Hayden on Shonn Greene, Ferentz, Bill Snyder

November 29, 2008

  Former Iowa Coach Hayden Fry may live in Mesquite, Nev., but as he said in his retirement press conference in Iowa City 10 years ago, he’s always remained a Hawk.
  At age 79, he still carries the wit that endeared him to the Hawk masses. He also makes sure he watches the team he coached for 20 years and to three Rose Bowls every Saturday on television.
  “I’ve got three screens on my (satellite) feed, and I watch three games at a time,” Fry said Friday night at the Iowa men’s basketball game in Las Vegas. “I don’t miss any one of (the Iowa football games).”
  Fry also likes what he sees from Iowa junior running back Shonn Greene, who’s a finalist for the Doak Walker Award and the nation’s leading rusher. Fry said Greene compares favorably with Sedrick Shaw, who played for Fry from 1993-96 and is the school’s all-time leading rusher.
  “I guess (Greene) does. I hadn’t really thought about it,” Fry said. “I don’t know if he’s got the speed that Sedrick had, but you know Nick Bell was larger. Tony Stewart may have been faster, I don’t know, I know Sedrick was.
  “(Greene is) larger than some of the running backs that I had that were really good. He’s not as elusive but for a big guy he is elusive. I just hope and prays he stays with the Hawkeyes another year.”
  Fry also was excited about the job Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz has done this year. Iowa finished 8-4 after a 3-3 start. The four losses came by a total of 12 points.
  “A super job when you lose that many games that close,” Fry said. “It’s real hard to keep the morale up and the sportswriters and the news media off his rump. They hung in there and that 55 to zip against Minnesota and one point against Penn State was super.”
  Fry said he’s thrilled for his former assistant Bill Snyder, who decided to return to Kansas State at age 69.
“He worked so hard to build that program, and they’ve slowed down some and he’s got so much pride in what he did to get it back and he will,” Fry said.
  As for Fry, his health is declining some but his wit remains strong.
  “I’ve had a couple of bladder cancer operations recently, and I asked the doc after the last one, I said, ‘What do you think, doc?'” Fry said. “And he looked at me and said, ‘You really want to know?’ I said, ‘Of course I want to know.’ ‘Well, I’ll tell you one thing, you’re too dang ornery to die.’ I said, ‘That’s what I wanted to hear.'”


Brands’ future still at Iowa?

November 26, 2008

You betcha, according to Iowa’s sports information department:

University of Iowa Director of Athletics Gary Barta announced today that Coach Tom Brands has signed a contract extension that will run through the 2013 wrestling season.


“Tom Brands is the best wrestling coach in the country,” said Barta. “When you combine that with the fact he’s been a Hawkeye all his life, the fit is perfect. I look forward to working with him for many years to come.”


Brands’ new contract will run through June 2013 and increases his guaranteed annual compensation to about $150,000. Additional academic and athletic incentives will offer Brands opportunities for additional income.


Brands’ initial salary was for $95,000 and $20,000 in camp revenue, according to his contract signed April 18, 2006. He earned $35,000 in incentives last year for winning the BIg Ten and NCAA tournament title.


The 2008 NWCA, W.I.N. Magazine and Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year, Brands is in his third season as Iowa’s head wrestling coach. He has a 39-6 overall and 13-3 Big Ten record at Iowa, and a 56-26 career mark. Brands and the defending NCAA and Big Ten Champion Hawkeyes are off to a 4-0 start this season with wins over Iowa Central (52-0), Coe (51-0), Minnesota State Mankato (45-3) and Arizona State (41-0) at the Iowa City Duals last week. Iowa is currently on an 18-dual match winning streak.


In only his second season as head coach, Brands guided the 2007-08 squad to NCAA and Big Ten titles, as well the Big Ten regular season title with an undefeated 8-0 league mark. It was Iowa’s 21st NCAA team title – the first since 2000 – and the Hawkeyes’ 32nd Big Ten championship – the first since 2004. Iowa also won the 2007 Midlands title and the Division I trophy at the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals in January. The Hawkeyes posted a 21-1 dual mark, ending the season on a 14-match winning streak. Senior Mark Perry and sophomore Brent Metcalf each won NCAA titles, and Iowa crowned a total of seven all-Americans, which was the most for Iowa since 2001. Iowa also produced six academic all-Big Ten honorees, which is the second-highest total in school history.


