Saturday, June 04, 2005

A positive sign

In what I consider one of the most positive signs to come out of the athletic department in months, ISU has decided to not retain the servicesnot retain the services of softball coach Ruth Crowe.

I've considered the softball team the "canary in the coalmine" of Cyclone Sports. They have long been the doormat of the Big8/12, and a lack of interest by the AD in changing the situation told me that softball was just a sport to have to remain in athletic compliance, rather than be competitive. Crowe coached in Ames for nine seasons, and compiled a stunning .377 winning percentage. Most of those wins came in the non-conference schedule, since Crowe's squads only managed a .248 percentage in conference. When your program's high point came during consecutive 6-12 B12 finishes, you are either going to continue with mediocrity, or pretend to be serious and make a change.

Softball, like baseball, is handicapped at ISU. It's tough to develop a quality program in Ames when your league opponents can schedule home games in February. With the paltry budget ISU has for sports, the "Olympic" sports are going to get crumbs compared to Nebraska and Texas. But that can only live as an excuse for so long. There should still be the occasional season where everything falls into place, the breaks go your way, and you get a winning record. Crowe's teams never approached that.

Perhaps Crowe cooked her goose during the 2002 season when she complained about having to endure an invocation before the game at the private Baptist school. Her complaints were legally incorrect, they swung a negative spotlight towards her floundering program, and probably put her on a short leash. When the team's results only went south from there, a change had to be made.

So now the hiring process has begun. I will be curious to see who is the eventual hire: A coach with a winning track record on some level, or someone who will be a good "political" hire, and who will help keep ISU in compliance. It would be nice if the new coach can do both.