Sunday, December 31, 2006


Until last season, I described Mack Brown as the coach who had done the least with the most. He has now returned to form.

Losses to mediocre Kansas State and horrid a$m dropped UT all the way to the Alamo bowl and a date against an underachieving Iowa squad that managed only 2 conference wins.

The result? A come from behind win where UT found itself down 14-0, and almost 21-3. Only a botched halfback option saved the Longhorns.

Perhaps no program plays down to the level of the competition when nothing is on the line more than UT. While Iowa put forth its best effort of the season- an effort that would have won games against NW, Indy and Minny- Texas' lack of effort dug the hole.

Naturally, Iowa draws an indifferent Texas squad, but ISU seldom gets a shot at that.

It is understandable that UT's players didn't care. When you are having smoke blown up your skirt from the age of seven, a date with a 6-6 team in a possibly third-tier bowl doesn't get your juices flowing no matter how many sprints you are given in practice leading up to it. It goes with the territory of being highly gifted, and knowing it.

Give me a squad of three-star lunchbucket types any day. They won't win every game, but they will have the courtesy to show up and work hard every week.

Gene- remember this when you are out recruiting. You need both kinds of kid to win.


Monday, December 11, 2006

One Step Back

I watched the game twice off the TiVo. To say ISU struggled to find an offensive rythym in Iowa City would be nice.

For once, I thought Alford had a good game plan: Ball pressure. Whoever had the ball was forced to do something with it. In an offense that is still looking down, trying to follow the footsteps taped to the floor, it was a recipe for disaster. The result was 26 turnovers. The Cyclones looked somewahat confused on defense, and completely discombobulated on offense.

If you remove all the layups SUI got off of turnovers, ISU had a pretty good night from the defensive shooting percentage standpoint. They rebounded like mothers. SUI made some Every-Piece-Of-Garbage-Is-Going-In shots to boot.

SUI was clearly ready to go for this one, coming off their epic collapse against UNI. When they are in their usual Big 1011 free-fall in February we can snicker that they put waaaay too much emphasis on the ISU game.

Things will get better, but while this team is climbing the learning curve, there are going to be stinky stretches like we are in right now.


Friday, December 08, 2006


An interesting subplot of tonight's SUI-ISU game: SUI really, really, really needs this game to keep their hopes of an NCAA bid alive.

SUI already has 5 losses, which when added to an optimistic 8-8 Big 1011 record, leaves them with 13 losses. If they split their games against ISU and Drake- no guarantees there- they end with 14 losses, a bubble total to be sure. An 8-8 league finish may include a few quality wins, but would most likely include a few bad losses, too. They need all the help they can get.

It is far too early to say a home win over a rebuilding ISU will get SUI into the tourney, but a loss will dig the hole another foot or two deeper.

Here's a shovel, boys- keep up the fine work.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Head Games

Technically, Iowa State looked like they knew what they were doing on the mat Sunday.

But they have miles to go in the mental game.

Peak in March and all is forgiven.


Too Little, Too Late

Teams that get down 16 with 8 to go can't complain when things don't work out in the end.

Can the Cyclones exchange a horrid game against Drake for the best effort of the year in Iowa City? That would be nice to see.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Overinflated Expectations

The spinning has begun.

Fans of SUI have already started raising the expectation bar so high that Chizik is doomed, in their eyes, to failure.

Exhibit A.- Ron Maly, retired Register sportswriter. Check out some of his list of what Gene must do to keep his (and Jamie's) job:

1. He must beat Iowa four times every five years. In his one loss to the Hawkeyes in that five-year period, his team can'’t lose by more than three points. Chizik'’s first victory in the series must come next season, when Iowa plays at Iowa State.

2. Both Texas and Oklahoma play in Ames next season -- the Longhorns on Oct. 13, the Sooners on Oct. 20. Chizik needs to beat one of those teams- preferably Texas, the place he'’s leaving.

7. His Cyclones need to win the Big 12 North championship -- preferably next season or no later than the season after that.

8. Chizik'’s teams need to beat Nebraska two years out of every three. Sticking it to the Cornhuskers in Lincoln, where some people still aren't sure Iowa State has a football program, will be important.

9. Chizik needs to be voted the Big 12 coach of the year very soon.

Beat SUI four of five? Beat the Huskers two of three? Beat Texas or OU next year? Win the North in the next two years? Is he insane?