Brands served as head coach at Virginia Tech University for two seasons (2005-06), recording a 17-20 dual mark. Prior to taking the helm at Virginia Tech, Brands was an assistant coach at Iowa for 12 seasons (1993-2004). He helped the Hawkeyes to a 177-27 dual record, seven NCAA and eight Big Ten titles, while crowning 23 NCAA champions, 73 all-Americans and 36 Big Ten champions. He was named the NWCA Assistant Coach of the Year in 2000.


As a competitor, Brands won the 1996 Olympic freestyle gold medal at 136.5 pounds in Atlanta, GA. He also won a gold medal at the 1993 World Freestyle Championships in Toronto, two World Cup gold medals (1994, 1995) and was the 1995 Pan American Games champion. He won four U.S. National titles (1993-96) and made four straight U.S. World or Olympic teams (1993-96). Along with his twin brother, Terry, Tom was named 1993 USA Wrestling Athlete of the Year, the 1993 John Smith Outstanding Freestyle Wrestler and 1993 Amateur Wrestling News Man of the Year. He was inducted into wrestling’s Hall of Fame in 2001.


Brands was a four-time all-American at Iowa (1989-92). During his Hawkeye career, he won three NCAA titles and was named Outstanding Wrestler of the 1992 NCAA Championships. Also a three time Big Ten champion, Brands won 95 percent of his matches at Iowa. His career mark of 158-7-2, included an undefeated season in 1991 (45-0).

Bowl projections, 4th edition

November 24, 2008

Here’s a look at the next round of bowl projections, starting with the BCS:


BCS Championship: Florida vs. Texas. Both teams win league championship games and meet for the BCS title.

Rose Bowl: Penn State vs. USC. I’m predicting the South (Oregon) beats the North (Oregon State) in the Civil War this weekend, giving the Pac 10 title to USC.

Fiesta Bowl: Texas Tech vs. Utah. Although Oklahoma smacked Texas Tech by 44 points, the schools switch positions to give everyone a change of scenery.

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Ohio State. Ohio State gets a shot at earning its ‘R’ back after two consecutive bowl blowouts. Alabama gets here by losing to Florida.

Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati. And people wonder why bowl games get lower ratings than Saturday Night Football on ABC.


Capital One Bowl: Michigan State vs. Georgia. This bowl wants Iowa, but it sees Michigan State with a better record and a win against Iowa and decides not to pull the trigger.

Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. South Carolina. This bowl has no problem picking Iowa.

Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Mississippi. Houston Nutt coaches a team to the Cotton Bowl for the second straight season, only to get a major Big 12 butt-whipping. 

Gator Bowl: Florida State vs. Nebraska. Nice match-up, about 10 years ago. Now, it’s a good match-up that should capture fans and a few eyeballs.

Liberty Bowl:Tulsa vs. LSU. Conference USA just doesn’t carry as much as weight as it did when Louisville was in it. 


Alamo Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Oklahoma State. Fans will flock to see the Alamo, where Jim Bowie and Bret Bielema went down in flames.

Champs Bowl: Northwestern vs. Wake Forest. Nobody really wants Northwestern’s crowd; the Champs Bowl just has to take them.

Insight Bowl: Minnesota vs. Kansas. Two years ago, Glen Mason’s team suffered a monumental collapse in the desert. Yep, things don’t change much in Gopherland.

Motor City Bowl: Pittsburgh (replacing Big Ten) vs. Ball State. This actually would be a pretty good match-up, if Pittsburgh swallowed its pride and did it.

Chick-fil-A (I still call it the Peach) Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky. Bowl picks Kentucky over LSU because 7-5 isn’t a bad season in Lexington. An 8-4 season in Baton Rouge is atrocious.

Sun Bowl: Oregon State vs. Notre Dame. Most Big East schools flip-flop “Notre Dame” and drop the “e” for stealing this bowl.

