Iowa City High’s A.J. Derby keeps his options open

July 20, 2009
Iowa City High quarterback A. J. Derby carries the ball as Cedar Rapids Xavier's Steven Travis tries, unsuccessfully, to stop his progress during their game on Nov. 3, 2008, at City High School in Iowa City.

Iowa City High quarterback A. J. Derby carries the ball as Cedar Rapids Xavier's Steven Travis tries, unsuccessfully, to stop his progress during their game on Nov. 3, 2008, at City High School in Iowa City.

Iowa City High quarterback A.J. Derby compiles football scholarship offers like others his age collect football cards.

Derby, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound senior, has scholarship offers from Florida, Louisiana State, Alabama, Florida State, Michigan, Miami, Nebraska and several others — “I can’t list them all off but it’s a lot,” he said. Iowa also feverishly has targeted him.

“It’s just kind of wide open right now,” Derby said. “I plan on taking all of my official visits. So I’m going to wait until the school year, then narrow it down to five and decide where I’m going to take my officials.

“It’s wide open. I’m still talking to everyone.”

Derby hopes to take a few of his visits on Saturdays following Thursday night high school games. Iowa City High plays Thursday night games on Sept. 17, Sept. 24 and Oct. 22.

Derby played wide receiver and defensive back for Iowa City High as a sophomore before moving to quarterback last year. He completed 77 of 136 passes for 1,197 yards and 11 touchdowns while throwing four interceptions. Derby also led Iowa City High in rushing with 1,064 yards on 168 attempts and scored 13 touchdowns.

With Derby’s frame and versatility, many wonder if colleges are recruiting Derby as a quarterback then switch him to tight end, linebacker or safety. Other speculation involves whether Derby could play the role of a running quarterback, like Florida’s Tim Tebow.

“Everyone is recruiting me for quarterback,” Derby said. “Some (schools want him as a running quarterback), and some don’t. Some want me to be a pocket passer. It’s kind of a little of both.”

Derby also faces outside pressure to remain with the hometown school, Iowa. His father, John, was an all-Big Ten linebacker at Iowa. His older brother, Zach, plays tight end at Iowa.

“They tell me to go Iowa all the time,” Derby said of his friends. “These coaches (baseball coaches from Cedar Rapids Kennedy) were trying to tell me to go to Iowa after the game. I’m kind of used to it.

“My dad just said do what you think is right for yourself and don’t just do what he wants, but do what I want.”

“I just try not to think about it too much and try to be a normal kid.”


ISU receives major payout from 2008 Iowa-ISU FB game

July 16, 2009
The Cy-Hawk Trophy donated by the Des Moines Athletic Club when Iowa State and Iowa resumed football competition in 1977.

The Cy-Hawk Trophy donated by the Des Moines Athletic Club when Iowa State and Iowa resumed football competition in 1977.

Iowa’s athletics department paid Iowa State $616,383.48 for its 2008 appearance at Kinnick Stadium, per the schools’ current football contract.

The payout exceeds Iowa State’s share from 2006 by more than $23,000 or the school’s share in 2004 by more than $35,000. The contract between the universities stipulates that the home school pay the visitor 20 percent in gate receipts after taxes.

Iowa State and Iowa agreed to a new contract in 2008 that lasts through 2017, but the terms change following the 2012 game. Beginning in 2013, the host school will keep all of the gate receipts.

The current arrangement favors Iowa State because of stadium capacity. Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium holds more than 70,000 fans, while Iowa State’s Jack Trice Stadium holds around 55,000. Iowa received $330,389 from Iowa State following the 2007 game in Ames, nearly half of what Iowa State took in last season. 

Iowa State also will benefit from earning the final 20 percent cut in 2012 and then keeping all of the gate in 2013.

This year Iowa State hosts Iowa Sept. 12. Individual tickets are available through Iowa’s ticket office for $92. Iowa State is offering a three-game package that includes Iowa, North Dakota State and Colorado beginning July 20 for $99. Iowa State also selling hillside-only tickets for $60.

NFL Network vs. Big Ten Network in the dead zone

July 3, 2009

Slow doesn’t begin to describe this time of year for college athletics and the NFL. Having covered both for a significant period of time, I can tell you everyone associated with the NFL is on vacation during the July 4 holiday. Likewise, college officials usually are as far from campus as possible.