I doubt St. Kirk, The Three Million Dollar Man and The State's Highest Paid Employee, could do that, or would be expected to, either. I don't know that Pete Carroll and half of his USC team could accomplish that- let alone a rookie coach with massive holes in the two-deep. Be rational.

Iowa fans (and ex-sportswriters) are trying to paint the dismissal of McCarney as "He didn't win enough" which I think misses the point. Dan probably did win enough to hang around. But he lost too much, to bad teams, to be rewarded with more years.

If Kirk went 0-8 and 1-7 in the 1011 in the span of four years, would he be retained? I don't think so. Why should ISU settle for that.

And give Gene at least a Spring Game before you start setting goals neither he- nor the miracle workers in Iowa City- can meet.



The Cy-Hawk closes to 5-4 with a Women's Hoops win in Iowa City.

Well done, especially for doing it the hard way, spotting The Team Out East 11 points after the tip.

Next up: the most anticipated ISU-SUI wrestling meet in recent memory.


Monday, November 27, 2006

As big a coup as Johnny?

Keeler- Chizik is possibly the biggest coup on Elwood Drive since Johnny Orr.

Ask me in five years. Here's hoping.


Time for fresh unis

At a school like ISU, a coaching change means a uniform change. If ISU is going to mimic someone, here are my personal favorites:

USC- the classic, essentially unchanged since the leather helmet days.

The Redskins from the 60's. Another good look after adjusting to ISU's cardinal and gold. (Photo from a Japanese Football League. Who would have thunk it?)

If we are going to revert to the gold helmets ISU wore in the 60's, why not the old school 49ers look?

What can I say? I like the yellow pants, even the USFL Philadelphia Stars version.

My point is this: I hate teams that have two colors (Blue and gold, red and blue, orange and maroon) who then wear unis that have as much white on them as possible. Leave that for the hundreds of teams that are (insert color here) and white. ISU is Cardinal and Gold. Wear both, dang it!

Which means, no this:


Pollard, Rabbit, Hat

Two hires, two surprises at the podium being introduced. Nice poker face. If Walden had as much misdirection in his game and Pollard does, Jim would still be the coaching a team dressed in a red version of LSU.

I hope Coach Chizik (gotta load that name in the spell check) finds what he defines as success in Ames: a long tenure, Conference and National Championships, a mountain of cash, helping to make boys into men, a couple of decent seasons so he can get a job at a proper Big Time Football School, whatever.

If Chizik uses ISU as a stepping stone, great. It means that A. ISU had a few good seasons in a row, and maybe one great season, and B. The program is probably in better shape that Chizik now finds it, making it easier to attract another talented coach and putting a bit of the "coaching graveyard" rep to bed. Bring on the wins.

Personally, I was excited to hire a coach with an extensive record as a head coach, since I wasn't real keen on going through the on-the-job-training thing again. But considering the last two coaches ISU hired were heads at their previous stops, and they eventually failed, lets go with another DC. That Weis guy seems to be working out, and he never played on any level.


Sunday, November 26, 2006


So the officials "made a mistake" in calling a hold against Missouri's probable winning touchdown play. Was the mistake that there wasn't a hold on the play, or that you don't call holding on 4th and goal with 30 seconds left? has some nice photographic evidence that it was indeed holding, or at least suspicious enough to draw a flag.

But what if the latter is the mistake? If the officials are reluctant to throw a subjective flag in a key moment, does that mean ISU's DB's should have held all of MU's receivers to defend the play?

I suspect that the "ISU screwed by bad calls" column is still a long way from equilibrium. A bowl winning field goal is no good when the ball was over the upright? Seneca didn't get the pylon against FSU?

Add your favorite blown play here.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Stat geekiness

I admit to being a mild stat geek. I'm not enough of one to write my own spreadsheets or anything, but I love digging through boxscores and season summaries. It's scary how often you can pick up trends buried in the numbers.

Which is why I love the basketball stats that CrossCyed is tracking. Really interesting stuff.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Just think

Had ISU played a decent second half in Iowa City, SUI would be bowless.

But what really stinks, as a Cyclone fan, is that SUI's "booby prize" bowl is a better trip than ISU has ever had.

Perhaps ISU could petition the 1011 to replace SUI in the league. We promise that our fans won't be as obnoxious as theirs.

Edit: One further thought- Iowa fan seemed very quick to toss out the "too many bowl games" bit whenever ISU accepted a trip to Boise, Shreveport or Houston. If they go to San Antonio, they can never again toss the "Too Many" line out as a slur towards anyone else's trip.



