Friday, June 02, 2006

Iowa State's Jamie Pollard Says It's Now a Cyclone State, But Putting the Football and Basketball Broadcasts On An FM Station Is a Bush League Move

MORE MONEY FOR IOWA'S KIRK FERENTZ [lower in this column]

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I've got a question or two today -- besides, of course, the obvious one about why anybody would allow Dennis Ryerson and Mike Gartner to clutter up Rob Borsellino's funeral.

While Borsellino rolls around in his casket over that one, and while he and I wonder if Gartner will be charging everyone $5 to park a car tomorrow at No-Name Ballpark for the memorial service, I'm scratching my head over something Jamie Pollard just did at Iowa State.

Pollard [right] is Iowa State's new athletic director. Some might call him one of a new breed.

Then, again, some might not.

He's the guy who pulled the plug quickly on basketball coach Wayne Morgan and wrestling coach Bobby Douglas.

Now he's putting Iowa State's football and basketball broadcasts on an FM radio station in Des Moines.

Yes, you read that right.

An FM station.

Iowa State says 100.3 FM [KDRB-Radio, a.k.a. "The Bus] is the strongest FM station in the state.

I think Pollard wants us to think of that as good news.

I don't.

Hell, some Iowans still don't have an FM dial on their radios. And I know some of Iowa State's fans don't have FM in their tractors.

I mean, Pollard may figure 100,000 watts is a big deal on the new flagship station, but it's still an FM outlet -- and there's something of a bush league sound when you hear the letters FM connected with a broadcast in a big-time athletic conference.

As far back as I can remember, this will be the first time Cyclone football and basketball has been on an FM station, not an AM station, in our town.

I go back far enough to remember when Dale Williams was putting people to sleep with his Iowa State football broadcasts. I was living in eastern Iowa then, not central Iowa.

Then there was Frank Snyder, Pete Taylor and now John Walters doing the Cyclone play-by-play. Maybe I'm missing somebody in there -- George Turner possibly was in there somewhere -- but the broadcasts have gotten better and better over the years since the decision-makers at Iowa State decided to move Williams aside when Clay Stapleton came in as the football coach in 1958.

I guess they thought that if they were going to get a new look with a Fifties-style Stapleton, they'd better not stick with a turn-of-the-century [the 20th century] radio announcer.

I've listened to plenty of Cyclone broadcasts on Des Moines AM stations KRNT and, more recently, KXNO.

In recent years, KXNO has been everything-Cyclones. Play-by-play broadcasts, postgame shows, pregame shows, coaches' call-in shows, tailgate shows, Steve Deace talk shows, Larry Cotlar talk get the idea.

Now comes "The Bus," what the hell ever that means.

According to Pollard, the 100,000-watt station will "help broaden the reach of ISU athletics and enhance the Cyclone Radio Network significantly after 'The Bus' takes over as the network's preeminent station.

"It's time to get on 'The Bus' and follow Cyclone athletics. When we entered into our multi-media agreements in February, we did so with the expectation that we would deliver radio coverage of Cyclone sports to all corners of our state."

Pollard added that "our staff will continue to work to fill any remaining gaps in coverage in-state with local affiliates. The Cyclone Radio Network currently has 33 stations in its family and those commitments are being firmed up this spring.

"Making Iowa State sports available on the radio to every household in the state is the fundamental goal to building our brand. Never before has the radio coverage of Cyclone sports been so comprehensive within the state borders, and we hope to capitalize on this exciting opportunity to continue to build relations with current and future fans."

Pollard also said that the move of Steve Deace, former afternoon sports-talk host on KXNO, to WHO will be beneficial to Cyclone athletics.

"Steve's belief in our program and passion for sports suggests that the Cyclones will receive frequent mention on his new outlet at WHO, a 50,000-watt station that also encompasses the whole state," Pollard said.

WOI sports anchor John Walters and former Iowa State basketball player Eric Heft will continue to handle the play-by-play and commentator duties on the radio network and Walters remains host on the call-in shows for football coach Dan McCarney and men's basketball coach Greg McDermott, which will continue to be aired on KXNO.

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Still on the subject of Iowa State athletics, Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette wrote in today's paper, "Starting July 15, for two months a billboard in Cedar Rapids will please a large number of people and irritate a large number of others.

"It will show Iowa State football players holding high the Cy-Hawk Trophy they captured with a 23-3 win over Iowa last September.

"In red letters against a yellow background, the billboard [pictured above] will read 'It's a CYCLONE STATE.'

"That can be interpreted as in-your-face to Iowa in the two months leading to the Sept. 16 renewal of the ISU-Iowa series in Iowa City. Or it can be interpreted as Iowa State celebrating itself. ISU Athletics Director Jamie Pollard says it's the latter. But as Dizzy Dean eloquently said, it ain't braggin' if it's true.

