's the sad story:

HEADLINE: Campaign Targets Quality of Iowa Newspaper





Today's business news is about the business of news.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: One man in Iowa believes we should all be concerned about the state of the nation's newspapers. Ralph Gross is not a journalist, but he's been asking tough questions about his local paper--questions that apply to many papers across the country.

NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN reporting:

Physically, Ralph Gross certainly isn't an imposing figure. He's an investment counselor, a long-time Des Moines, Iowa resident who stands just five and a half feet tall. But he's also a man with a lot of energy and interests. He's an accomplished photographer, sits on the board of some local non-profits, and is an avid newspaper reader.

It's that last role that led him to join the reader advisory board at his hometown newspaper, the Des Moines Register. At his first meeting, he asked the paper's top editors something he'd long been wondering.

Mr. RALPH GROSS: I said, 35 years ago, I used to walk by the paper's building. In front there was a statement, and it said, "This newspaper has won more Pulitzer prizes than any other newspaper except one for national reporting. Congratulations New York Times." And I said, I'm here because I'd like to know if you have a plan in place that would re-establish the pre-eminence of this newspaper.

ALLEN: In the 1960s and '70s, the Des Moines Register defined for many what a great newspaper could be. It won a string of Pulitzer prizes for national reporting, established a national reputation for its coverage of agricultural issues, and boasted a circulation that was the envy of many larger papers.

But a watershed moment came in 1985, when the long-time owners, the Cowles family, sold the paper to Gannett--then, as now, the nation's largest newspaper chain. In the 21 years since, the paper has won just two Pulitzers, and critics say adopted graphics and an editorial style reminiscent of Gannett's flagship property, USA Today.

At that first reader's advisory board meeting, Ralph Gross says the newspaper's managing editor told him the Pulitzers were hanging in the newsroom to inspire the reporters, but that, quote, "You can't a run a newspaper to win Pulitzers."

Over his next two years on the board, Gross says he continued to get what he considered evasive answers to some tough questions, like why there was less investigative reporting at the Register, less coverage of state and local issues, and whether the push for profits was eroding the paper's quality.

Mr. GROSS: I finally got to the point where I was so frustrated I wrote a letter to the editor, as an Op-Ed piece, and I said, here, I would like to talk about this issue of profits versus excellence here. And the paper refused to publish it.

ALLEN: The paper also refused to run four quarter-page ads Gross wanted to buy to air his comments.

Eventually, he found a forum in the Columbia Journalism Review. That article placed him in the center of a discussion well under way in newspaper circles: whether journalism is suffering because of investor demands for high profits from media companies like Gannett.

Just last month, those pressures forced the nation's second largest newspaper chain, Knight Ridder, to sell its 32 daily papers. Profit-wise, Gannett has long been an industry leader, with an operating margin approaching 30 percent. Critics have openly wondered whether those returns sometimes come at the expense of good journalism.

But that's a conversation that Des Moines Register managers would rather not have with Ralph Gross. The paper's publisher, Mary Stier, steadfastly refused to meet with him, saying Gross was asking for financial information he had no right to see. And, she rejects his accusation that the newspaper's quality has fallen in recent years.

Ms. MARY STIER (President and Publisher, Des Moines Register): I take offense to that. I, we have two hundred very hard working journalists in the Des Moines Register newsroom that would take offense to that.

ALLEN: Stier says the Des Moines Register takes its journalistic responsibilities as seriously as it ever did. She notes that the paper was a Pulitzer finalist last year for investigative reporting, and she proudly points to a recent series that led the state to pull the plug on its touch-play electronic lottery machines.

Ms. STIER: We acquired the information, and from that information, it's changing the law in the state of Iowa. It was because of our work. So when you say that we're not taking that role as seriously as we used to, I do take offense to that.

ALLEN: There's no question, though, that circulation at the Des Moines Register, like most papers, is far below where it was 20 years ago. In downtown Des Moines, Don Ruffcorn(ph) is typical of many younger readers in their 20s and early 30s. He relies on the Internet for news, and picks up the paper only on Sundays, and mostly for the ads. But as far as Ruffcorn is concerned, the Register is the same paper it always was.