Where was that effort all year?

Why not feature the Ghost of John Riggins all season?

Why can you beat Mizzou as the weaker team, and not as the better team with a title on the line?

Saturday's win encapsulated everything that we loved about Mac's run, and much of what drove us bonkers.

That bit of dessert allows us a nice finish to what was at times an uneven meal.


Monday, November 13, 2006


K State's Ron Prince, in 11 games, has defeated more B12 teams that will finish the year ranked than Dan McCarney defeated in 12 seasons.

11 games vs. 12 seasons. 1-0.

It's time.


Friday, November 10, 2006


As folks recap DM's career, one game is often in the Top 10 wins: a 35-27 win in Boulder. It catapulted ISU to the Insight bowl, was a quality road win, and said for the first time that ISU was ready to play on the road.

By coincidence, that same day SUI beat a ranked Northwestern team, marking the ascendancy of Kirk's team into a power and the return of Northwestern to the second tier in the 1011. NW didn't even get off the bus that day, it was that bad.

Funny how teams can meet each other going in opposite direction on the same field.



The word is that J. Pollard is on the road to hire a football coach. Alone.

I didn't know he could do that.

The last major football hire in-state required a 17-person committee, four rounds of interviews, a period for public questions and blood and DNA samples.

I kinda like the new way.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Can this myth die already?

Of all the reasons given as to why ISU football struggles, none grates my teeth more than this chestnut:

"Ames is a tough town to recruit to. It's not very exciting."

If an "exciting" town is a key ingredient to winning football, how did Norman, Lincoln, Knoxville, Happy Valley, Auburn, South Bend, Fayetteville or Ann Arbor manage to draw enough talent to win? How come no school in any of these cities has won a title in recent memory: New York City, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, DC, St. Louis, Kansas City, Houston, Tampa, New Orleans, Denver, San Francisco/Oakland, San Diego?

When a writer or fan throws out the "it's tough to recruit there" line it really means "I wouldn't have gone there".

I've been to Manhattan, Kansas and Lubbock, Texas. If you can get winning players there, you can anywhere. Including Ames.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Past Tense

Tonight's Mac Call-in Show was eerie, as Mac and John were using the past tense, as if they know something the rest of us do not.

Reading between the lines, ISU is officially jumping on the coaching carousel, and I write that with both optimism and sadness. Optimism that Pollard has thrown down the gauntlet in football, as he has in both basketball and wrestling. Sadness that Mac could never completely turn the corner and win the big games when they were there.

Only the hardest, coldest Cyclone fan does not admire Dan as a person. While many would grumble at his endlessly sunny-side-up view of the world, few criticize him as a person. His stump speech still inspires the fattest and laziest fan to get up and run through the nearest wall. I can't help but wonder if he has a future as a fundraiser for Athletics.

Much has been made of the things Dan didn't do (like his 2 conference wins against winning teams), but I will add some more things he never did:

- Dan never bitched about how many fans did or did not show up for the game, or did or did not leave in the second half;

- Dan never went after the press to deflect attention from a lousy team or upset loss as Hayden did almost every season;

- Dan never played the victim, as Walden did his last 3 seasons;

- Dan never singled out a player as the goat, as Alford does;

- Dan never directly complained about a lack of facilities, money, or casual admission policies, but rather couched them as just another challenge;

- Dan never alienated the local high school coaches, which caused recruiting to suffer;

- Dan never appeared in public in a less than professional manner;

- Dan never got arrested for any of the multitude of things that people get arrested for;

- Dan never stopped being a decent man, which is why every Cyclone fan is able to make such a clear distinction between Dan the Coach and Dan the Person.

Dan the Person is someone that many of us, author included, wished we could be. Dan the person we will remember fondly.

It's been good to know you.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Worst team ever (or at least recent memory)?

That became the question during the second half of Saturday's debacle. I held that '94 was the worst, but I have been swayed.

The worst margin of loss in '94 was 28- to a 5-5-1 SUI team in Iowa City and a 6-6 OU team in Norman. The worst home loss was 18 to, coincidentally, a 6-5 KU squad.

The worst road loss (so far) is 25 points in Norman. The worst home loss (so far) is KU's 31- the largest road win for KU in 11 seasons of Big 12 play. Nice.

Those results certainly put '06 at '94's table. But since everyone thought ISU would stink in '94, '06 has been much more painful.