It’s only reasonable to expect two networks exclusively televising pro football or college athletics to struggle for relevant programming this time of year. To examine this, I went through the entire television schedule of both the NFL Network and the Big Ten Network beginning with Sunday, June 28 and ending on July 4. Here are my observations.

Both networks repeat programming the same way Clear Channel recycles songs and news stories on the radio. The Big Ten Network repeated programming 45 times during this week. That includes four telecasts of “Big Ten Legends: Lloyd Carr” and four airings of the 2009 Big Ten men’s tennis tournament. The NFL Network is much, much worse. It replayed its programming 90 times during the seven-day period.

The Big Ten Network is required to show campus programming, and this is the perfect time of year to do so. There were three airings of Purdue’s “Boiler Bytes,” and Northwestern’s “Student Concerto Competition.” Iowa varied its campus programming with shows on vitality, sustainability and “Getting Ready for the Boom.” I presume that’s a euphemism for the alarm clock to wake us from that programming, but I digress.

The Big Ten Network has done a good job of trying to shake up its replays by instituting campus-specific programming on different days. There have been (and will be again on July 12) Iowa days when the network airs past games in which Iowa was victorious.

During this sample week, the Big Ten Network devoted a day for Wisconsin. The programming included a 1999 Rose Bowl victory, a big basketball win against Maryland in 2000 and the annual hockey grudge match against Minnesota. There also was campus programming on the common cold (aahh-chew), international relations (is this the fishing zone between the U.S. and Canada?) and the mind of a psychopath (Wisconsin’s own Jeffrey Dahmer?).

On July 4, the BTN will air the league’s greatest football games of 2008, plus other football-related programming. Good move. Overall, it was a decent week for the network, which slowly is building its resume as one of the better sports networks on television.

The NFL Network is the reigning repeat champion. No other network outside of Headline News repeats its programming more than the NFL Network. It’s a shame because the NFL Network has so much potential.

During the June 28-July 4 sample week, the NFL Network was fairly predictable, based on past years. Sundays are filled with 90-minute replays from four games during a 2008 weekend From noon Sunday through 6 p.m. Monday, those replays ran 16 times.

The NFL Network’s daily trademark, “Total Access,” is a one-hour news/feature show that airs every weeknight at 6 p.m. Unfortunately, it re-airs and re-airs and re-airs some more. The Monday version aired 10 times. The Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday versions aired 12 times each. That’s way too much programming time to dedicate to one 60-minute show.

The network also re-airs other programming at an alarming rate. Tuesday night, the network showed two 30-minute and one 60-minute episodes of “NFL Game of the Week.” Those shows then re-aired nine more times.

On Monday nights (and usually on the following Saturday), the NFL Network airs a “Classic Game” with its original broadcasters. Unfortunately, many of the classics go back to 2008 or 2007. Since the 1970 merger, there have been 9,061 games NFL games played — 8,680 regular season, 381 postseason.

The NFL Network did schedule a weekend dedicated to its Emmy-winning documentary series “America’s Game.” Beginning at 5 a.m. on July 4, the network will air each episode of its Super Bowl champion series, followed by its “Missing Rings” series. That’s a tremendous idea, but the network should have started it earlier in the week to expose those fans who have yet to see it.

What the NFL Network does, it does well. It just doesn’t do it enough and it is much too repetitive. When Brett Favre returns again expect nothing the network to destroy all of its programming to show his first Packers’ game, the Monday night game following his dad’s death, the Packers’ Super Bowl XXXI win and last year’s Jets-Patriots Thursday night game on NFL Network.  The network did it when he retired, when he un-retired and then when he retired again.

San Diego State officials to Ex-Hawk Chuck Long: We can’t quit you (but we’d like to)

June 28, 2009

San Diego State is desperately trying to rid itself of former Iowa great Chuck Long, who was fired as head coach last November. Here’s the story in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

New York Jets ink Shonn Greene

June 15, 2009
Former Iowa running back Shonn Greene signed a contract today with the New York Jets, the team announced today. The Jets drafted Greene with the first pick in the third round in April’s NFL draft.

Terms were not disclosed. Here’s the story from the Jets’ Web site:

Interesting travel story of the year No. 1: Men’s hoops at Ohio State, football at Outback

June 11, 2009

schottenstein_centerThe wildest trip I took this season included seven cities in less than four days, more stops than former Miss California Carrie Prejean on a marriage preservation tour. There was anxiety and enjoyment. It included both Iowa football and basketball.