Mr. DON RUFFCORN (Des Moines, Iowa): And for me the quality has stayed pretty well the same. I mean, I don't see any slip in it at all. So long as they remain accurate, they bring stories to me that are pertinent to today's issues, then they're doing a good job.

ALLEN: There are many here in Des Moines, though, who believe the Register's best days are behind it.

Mr. JAMES FLANSBURG (Former Editor, Des Moines Register): I feel the same about the Register as I feel about my late father. I really, really miss him. But there's nothing I can do about it.

ALLEN: Jim Flansburg worked for the Des Moines and its sister paper, the Tribune, for 40 years on various beats, writing a political column and as editorial page editor. He's one of several former editors sharply critical of the paper's direction under Gannett.

Flansburg says the changes came slowly. It wasn't until after he retired in 1997 that he realized what had happened to the paper where he'd spent his career.

Mr. FLANSBURG: I had no complaints about Gannett whatsoever. None. And I thought we produced a good paper. But, at the same time, I believe the caliber of the paper has gone down consistently for these nearly 20 years now.

ALLEN: Stephen Bloom teaches journalism at the University of Iowa. He concedes that the slow changes over time may have gone unnoticed by the Des Moines Register's readers. But he argues that something important has been lost.

Professor STEPHEN BLOOM (Journalism, University of Iowa): It's now been 21 years since Gannett took over the Register. And the sad thing is that I teach students that are 21-years old, and they have no concept of what a good, strong newspaper is.

ALLEN: It's a complaint you hear not just in Des Moines, but in cities around the country. Seasoned journalists and media watchers who are upset that their local newspaper has changed, and in their view, not for the better.

The Register's publisher, Mary Stier, notes that the paper wasn't making money when Gannett bought it in 1985. Her job, she says, is to serve the community, but also to make money so that an institution that's so important to Des Moines survives.

And she says what readers want and need from a newspaper has changed over the last 25 years. The challenge of producing a quality newspaper in an era where consumers have access to online news, radio, and 24-hour cable news networks is tough. Equally hard is the challenge of producing consistent profits.

The question that journalists, media professionals, and readers like Ralph Gross are asking is whether it's possible to do both.

Greg Allen, NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)


I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

More Sad Reading for 'People Who Grew Up With the Des Moines Register Spread Out On the Floor of the Living Room Every Morning'

"Doug from Davenport," a man who knows his newspapers, provided some interesting reading with this e-mail:

"Ron, go to and do a search for Des Moines Register. There is a segment in morning edition about how the quality of the Register has suffered under Gannett and how newspapers, in general, have lost their way because of changing society, including the Internet, blogs and 24-hour TV news. Very interesting and kind of sad for people who grew up with the Des Moines Register spread out on the floor of the living room every morning. But, I have to say, the Register is hammering the heck out of the CIETC mess and people should be going to jail soon."

"Doug from Davenport"

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Same old story, Doug. Everyone takes his or her shot at the Des Moines Register these days, and now it's National Public Radio's turn. Greg Allen writes that "Iowa's largest newspaper, The Des Moines Register, used to be nationally recognized for its excellence. A lot has changed at the paper since it was bought by Gannett, a national media company, 20 years ago. A disgruntled reader has begun a campaign aimed at forcing the Register to raise its standards." As is the case with most other newspapers nationally, the Register's circulation is on a steady decline, with the end nowhere in sight. A guy who knows about newspaper circulation told me a couple of years ago that he expected the Register to eventually level off at a daily circulation of about 90,000. The Gannett Co. has put unreal pressures on the Register's newsroom bosses, many of whom weren't equipped for their jobs in the first place. As "Doug in Davenport" points out, the Internet and cable TV can deliver the news better and quicker than a daily newspaper, and young people quit buying and reading newspapers a long time ago. I was fortunate to be in the newspaper business during its golden age, and I don't envy anyone who is trying to be happy in a newsroom these days. By the way, Bud Appleby of Des Moines also called my attention to the National Public Radio item about the Register. "This is an audio. You have to click on 'listen,'" Appleby said. I asked him if there was a way that I could get a printed version of the story. "There is, but you have to buy it," Appleby replied. "There is a button to click to buy a transcript. I think it's about 4 bucks." No thanks. I'm not spending $4 to find out again how bad the paper is].