At least basketball is upon us, with zero expectation on the men's side. We can't help but be pleasantly surprised.


Saturday, October 28, 2006


What many of us had suspected was confirmed today in Manhattan:

Iowa State is now the worst team in the Big 12.

I don't see how the coaching staff survives this, regardless of years left on contracts.

Two 0-8 league records in four years, anywhere, gets staffs fired.

The optimism of August seems years ago.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Playing the percentages

The final four games are a big contrast according to ISU's historical performance.

Since ISU is 2-23 since '00 against Big XII teams that finished over .500 (Henceforth referred to as "Overs"), ISU shouldn't beat Mizzou, since they already have 7 wins.

With ISU 18-4 since '00 against Big XII teams that finished under .500 (Henceforth referred to as "Unders"), ISU should beat Colorado, even in Boulder, since CU already has 7 losses.

That leaves KSU, and KU, both 4-4, and yet to play each other. KU ends with Mizzou, which should be a loss, but they get KSU at home, which should be a win, making them 5-5. Their games in Ames and Boulder will seal their fate as an Under or Over. I don't see them losing to BOTH ISU and CU to become and Under (Which ISU should defeat), so they will beat ISU, finish 6-6, and be an Over for this exercise.

KSU hosts Texas in November, a sure fifth loss. Again, I don't see them losing to BOTH ISU and CU to become and Under (Which ISU should defeat), so they will also beat ISU, finish 6-6, and also be an Over.

There it is, ISU goes 1-3 the rest of the way to finish 4-8, and 1-7 in the conference. Enjoy that game in Boulder, everybody!

Disclaimer: The previous is not intended for betting advice, and is for entertainment purposes only. Then again, if you bet money based on the above theorem, you deserve to lose.


Saturday, October 21, 2006


Saturday's 42-26 loss to Tech could become the 49th loss to a conference team that finished above .500 if the Raiders find two more wins the rest of the way.

Ironically, an ISU win would have pretty much doomed Tech to a losing season, with UT and OU left on their schedule- but wouldn't have helped ISU improve their 2-48 above .500 percentage. But loss #49 is now much more likely.

We'll handicap the reat of the season once all the games are final, but I think the Clones are done.


Monday, October 16, 2006

A tiny ray of sunlight

A bit of home in this week's Sagarin rankings:

8 Texas A = 89.13 6 1 68.83( 60) 0 1 | 1 1 |
20 Nebraska A = 82.99 6 1 64.22( 97) 0 1 | 0 1 |
21 Oklahoma A = 82.50 4 2 72.85( 28) 0 1 | 0 2 |
29 Missouri A = 79.09 6 1 62.54( 112) 0 0 | 0 0 |
43 Texas A&M A = 75.00 6 1 61.78( 118) 0 0 | 1 0 |
53 Oklahoma State A = 72.79 4 2 61.20( 121) 0 0 | 0 0 |
55 Texas Tech A = 72.37 4 3 67.10( 71) 0 0 | 0 1 |
61 Kansas State A = 70.36 4 3 67.67( 68) 0 1 | 0 2 |
81 Baylor A = 67.88 3 4 69.22( 58) 0 1 | 0 2 |
83 Iowa State A = 67.40 3 4 72.88( 27) 0 1 | 0 4 |
104 Kansas A = 63.17 3 4 63.21( 101) 0 0 | 0 1 |
105 Colorado A = 63.09 1 6 70.62( 43) 0 0 | 0 1 |

Probably hard to read due to format, but take a minute. Look at ISU's line. Notice anything?

All four of ISU's losses have come to teams in the Sag's Top 30. Good teams.

And- four of ISU's last five are against teams #55 and below. KU and CU are far below ISU at the moment.

Win those four, (TECH, ksu, KU, cu) and ISU finishes 7-5, just as I predicted at the start of the year, and where I believe ISU's paltry football budget maxes out.

Here's hoping Tech remains in it's funk.


Saturday, October 14, 2006


Iowa State had 13 possesions against Oklahoma.

5 of those possesioins were 3 plays and out.

Only 3 possesions went further than 12 yards: 80 (TD), 57 (end of half), 39 (INT).

Nothing more needs to be said.


One Dollar

One dollar says that at this moment, somewhere, someone is writing a post saying "Kirk Ferentz has peaked at Iowa".

He hasn't peaked, and football season will continue to be fun in Iowa City, but that won't stop somebody from writing that.