"The billboard will be the only one in the state. It will be situated off I-380, appropriately, south of 33rd Avenue SW.

"'We just wanted to be able to do something for the folks in Cedar Rapids," Pollard said last night after the Cedar Valley Cyclone Club's annual banquet at the Cedar Rapids Marriott. 'When I came out here last fall for my first visit in Cedar Rapids (after taking the Iowa State job last October), they said at times we feel in the eastern part of the state that all we ever get is the Hawkeyes. We want to know that we matter.'

"'Along with his four best-known coaches -- football's Dan McCarney, men's basketball's Greg McDermott, women's basketball's Bill Fennelly and wrestling's Cael Sanderson -- Pollard literally took a busload of Iowa State people to Cedar Rapids. Before his coaches spoke to the ISU fans who filled the hotel's ballroom, Pollard gave a stemwinder in which he insisted Cyclone sports and their supporters must 'push, push, push.'

"That, of course, takes money, money, money. But it takes more, something Pollard may be the person to provide. It requires demanding on more than rolling into town once a year, telling everyone how glad they are to be here with such great fans and how hard they're working over in Ames. It takes firmly saying things will get better in ISU athletics because the man in
charge insists on it.

"'We're a small ma-and-pa store trying to compete in the big world,' Pollard told Thursday's gathering. ``We're going to get to be the big world someday, and we're pushing to do that, but we've got to do some things we haven't done in the past.'

"One is selling 30,000 football season tickets. Iowa State is close to hitting that mark. Another is making Jack Trice Stadium and Hilton Coliseum better. Those are on Pollard's immediate to-do list. He wants the south end zone of Trice bowled in for a better atmosphere, and he wants a renovated Hilton, as well as a practice facility for the basketball and volleyball teams.....

"Pollard was plenty proud as he stood before the Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk Series championship trophy, which ISU gained with triumphs in six of nine head-to-head events against Iowa in 2005-06, including double-digit wins in men's and women's basketball.

"'(Outgoing Iowa men's athletics director) Bob Bowlsby never thought that thing was going to leave his home,' Pollard said. `We're never going to give it back.

"'It's a Cyclone state, folks!'

"They do own those trophies."

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The contract of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz [left] has been restructured, outgoing athletic director Bob Bowslsby said today.

“We are pleased to have completed the restructuring of Coach Ferentz’s contract and we believe that this agreement helps to ensure continuity in our football program,” said Bowlsby. “Coach Ferentz is among the very best coaches in the nation and this compensation package is reflective of that excellence.”

The basic elements added to the current contract include:

(1) One-time payment of $1.4 million, which is payable immediately.

(2) Quarterly payments of $350,000, payable Sept. 30, Oct, 30, March 30, and June 30 each year. This compensation is in addition to that payable under the past contract and some or all of this compensation may be deferred.

(3) Amendments to termination clauses which provide guaranteed payments in the event the University cancels the contract without appropriate cause.

All other aspects of the contract remain in effect except compensation for longevity, which is no longer a part of the agreement.

“Although this agreement does not place additional years on the contract,” said Bowlsby, "it is the culmination of several months of work by several individuals and it recognizes our confidence that coach Ferentz will continue to lead the University of Iowa football program to high achievement on and off the field in the years ahead.”

Ferentz is heading into his eighth season as Iowa’s coach and has a 49-36 record with the Hawkeyes. Iowa is one of four schools in the nation to have played a January bowl game four straight years. The Hawkeyes have won two Big Ten titles the last four years and have finished the season ranked in the top ten nationally three of the last four years.

Ferentz ranks fifth in terms of longevity among Big Ten coaches.

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Iowa offensive lineman Lee Gray’s application for a sixth year of eligibility has been turned down, coach Kirk Ferentz said today.

Gray, a 6-6, 320-pounder from Dallas, started 11 of 12 games in 2004, but missed what should have been his senior season in 2005 due to a knee injury. The NCAA rejected Gray’s appeal for another year of eligibility and the ruling ends his Iowa career.

“It’s unfortunate for Lee,” said Ferentz. “We thought we had a very realistic chance on the appeal, but the NCAA ruled against it. We’ll have to move forward. The important thing is that Lee has completed his academic work. We’ll sit down and map out a plan that best suits Lee and his future.”

In another football matter, two redshirt freshmen, Corey Robertson and Kalvin Bailey, have left school and will likely attend a junior college this fall. Robertson is a 6-1, 222-pounder from Denison, Texas. Bailey is a 6-foot, 245-pounder from Tampa, Fla.

“We wish both players the best and we will follow their progress in the future,” said Ferentz.