* * *

From Iowa fan Mark Robinson:

"Hi, Ron;

"Well, the exodus of Iowa basketball players continues, for one reason or another. Today's announcements pretty much decimated a whole class of recruits.

"Alford keeps telling us in the media that things are going very well. He's happy with the direction of the program.

"So much so, that he's releasing an assistant and the sirector of basketball operations, and two recruits are bolting. Perhaps Alford, like the Iowa fans, feels that the next basketball season could be brutal.

"And then there is the small matter of Tim Buckley announcing that he may be going to Iowa before the Iowa athletic department mentioned that there was a job opening. In Buckley's defense, the job postings already were up on for the world to read.

"I'm not so sure that Alford's UI PR machine is doing him any favors nowadays. That, and the fact that he never does any PR favors for himself is troubling.

"Keep writing,"

Mark Robinson

* * *

Robinson followed with another e-mail about Hawkeye basketball after Jim Ecker of the Cedar Rapids Gazette interviewed Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby. Here it is:

"Sorry to keep bothering you, Ron.

"Ecker got Bowlsby to, apparently, go nuts.

"If you can access the C.R. Kazoo's article in which Jim quotes Bowlsby, it will be worth the trip.

"Bowlsby, on the record, used the words Bullshit AND Horseshit in response to an Ecker question.

"When he further pressured Bowlsby, he replied by saying: 'Why don't you go ask Steve?'

"Yikes! There's got to be some sort of meltdown going on. Perhaps Bob is giving Steve all the rope he needs to hang himself. Who knows?"


[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: It's good to know that Ecker, who has always been a hard-nosed reporter, hasn't crawled into a cave. I've always liked his work, and he's had his share of run-ins with coaches and other athletic department officials over the years. Former Iowa football coach Hayden Fry tore into him a number of years ago at a Tuesday press conference that was a classic. But it wasn't a one-way street. Ecker shot back at Fry as often as the coach tore into him. In a Wednesday story in the Gazette this week, Ecker wrote, "It was a bizarre day at the university, and it included Bob Bowlsby, the school's director of athletics, using barnyard epithets in response to questions from The Gazette.....Bowlsby declined to explain why [Iowa assistant coaches] [Greg] Lansing and [Rich] Walker were fired.....If you want to talk with somebody about it, talk with them. The coaches report to Steve. Just as the football coaches report to Kirk [Ferentz]. If you want to talk with Steve about it, call Steve.....Bowlsby declined to explain why Alford decided to make major changes in his staff after a successful year, and also declined to say if he's going to give Alford a contract extension, a topic that's been lingering for months. When we have any news to give you, we'll give it to you," he said tersely.....Bowlsby disagreed that fans who pay $26 a ticket are entitled to know what's going on with the head coach and the program. And he stgrongly disagreed that institutions partially funded by taxpayer money have an obligation to tell fans if the head coach's contract will be extended or not. "Don't give me that horse[shit]," he said. "That's a bunch of bull[shit]."

* * *

Al Schallau checked in with this e-mail:


"I have to take issue with your description that Iowa was upset in the NCAA tournament by "lowly Northwestern State." That was a good team that beat Iowa. They also pulled off one of the most gutsy second half comebacks in NCAA basketball history.

"Northwestern State finished the season with a 26-8 record, and a 15-1 record in the Sunland Conference. They also won all three games in the Sunland Conference tournament.

"Northwestern State beat Iowa, Oklahoma State, Mississippi State, Oregon State, and gave West Virginia a very good challenge for about 35 minutes before losing, 67-54, in the second round of the NCAA tournament.


Al Schallau

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Al, the reason I called Northwestern State "lowly" was because it was seeded No. 14 in the NCAA's Big Dance and Big Ten tournament champion Iowa was seeded No. 3. The Hawkeyes' loss to Northwestern State was the biggest shocker of the first round. No. 3 seeds are supposed to beat No. 14 seeds, and Iowa failed miserably. There was no excuse for the embarrassing loss].