What a fickle bunch fans are.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

A nice Osborne touch

The Time Out with 90 seconds left to ensure the Fuskers would get enough shots at the end zone was a nice nod to Coach Osborne.

I never again want to hear about how "Classy" the NU program is. Was Callahan psychic that ISU would sprint down the field and match NU's meaningless TD? Please.

I'm not sure Dan will get the chance to return the favor- for either talent or longevity reasons. Callahan might not last that long, either, if you listen to the whispers.



A running deficit is killing the Cyclones.

The first two games ISU had a rushing advantage of 120 and 44 games. But their last four games, three losses and an almost, they have deficits of -39 (SUI), -137 (UT), -79 (UNI) and tonight, -200 (NU).

Until this program can stop the run, and run the ball themselves, it will continue to be mediocre, just another team in the XII. Call it the Fine Curse.

A bowl game is a reach at this point. A North title just a bad joke. A coaching change not implausible.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Little things

I can't help but wonder if a record crowd for UNI- yes, UNI- can't be attributed in some small way to having enough Kybos in the parking lots to allow fans to tailgate how they want to.

I used to stop after my third beer, not wanting to endure a 20 minute wait for the one lone Kybo within 200 yards of our tailgate spot. There are now a dozen within 100 yards (or so it seems) and it has an effect on how you approach a tailgate.

get the little things right, and the big things often sort themselves out.


The long shadow of Marty Fine

I don't mean that as a fat joke, either.

By all analysis, Fine's tenure as OL coach were a disaster. His bio at Bryant University takes lots of credit for things that happened in the first 6 games of that season- but makes no mention of how pathetic the line play became as the season went along, nor does it discuss the carnage that was 2003. That's marketing.

But Marty's impact was probably deepest in recruiting. The anemic offensive numbers of the seasons since '04, especially in the running game, can be directly blamed on OL play, and the recruits Marty did and did not help bring to Ames. Coach Cotton can only do so much, since the old saw is that OL skills are the slowest to develop. Its a garbage in, garbage out problem. If the players being signed by Fine were less than B12 quality, the results may not appear for 3, 4 or now 5 years later. We are reaping what Marty sowed- a lowsy running game, and a league high in sacks.

That's why I am reluctant to dump too much on Dan's shoulders directly- but Fine was his hire, although if memory serves, he was a last minute job after Looney went north to the Vikings. So it goes.

But this season's OL play is exhibit A of why hiring and retaining quality assistants may be the most important part of a head coaching job. To use management speak, if you have the right people on the bus, the bus will drive itself.

Can Dan identify who needs to stay, and who needs to go?


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Back of the pack

ISU is last or second to last in 5 Big 12 defensive categories.

That says alot about our predicament.


A Piece Of Good News

The first Basketball exhibition is November 3rd.


Half Empty Wins

When you are 3-2, and each of your wins has come down to the final play, and have come against 3 teams with 3 Div. I wins amongst them, it means two things:

1. You coulda woulda shoulda been 0-5;
2. You ain't very good.

I can only think of 4 area codes worthy of having the ISU/NU game broadcast to them. If any more than that receive it, ABC should have to give up its NCAA broadcast rights.


Saturday, September 30, 2006

I have to agree with CycloneFanatic on this one: ISU has got to open up the playbook and go on a shock and awe campaign for not only the fans and their remaining opponents, but to themselves.

The Cyclones need to know that they can score anywhere and anytime, and to play with that mentality on every offensive snap. A bunch of points in the second half wouldn't hurt anything.

A workman like 21-3 win won't make too many folks happy, I'm afraid. Let's not even discuss what a loss or near-loss would mean to the program.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

More is less- or the same

I heard Auburn's Tommy Tuberville on the radio state that his staff has calculated that the new clock rules have shorted games by 6-7 plays per team per game. On the surface, that isn't much, since most teams run around 70 plays per game on average.

But stretch that number by 11 games and you get, in effect, the plays required for the twelfth game that has been added to the season. If there were 770 offensive snaps each 11 game season, there will be around 770 snaps in the new 12 game season.

Same wear and tear on the players, but one more game completed. Very clever, if that was the goal.

But when some loudmouth on the radio credits a stat record to an additional game, you can set him straight.


The Gulf

Saturday's loss to Texa$ only clarified the talent gap between schools like ISU and schools that win championships.