Holiday Bowl: Missouri vs. Oregon. I wouldn’t be surprised if Missouri upset Texas/Oklahoma and won the Big 12 title game, either. 

Las Vegas Bowl: TCU vs. Arizona. Good regional bowl and match-up. Wouldn’t the Big 12 be better served with TCU over Baylor?

Independence Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette (replacing SEC) vs. Louisiana Tech (replacing Big 12). There are worse options for this bowl, I suppose.

Texas Bowl: Central Michigan (for Big 12) vs. Rice. Bowl officials should really just rename this bowl after its predecessor, the Bluebonnet Bowl.

Music City Bowl: Maryland vs. Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt’s athletic/academic director will admire the lack of travel expenses.

Poinsettia: BYU vs. Boise State (for Pac 10): Great match-up, perhaps the most watchable of the lower bowls.


Armed Forces Bowl: Colorado State vs. Houston 

Humanitarian Bowl: Nevada vs. North Carolina

Meineke Bowl: Miami vs. West Virginia

Emerald Bowl: Boston College vs. California

Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. Rutgers (for Pac 10)

Papa John’s: Louisville vs. Northern Illinois (for SEC)

International Bowl: Connecticut vs. Buffalo

GMAC Bowl: Western Michigan vs. East Carolina 

New Orleans Bowl: Troy vs. Memphis

New Mexico Bowl: Fresno State vs. Air Force 

Congressional Bowl: Clemson vs. Navy

St. Petersburg Bowl: Southern Mississippi vs. South Florida

Iowa hoops fans in Charleston; what about IC?

November 21, 2008

Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter was amazed with the 300 or so Iowa fans who sat behind his bench at The Citadel on Thursday. Some, like Mike Gatens — Matt’s father, made the trek from Iowa City. Several others live in the Southeast and comprised about 15 percent of the 2,024 people at McAlister Field House.

“I tell you what, they’re the best. It’s incredible,” Lickliter said of the road Iowa fans. “Everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve received support. It’s exciting to see them. When they’re chanting and you know they’re there, it’s obviously helpful.”

“What I’d like to see is maybe the ones that live in our state come and fill Carver. That would be a neat thing. I appreciate the ones that are there, but I sure would like to get a few more in Carver.”

Lickliter took more of a love tap than a jab at the fans back home who tend to stay away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa’s home attendance has slowly declined since 2001, the last season with an average sellout of 15,500. Last year, Lickliter’s first at Iowa, the school averaged 10,761, the lowest since the arena opened in 1983.

This year Iowa has posted attendance numbers of 9,070 for the opener against Charleston Southern and 8,051 against Texas-San Antonio. It’s likely that between half and two-thirds of those numbers was actual attendance.

I’m going to leave the attendance drum to the perpetual beatings of other staff members. And there’s nowhere to go but up on that front. Other than the economy (OK, a really  big one), there are few excuses left for Iowa fans who hated Steve Alford and didn’t like his players to stay away. Beginning Dec. 2, every Iowa game will be on nearly every television set in the state. No game starts later than 7:30 p.m. 

This team is young, but local. Lickliter carries an “aw shucks” personality, hardly the high-ego manner that made Alford a borderline pariah by his final year. This team plays real hard and has some talent. The players will make mistakes this year.  But they watchable. And they will get much, much better.

ESPN snags BCS games; playoffs next?

November 18, 2008

ESPN apparently will air the four BCS football games beginning Jan. 1, 2011 when Fox chose not to match ESPN’s $600 million, four-year bid, according to multiple Web sites.

Fox, which holds the TV rights to the BCS title game, the Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, finishes its contract after next season. Here’s the story on ESPN.com


The big question is once ESPN gets a hold of the BCS, how much pressure would it pose on college football’s ambassadors to move beyond one championship and four consolation bowls and incorporate a plus-one model or expanded playoff system.

