Saturday, May 20, 2006

Even Though Plenty Of Iowa Basketball Fans Haven't Warmed Up To Alford, They Might As Well Get Used To Him -- He Signs a Contract Extension

Memo to basketball fans at the University of Iowa:

You're going to have Steve Alford around as your basketball coach a while longer -- whether you want him or not.

At least Alford [right] is under contract to be around a while longer.

An impeccable source tells me he has signed a one-year extension, which will put him under contract long enough to coach the incoming recruiting class.

Signing Alford to the extension was one of the last major administrative moves outgoing Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby is expected to make.

Bowlsby, who is headed to Stanford as athletic director, has been a big booster of Alford.

Although Alford's Hawkeyes had a 25-9 record and won the Big Ten Conference tournament championship in the 2005-2006 season, he still hasn't completely warmed the hearts of many Hawkeye fans.

The fact that he seemed very much interested in becoming Indiana's new coach added to the fans' frustation this past season.

Alford was the former "golden boy" of Hoosier basketball in the Bobby Knight days.

But, in what was considered a harsh slap in the face, Indiana didn't even interview Alford after Mike Davis resigned as its coach.

Instead, the job went to Kelvin Sampson of Oklahoma, who had a tainted past.

Alford's contract at Iowa has paid him $800,000 per season plus incentives. He has wanted an extension because the old contract would expire before incoming recruits would use up their eligibility.

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Careful reader Mark Robinson sent this e-mail:

"'In 'The Hot Corner' portion of the local paper this morning online was this morsel:

"Hawkeye basketball ticket prices rise

"For the second straight season, Iowa basketball fans will be paying less for season tickets.

"After paying $406 in 2004-05 and $387 in 05-06, season-ticket holders will be charged $300 next season. Student tickets will again be $5 per game.

"The Hawkeyes finished 25-9 last season, and averaged 12,006 fans in 17 games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, which holds 15,500.'

"Thought you might enjoy it."

Mark Robinson

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: I guess it was a tough day and night in the ol' "Hot Corner," Mark. But the Register did get it right in the print edition on a story that was originally in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Above the item about the drop in ticket prices, it said, "Check It Out." No mention of a price rise.]

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I don't think Ivan Maisel of knows any more about a top 25 college football rating -- early-summer version -- than the rest of us, but I'll give him some props today.

I'm using Maisel's top 25 primarily because he's picking Iowa No. 10.

His story:

Can Texas repeat without Vince Young? Will Ohio State find the answers on defense? Is West Virginia really a contender? Are Notre Dame and Oklahoma among the challengers? Spring practices provided some answers to those questions, so it's time to take an early look at the top 25 for 2006.


1. Ohio State Buckeyes

OK, so only two defensive starters return. When did Jim Tressel not have a defense? And my, oh, my, that offense.

2. Oklahoma Sooners

You've got to be pretty good to go 8-4 while rebuilding. Quarterback Rhett Bomar comes into his own as a sophomore, and junior tailback Adrian Peterson is healthy.

3. West Virginia Mountaineers

If you think the Mountaineers peaked in the Sugar Bowl, then you'll dismiss them. But they've shown what they can do. West Virginia's biggest obstacle is ego expansion.

4. Texas Longhorns

If they had a QB returning from winning a national championship, they'd definitely be No. 1. If they had a QB who had ever taken a snap, maybe.

5. Florida State Seminoles

There's more returning on defense than the loss of seven starters suggests. This is Bobby Bowden's best team since Chris Weinke -- and Mark Richt -- left.

6. USC Trojans

If John David Booty is healthy, move them up. If he can't play, and Mark Sanchez remains suspended, move them down.

7. California Golden Bears

Marshawn Lynch should be in the same Heisman breath as Peterson. The defense is experienced. If Nate Longshore stays healthy

8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

BQ squared. On offense, Brady Quinn is the answer. On defense, the Big Question is stopping the pass. The defense will improve, but not in time to get through every one of the first five games.

9. Auburn Tigers

I like this team. There's a lot of experience on both sides of the ball and a favorable schedule. But the SEC has too much depth to expect a BCS championship game contender.

10. Iowa Hawkeyes

Drew Tate [left] is the best quarterback you're not paying attention to, and the Hawkeyes played better last year than their 7-5 record would indicate.

11. Clemson Tigers

Sophomore tailback James Davis is a star ready to shine. Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and his 40 starts are gone, but backup Will Proctor is ready to lead.

12. Florida Gators

Higher than I expected, because there's more coming back than I realized. But Chris Leak looks like a spotted tiger in this offense, and no running back has stepped up.

13. LSU Tigers

Lower than I expected, because both lines have to be rebuilt, and because of road games at Auburn, Florida and Tennessee. There's sure a lot of talent on offense, though.

14. Oregon Ducks

The Ducks have plenty to sink their beaks into: road games at Fresno State, Cal and USC. OU comes to Autzen Stadium, which has replaced Husky Stadium as the toughest venue in the Pac-10.

15. Nebraska Cornhuskers

The Huskers were my dark horse last year, and I was nine games early. Zac Taylor found his stroke late in the season. Nebraska can't let what happens at USC, good or bad, dictate the rest of the season.

16. Michigan Wolverines

The Wolverines are my dark horse this season. That's right. This team wasn't all that good last year. But RB Mike Hart is healthy, and I think new coordinator Ron English will fix what ailed the defense.

17. Louisville Cardinals

The Cardinals and West Virginia have reversed roles. It's WVU's turn to deal with expectations. I'd rank the Cardinals higher if I knew for sure that quarterback Brian Brohm will have recovered from knee surgery.

18. Miami Hurricanes

Too low? Shoot, this is a leap of faith. To be honest, I expect this to be a transition year into a new offense with a new offensive coaching staff.

19. TCU Horned Frogs

If the Frogs had more than one returning offensive lineman, they would be in the top 10. All the other pieces are there, and early games against Baylor and Texas Tech will provide schedule cred.

20. Boston College Eagles

A good nucleus of experience, led by the offensive line (74 returning starts) and LB Brian Toal on defense. Strange scheduling: Eagles close at Miami, which means they could play the Canes again nine days later in the ACC title game.

21. Penn State Nittany Lions

The Nittany Lions will fall off from 11-1, but there's still a lot of skill on offense, and there's still Puz to anchor a young defense. Penn State fans need to be patient with quarterback Anthony Morelli.

22. Georgia Bulldogs

The SEC East is as tough as ever, and the Bulldogs have less coming back than the rest of the Top 25. Can Joe Tereshinski III run the offense well enough early enough?

23. UTEP Miners

Quarterback Jordan Palmer has the eye of NFL scouts and the defense returns almost intact (which may be a good thing). Texas Tech comes to El Paso early, which could boost UTEP into a higher ranking. Four road games in five weeks will be rough.

24. Virginia Tech Hokies

The Hokies lost almost as much (12 starters) as Georgia, and Frank Beamer has four new coaches. But with this schedule, the Hokies could be mediocre and go 8-4.

25. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Hold on to your Stetson: The Red Raiders won't have a fifth-year senior at quarterback. Graham Harrell is only a sophomore, but he's got the arm, the brains and a veteran cast around him.