I originally slotted my basketball trips in late September. That included Iowa’s game at Ohio State, which was scheduled for 4 p.m. on Dec. 31. Yep, that’s right, New Year’s Eve. Well, I didn’t want to ring in 2009 in Columbus, Ohio so I scheduled a late-evening flight back to Cedar Rapids. I didn’t expect Iowa’s football team would make a New Year’s Day bowl game so I figured I’d just stick to basketball that day.

In early December, Iowa was selected to play in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 1. I was interested in joining Gazette comrades Marc Morehouse and Mike Hlas in covering the event so I had to rearrange the flight pattern.

The best way I could get from Columbus to Tampa was via Charlotte. I had to leave Columbus at 7:50 p.m. for that flight, but with a 4 p.m. start, making that flight was difficult to say the least. But I tried it anyway.

I flew from Cedar Rapids to Chicago and then Columbus and arrived around midnight on Dec. 30. I staffed a basketball game that appeared to be a blowout in the first half with Ohio State leading 30-15. Then Iowa mounted a major comeback and took the lead in the second half. Needless to say, I was stressed. I wrote most of my story through the game. Iowa had one chance left but freshman Matt Gatens’ last-second three-pointer went astray and Ohio State won 68-65. Had Gatens, who had a great game, hit that shot, the game would have went into overtime and I would have missed my flight. Instead, I made my flight with a few minutes to spare.

I flew to Charlotte first then landed in Tampa around 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 1. Southern cities celebrate the New Year with fireworks, something that surprised me until I realized it’s about 50 degrees warmer there than in Iowa. So it was kind of cool to fly above the fireworks. On the flight to Tampa a depressed couple lamented that they had to kiss each other on the airplane serenaded with a New Year’s countdown by the pilot. Too bad for them.

staduim2By the time I got to the hotel after a stressful trip, it was 1:30 a.m. I arrived at Raymond James Stadium by 8:30 a.m. I watched Iowa beat the living daylights out of South Carolina. I relaxed for a few hours that night before waking at 3 a.m. for a 6 a.m. Eastern flight. I was entertained by the dozens of hungover Iowa fans at the airport, including an old high school friend who hadn’t been to bed since arriving on Dec. 31. Then it was on to Atlanta, St. Louis and then Cedar Rapids.

Sportswriters often get hit with comments like “aww, that must be rough” when we travel to cover teams. But none of those people had to staff a basketball game and make a flight within four hours away with a basketball arena 10 miles from the airport. But getting around one day in 70-degree weather in Tampa made it all worth it.

Iowa could kill media guides to save trees and cash

June 2, 2009

08-fb-mg-cover-300IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa has not decided whether or not to eliminate team media guides for the upcoming 2009-2010 sports season.

Big Ten schools Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin all chose to eliminate media guides for next year. According to a joint press release, Michigan and Ohio State said the move will save their departments a combined $250,000 next year. Wisconsin Athletics Director Barry Alvarez said the move will save his athletic department up to $200,000, according to reports.

Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said Tuesday the school will make a decision quickly and “before the deadline to print.” Big Ten schools have brought media guides to the league’s annual football media days in late July. Barta said the school has considered the move for several months.

“Whether or not we eliminate them, I’m not certain yet,” he said. “We haven’t made any final decisions. but we did talk about ways we might be able to reduce them and use the Internet, use an electronic replacement for those.

“We met about it the last couple of weeks, so we’re going to have to make a decision pretty soon.”

Barta said it’s possible the school may choose to keep some of the media guides but eliminate others. Conserving paper and sustainability also are factors in Iowa’s choice to keep the guides or eliminate them.

Media guides formerly displayed vital information for reporters. In 2004, Missouri’s football media guide was 614 pages and had four pages dedicated to red-shirt freshmen. In 2005, the NCAA limited football media guides to 208 pages, and schools chose to use the guides as a recruiting tool and less of a history book.

Barta said the department will examine how eliminating the guide might affect recruiting before making a final decision.

“One of the ways many of the young people we recruit now when we talk to them, they’re really going to Web sites, Internet sites,” Barta said. “So that appears to be where the trend is going anyway. So that’s what we’re trying to determine. Certainly we don’t want to do anything to damage our recruiting.

“If you look at there’s a lot more interest in going green in conserving paper, etc. The world has certainly changed a lot electronically and the Internet from five years ago and economically things have changed as well.