My preference is for a 24-team playoff, kind of a cross between Division II and the NCAA basketball tournament. Say you allow give 10 conference champions an automatic berth (judge the Sun Belt on different criteria), and 14 at-large berths among the rest. Then put a conference cap at four teams (it would leave out at least one good Big 12 team) and don’t allow more than league team per region. Top two seeds get byes for the first round and highest seed hosts games through the national semifinal round. Using the bowls would be too costly for fans, especially in this market.

Here’s a look at modified playoff field might look under this plan:


1. Penn State; 2. Florida; 3. Missouri; 4. Oregon State;  5. BYU; 6. Houston


1. Alabama; 2. Oklahoma; 3. Michigan State; 4. Boise State; 5. Oregon; 6. Miami


1. Texas Tech; 2. Ohio State; 3. Georgia; 4. Cincinnati; 5. North Carolina; 6. Ball State


1. USC; 2. Texas; 3. Utah; 4. LSU; 5. PIttsburgh; 6. Maryland

Got any better ideas? Ship them my way.

TV access irritates Iowa hoops fans

November 14, 2008

Iowa football fans with cable access have been able to watch every game this year. But basketball fans with satellite receivers feel they’re coming up short on the Hawks this year.

A cable television network, such as the Big Ten Network or ESPN’s family of channels, will televise 25 of Iowa’s 31 men’s basketball games. But that doesn’t include several early non-conference games.

The Big Ten Network will stream the other six games live on its Web site — www.bigtennetwork.com. Mediacom will air that feed live on its Connections Channel. But satellite and cooperative companies don’t get the feed, which leaves their fans out in the cold.

Here’s a sampling off some fans (edited version) in the Corridor area about not watching Iowa basketball:

“Have you heard this … the Big Ten Network is only televising 3 of iowa’s nonconference basketball games.  They are allowing Mediacom to air the remaining nonconference games.  What a crock …  For the last 3 years they were whipping up the fan base with BTN rallying cries.  Now they’re giving games away.” 

“Last year when the BTN and Mediacom could not come to terms, fans were told to get a satellite dish. Dish and DirecTV got a huge number of new subscribers. Now the BTN has allowed Mediacom and only Mediacom to carry these games. What a slap in the face to fans who supported the BTN last year. I could live with them not showing the games, but putting them of Mediacom is just wrong.”

Here’s the real explanation. The Big Ten Network doesn’t get overflow channels on either digital or satellite television like during football season so it broadcasts only one game at a time for all 11 Big Ten schools. Iowa’s games on Friday, 17 and 25 for sure will be on its Web site and Mediacom Connections channel. The BTN is airing the Nov. 23 game against Oakland. From Dec. 2 on, either the BTN or the ESPN family of networks will carry every Iowa game.

It does seem a bit unfair that those people who were among the first to jump from Mediacom to the satellite companies, and perhaps the most loyal of the recyliner Hawkeyes fans, do get hosed on this one. But the games are available free of charge online so people can watch them there. Or, there are PLENTY of tickets available. Perhaps the next-best decision for next year is for Iowa or the Big Ten Network to organize a side deal with local Iowa affiliates — kind of like the old ESPN-Plus arrangement — so every fan in the state can watch games not televised by the BTN or ESPN(2/U/Classic/Deportes).

It would be good for as many eyeballs in the state to see this team after last year’s lagging court performance and attendance numbers.

Kelly’s status for opener …

November 13, 2008

Iowa sophomore guard Jake Kelly is uncertain if he’ll play in Iowa’s season opener Friday against Charleston Southern.

Kelly practiced Wednesday with a broken middle finger on his right hand, which was submerged in tape and a bandage. He suffered the broken finger last week when Cyrus Tate stepped on it in practice.

“It’s day-to-day,” Kelly said. “If I wake up Friday morning and it feels a lot better, then I’m going to play.”

Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter also is uncertain about Kelly’s condition.

“I just wait, and I really leave so much of that up to (Iowa trainer) John Streif (with) whom I have great trust,” Lickliter said. “We’re going to do what’s best for (Kelly). It’s like I know he would have wanted to play in the exhibition, but we’re going to make sure we don’t get a setback on it. We’ve waited this long, we’re going to make sure it’s healed.”

Kelly started 25 of 32 games last year and averaged 7.3 points a game.