Until ISU doubles its football budget and loosens the rules around who can and can't come play, our Cyclones will be a nice team that hovers around 7-5. Maybe the right bunch of kids will go 9-3 or 10-2.

But the list of schools who win titles is short for a reason.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Gotta score, boys

What a waste of a good rushing effort.

When ISU had good offensive rhythm, points weren't scored. Score TDs instead of trying Field Goals, and the game may- may- have been out of reach.

The title of Most Overhyped Preseason Unit now officially belongs to the Iowa State Offense.

The last 5 possessions in Iowa City:

6 plays/21 yards/punt
5 plays/20 yards/punt
5 plays/18 yards/punt
4 plays/9 yards/downs
3 plays/13 yards/end of game

Way to finish. The tight helmet looks good on everyone.

This game is emblematic of the SUI/ISU series. ISU is feisty and can go toe to toe with SUI, and will occasionally embarrass the team from out east. But at the end of the day, when you have double the fans, double the press coverage, and triple the money, you usually win.

Fortunately, Tate is a Senior, and no longer our problem.

At least ISU covered.


Monday, September 11, 2006

A head game that should have never happened

My theory on the whole "The Football Team Refused To Yield" scene pulled by UNLV is this:

UNLV brought in a whole mess of JUCOs this year to improve their athleticism. They have only been together as a team maybe 6 weeks. Coach Sanford- while rightfully miffed at not being told the review of the final play had found nothing- also used the scene to wisely create a moment to bond the team with. It was a nice "Us Against The World" opportunity.

But it never should have come to that.

The ISU offense, an offense called 'explosive' and "among the Big 12's Best" in the preseason- has scored 39 points in regulation in two games. The defense- giving up 33 in the same span- is kicking butt comparatively, as they entered the season as the glaring weak spot.

At some point, Skladany is going to look across the staff table at Cotton and say- "I'm pulling my share- what about you?" And he will be right.

If Cotton's boys dump 30+ on SUI, all is forgiven. If Blythe goes a&m deja vu in Kinnick, all will probably be well with the world. Until then, who should really get credit for ISU's 2-0 start?


Monday, September 04, 2006

Good News: UNLV is Not

UNLV won what was expected to be their only game over Idaho State Saturday.

CBS Sportsline places ISU at #35 (sure) and UNLV at #90 (ouch!)

I hope that holds true to form after last week.


One more Toledo thought

The point I should have made leading up to the game ws this: A Toledo win over ISU may have signaled a lousy ISU team, but would have definately identified an outstanding Toledo team.

I think Toledo will do just fine in the MAC, and I won't be shocked if they win the thing. I'll be very curious to see if Kansas can escape Toledo with a win on September 15th.

Sometimes a win is a win is a win. That was the kind of game ISU doesn't usually survive.


Friday, September 01, 2006

Stepped on the landmine, and yet walked away

Clearly, no lead is safe for Cyclone football.

When the team HAD to get a score- they find a way, and in spectacular fashion.

Yet when they need just a first down or two- they are meek and mild.

If it isn't the staff getting a case of tight headset, which translates into tight helmet, I don't know what it is. If Toledo was an anomoly, we could rationalize it away, but this happens every dang week. A second-half lead melts into a cardiac finish or a loss. Every game ISU finds a new way to partially rip your guts out.

Since staff changes are unlikely, bring the Extra-Large bottle of Tums.


Thursday, August 31, 2006

The landmine named Toledo

I am firmly in the camp of Cyclone fans who view every upcoming game as a glass half full- of poison.

Toledo is a nightmare.

Good enough to win- heck, good enough to embarrass- and throw the season into the emotionial dumpster before September even arrives. ISU might be good enough to do the blowing out. ISU could also serve up a Baylor-esqe loss.

Some tidbits:

-Toledo began playing DI football in 1962.

-Folks bring up their wins against Penn State and Minnesota to prove they are giant killers, for good reason. But realize, the PSU win was in 2000 when Toledo went 10-1 (and didn't go to a bowl), and outscored their opponents 400-125. PSU was 5-7, and lost to a 4-7 Iowa team.

-The 2001 Minnesota win was at Toledo, the Rockets were 10-2 with a bowl win, and again scored 400+ points. The Gophers went 4-7.

-In 2004 UT lost to 7-5 at Minnesota and at 4-7 Kansas by 40. Each.

-The 2005 bowl blowout of UTEP was contrasted with a 30 point loss at Fresno State.