* * *

After I wrote about the front-page advertising in the Des Moines Register, Rev. David P. Mumm sent this e-mail:

"Hi, Ron,

"I enjoyed your article today. I looked at the advertising on page 1 question as simply a business decision made by the paper. As with any decision they make, some will like it, others will not. As to my not subscribing to the paper, I do read some sections every day online. But, by reading online I don't end up having to bundle and carry out a stack of papers every week or two.

"Have a great Holy Week."

David P. Mumm
Senior Pastor
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church and School

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Lots of other people are doing what Rev. Mumm is doing -- reading the paper on the computer. That's one reason daily circulation is falling so fast].

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Let's Hope It All Works Out, Bulldog Fans. It's All In the Family -- When Tom Davis Retires As Drake Basketball Coach, Son Keno Will Take His Place

Tom Davis will continue to lead the Drake men's basketball program until he decides to retire, at which point his son, Keno Davis, will take over the program, Drake president David Maxwell said today.

When the senior Davis [right] retires, Keno Davis [left] will be given a contract as head coach through the 2010-2011 season, ensuring a seamless transition for the program. The junior Davis joined his father on the bench when Tom Davis was named the school's 23rd head coach in 2003.

"Dr. Davis is in the process of building a men's basketball program at Drake that reflects our desire to compete and succeed at the highest levels, and that respects the university's academic integrity," Maxwell said.

"It is our hope that he will continue coaching long enough to enjoy the fruits of those efforts. We also believe that continuity in our coaching staff is vital to the program's continued improvement and for the team to become truly competitive in the Missouri Valley Conference."

Drake's commitment to Davis' coaching legacy mirrors a growing trend in men's college basketball, with similar conversions occurring at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. These institutions are ensuring continuity of their programs with father-son coaching teams.

"We think we've made some strides and yet understand we still have work to do, and this decision by President Maxwell and Drake enables us to continue to develop the program," Tom Davis said.

"We think we have a nucleus in place of outstanding students as well as good athletes on which the future of Drake basketball will depend. Keeping our staff intact enables us to continue to recruit as well as teach and we are excited about the future."

Tom Davis will enter the 2006-07 season ranking seventh in victories among active NCAA Division I coaches with 580. The Bulldogs were 12-19 overall this past season, losing eight games by a combined total of 19 points. Drake returns nine of its top 11 players, including four starters, from last year's squad. The Bulldogs also will welcome the return of junior forward Klayton Korver, a two-year starter who took a medical red shirt this past season.

Keno Davis spent two years as an assistant under Bruce Pearl at Southern Indiana, six years with former Drake coach Gary Garner at Southeast Missouri State and the past three with his father.

"I have been fortunate in my coaching career to have had the opportunity to work with a number of great coaches, most of all my father at Drake University," Keno Davis said.

"I am appreciative of the strong support of the administration and of the growing support of our alumni, fans and community here at Drake. I know that the hard work and support will be rewarded, and I look forward to being a part of the future success."

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Let's hope it all works out. No one wants to see Drake succeed in basketball more than me].

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

When Players Bail Out and Assistant Coaches Are Fired, It Could Be a Signal That There's More Trouble Ahead for Alford and His Hawkeye Program

It’s pretty obvious to me what’s going on in the University of Iowa’s basketball program.

It was bad enough when two more players –- Alex Thompson [left] and Carlton Reed –- quit the team.

But when two assistant coaches, Greg Lansing and Rich Walker, were fired, it could be just the calm before the storm.

Indeed, the unrest might be at least a small signal that the end is getting closer at Iowa for head coach Steve Alford.

It happens frequently in collegiate athletics. When a head coach is in trouble, the first move is to fire some of the assistants.

When that doesn’t work out, the head coach might be the next to go.

Alford [right] certainly won’t be shown the door now. The former Golden Boy of Indiana high school and collegiate basketball was the hand-picked choice for the Iowa job by athletic director Bob Bowlsby.

And Bowlsby isn’t going to dismiss a guy who won 25 games and the Big Ten Conference’s postseason tournament this year.

However, I have seen very few scenarios in coaching where a guy can go 25-9 in his seventh season and fans have a ho-hum attitude, at best, about him.

I mean, this was a winter that saw just about everyone who knows something about basketball assume Alford would become Indiana’s next coach, and more than a few Iowa boosters were saying, “Take him. He’s all yours.”

Alford’s team led the Big Ten standings for part of the season and finished in a tie for second place.

But the Hawkeyes –- who already had lost Big Ten road games to Northwestern and Minnesota, teams they should have beaten -- were victims of the biggest shocker in the first round of the NCAA tournament when lowly Northwestern State upset them, 64-63.

Obviously, Alford made himself available to other jobs once the season ended. He embarrassed Iowa and its fans by winding up on Missouri’s short list, and everyone assumed he’d go to Indiana if he got the opportunity.

But neither school interviewed him. Consider that –- especially the stiffing job by Indiana –- as a bigtime personal setback to him.

With Greg Brunner and Jeff Horner, standouts on the 2005-2006 team, gone next season, Alford figured to have a difficult time in his eighth season in Iowa City.

It doesn’t help matters that Reed and Thompson won’t be around,, even though I’m not convinced that either of them is, or could be, a standout player.

Alford’s coaching history doesn’t show that his players make progress from one season to the next.

The best any Hawkeye fan could have hoped for out of Reed , a 6-4 sophomore, and Thompson, a 6-9 sophomore who perhaps could’ve started at Brunner’s power forward position, was that they would be capable journeymen.

Now they’re out of the picture.

And speaking of pictures, the Hawkeye basketball picture, as a whole, is suddenly a lot more out of focus today.

* * *

[Ron Maly is a four-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year and also is the best-selling author of "Tales from the Iowa Sidelines," which is in its second printing as both a hardback and softback book. The book is about the rich football tradition at the University of Iowa. Maly has a heck of a lot of fun doing what he's doing. Ron's columns about sports, newspapers, his family, medicine, travel, the people he knows, the people he doesn't know, a few people he'd like to know better, a few people he once knew and is trying to forget, a few people he has already forgotten, and anything else that trips his trigger appear regularly at and When you call 515-201-5495, either Maly or the person who recorded the message on his answering machine will respond].

Monday, April 10, 2006

Keep Those Page One Ads Coming In the Des Moines Register. Anything That's Good for the Hospitals, Doctors, Nurses and the Paper Is Good for Me

Hey, look, if you think I'm going to be critical of the Des Moines Register for all those Page One ads that have been running the last couple of days, forget it.

I know I might have sounded somewhat negative a week or so ago when I mentioned all the advertising that was about to be carried on the front of various sections in the paper.

But after closer inspection yesterday and today, I see absolutely nothing wrong with the decisions publisher Mary Stier has made to create a pleasant relationship between the advertising department, the newsroom and the reader.

I mean, if you for one second believe that I'm going to say something nasty about the Iowa Methodist Medical Center/John Stoddard Cancer Center ad that stretched across the bottom of Section A -- you have no idea about the close ties I have to Iowa Methodist, Iowa Lutheran and Blank Children's Hospitals.

I spent 12 days in Iowa Methodist a few years ago. It took three or four CAT scans and some lung surgery, but a doctor finally cured my pneumonia.

My 94-year-old mother was in the emergency room at Iowa Lutheran a while back, and came out as good as new.

Then there's my granddaughter, Megan. The awful leukemia she had sent her to Blank a few years ago, but the great doctors and nurses there have had her in remission a long, long time now.

We call it a miracle.

So anytime Methodist, Lutheran and Blank want to advertise on Page One of the paper, I'm all for it.

Mercy Hospital, too. I also know a lot about that place.

I joke that I've spent so much time there that they're thinking about naming a room after me.

A guy I know pretty well had a cancer scare a few years ago, but a great doctor and a great nurse at Mercy told him a scare was all it was. Another miracle.

The guy now tells me Mercy can advertise anytime it wants, on any page of the paper.

Maybe I've been hanging around in the wrong places the last couple of days. Heck, I haven't heard one person say anything nasty about the paper for putting ads on the front of the sections.

My pastor didn't say anything about it yesterday. Of course, he had more important things to deal with than newspaper ads. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter are coming, of course, so advertising is the last thing on his mind.

Besides, the last time I checked, the pastor didn't subscribe to the paper.

Maybe I'll buy him a subscription.

The sports section had a big front-page ad for Karl Chevrolet yesterday and Iowa Lumber & Construction today.

Not a darn thing wrong with Chevies. The only new car my dad ever owned was a '37 Chevy two-door. It ran most of the time. Even had a three-speed manual transmisison, radio and heater.

I've had four Chevies, and all of 'em got me where I wanted to go.

There's certainly nothing wrong with a lumber ad. We all need lumber to build things. Iowa Lumber & Construction sounds like a great place to me. Building a better Iowa, so to speak.

Hey, we're all in this together. If those ads help the paper make its payroll this month and do something for the pension plan, that's great.

Meanwhile, I'm going to try to stay out of the hospital today.

To illustrate how strongly I feel about all of this, I'm giving Iowa Methodist, Iowa Lutheran, Blank and Mercy free ads with this column, and I'm doing the same for the paper.

That's a photo of the Register building on the right. I use a shot of the paper's logo a lot, and I'm doing it again today.

I'm feeling so good, I may even buy lunch.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Des Moines Register's Tom Witosky, a.k.a. 'The Shovel,' Can't Stay Out Of the News Even When He's Not the Guy Doing the Digging

My column yesterday about Tom Witosky, an investigative reporter at the Des Moines Register, is already bringing in comments from readers.

Witosky, who is known as "The Shovel" in newspaper circles because of the constant digging he does to get to the bottom of controversy, is one of six candidates for a teaching job at Penn State.

Judging by one e-mail I received, Pennsylvania will be a great place for Witosky to be living.

This message came from "Hawkeye In Harlan," not his real name and not his real hometown:

"Bump Elliott dislikes few people, but Witosky is one of them. Loren Tate is another because of what he did to Pete."

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Bump Elliott is a former Iowa athletic director and assistant football coach. He was so well-liked in Iowa City that a street was named after him. It doesn't get much better than that for an athletic director. Pete Elliott, Bump's brother, won 12 letters as an athlete at Michigan. Among the places Pete coached were Illinois, California and Nebraska. Bump and Pete are pictured together at the upper right. Bump had plenty of dealings with Witosky when he was in charge of the Hawkeyes' athletic department. Loren Tate [upper left] is a longtime sports columnist at the Champaign [Ill.] News-Gazette who has been at odds with Iowa fans for many years].

* * *

However, "Ethel from Estherville," another of my readers, wants Witosky to hang around a while longer.

Here's her e-mail:

"I wish that Witosky would stay long enough to really dig into this mess with the overpaid state employees. People should have to pay back money, not be slapped on the wrist and given community service."

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Well, all of us will miss some of The Shovel's work if and when he gets that teaching job. Not all of the work, but some of it. However, The Shovel will be old enough to check into a nursing home if he sticks around long enough to get to the bottom of all the corruption in Des Moines].

* * *

Evidently, Drake women's basketball coach Amy Stephens [lower right] hasn't won everyone over.

After I forwarded a story from Drake that said Stephens' contract had been extended, a season-ticketholder e-mailed me with this message:

"Thanks, Ron. I'm not sure if that is good news or not."

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: What's this? You mean you're not impressed with Stephens' 47-42 record so far?]

* * *

Speaking of being unimpressed,George Wine was less-than-enchanted with something Jason Clayworth of the Des Moines Register wrote.

Here's the message Wine sent to Clayworth:

To: Jason Clayworth, D.M. Register

"If the city manager got an 'anonymous' letter, as you say in your lead [Friday], how can you then tell your readers the letter came from a 'taxpayer?'

"I've been scratching my head over that one."

George Wine
Coralville, Iowa

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Something tells me it's been a confusing time on the fourth floor at 8th and Locust].

* * *

[Ron Maly is a four-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year and also is the best-selling author of "Tales from the Iowa Sidelines," which is in its second printing as both a hardback and softback book. The book is about the rich football tradition at the University of Iowa. Maly has a heck of a lot of fun doing what he's doing. Ron's columns about sports, newspapers, his family, medicine, travel, the people he knows, the people he doesn't know, a few people he'd like to know better, a few people he once knew and is trying to forget, a few people he has already forgotten, and anything else that trips his trigger appear regularly at and When you call 515-201-5495, either Maly or the person who recorded the message on his answering machine will respond].