I give Toledo a 30% shot at winning. Cyclones by 10 in a very workmanlike effort.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

A nice first step to a repeat

The ISU volleyball team's come-from-way-behind win over SUI in Iowa City gives ISU and early 2-0 lead in the Hy-Vee Series.

By my math, there are 23 points up for grabs: 3 for football, 2 points in 9 other matchups, and 2 points for some kind of "academic" score. ISU needs 10 more points to clinch another title. Let's handicap:

Sept. 12 - Soccer at Ames: edge to ISU
Sept. 16 - Football at Iowa City: lock for SUI (they're going undefeated, right? right?)
TBA - Wrestling at Iowa City: edge to SUI
TBA - Women’s Basketball at Iowa City: edge to ISU
TBA - Men’s Basketball at Iowa City: edge to SUI
TBA - Women’s Swimming at Iowa City: edge to SUI
TBA - Women’s Gymnastics at Ames: lock for ISU
TBA - Women’s Gymnastics at Iowa City: lock for ISU
TBA - Softball at Ames: lock for SUI
Academic: edge to SUI since they won it last year.

If chalk is correct (and I doubt it will be) SUI wins 13-10. An upset in any of the above- MBB? WR? WS? and ISU repeats. The 3 points that goes to the football winner is a nice advantage for SUI right now.

I'm sure that SUI is downplaying the importance of the trophy, since they should always win it, but will have it in their Fair booth when they win it back.

Hopefully they don't have to contemplate what to do with the trophy for a few years.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Notes from the Fair

A few observations from the Iowa State Fair:

- Ten years ago, the thought of Iowa fans wearing "Beat State" T-shirts in public without intending irony was laughable. "We mean Ohio State" would have been printed on the back- and too clever for that crowd, anyway. Five years ago, the wearer of that shirt would have been scoffed at as a fan without out-of-line priorities. About five "fluke" wins later, I saw at least two "Beat State" shirts a day at the Fair. Its nice to know they care.

- The SUI booth in the Varied Industry Building again has a large "Best and Brightest" display of Valedictorians who have chosen to go to Iowa City for school. Just as ISU feels the need to promote any football trophies the stumble across, SUI is compelled to say "Smart kids come here, too! Look! See- we have their photos and everything! We aren't making this up!" Way to try to shore up the negatives, guys.

- Not surprisingly, many of the FFA and 4-H scholarship winners are going to Ames, and few if any to IC. I hope their self-esteem wasn't hurt because the didn't get their picture posted.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Nancy states the obvious, again

Nancy Clark's piece on Tuesday revealed a real earth-shaking development: ISU needs to win all of its home games to be successful in '06.

Wow, that's brilliant.

The headline makes it even worse: "To save season, ISU will need 7 Ames wins". To save season? I guess the thing is already lost, then, and must be rescued.

Clark does raise one good point, and it is the one side of the McCarney tenure that has bothered me: the inability of Dan's teams to consistently beat the bad teams on its schedule. Baylor in '05 is Exhibit A.

Jump in the wayback machine:

In '05, ISU went 4-1 against teams that ended the season below .500- and sealed KSU and a$m's fate at 5-6
'04- again, 4-1, but that crushing loss to Mizzou will haunt us for years
'03- 1-2, but that team had issues outside of a tough schedule
'02- 4-1 counting 7-7 NU (win) and 6-6 UConn (loss)
'01- 5-1, but got hammered by 6-6 KSU 42-3
'00- 6-0, and the three losses in that 9-3 season were blowouts
'99- 3-1, ended the season in a loss to KU, foreshadowing season ending losses in the future
'98- 3-1, gave away a win to a bad OU team in Norman
'97- 1-3 rock bottom of the DM tenure
'96- 1-4, just couldn't stop anybody in a 2-9 year
'95- 3-2, the first season ending loss to a bad team

Looking back, ISU doesn't play enough bad teams to automatically vault them into a bowl game each year, so downing all of the bad teams should be job #1 each year. Who should be bad this year?

Going in, only UNLV and KSU are expected to struggle. ISU could certainly push CU, KU and Mizzou out of bowl eligibility come November, but we won't really be able to forecast those games until everyone gets a few games under their belt.

All I ask for is no Baylor-like losses this year. That would be something to build on, since it is hard to credibly call yourself a Championship Caliber Program with regular gaffes to losing teams.


Friday, August 04, 2006

The only fair ticket policy

ISU will auction off a few pairs of courtside season tickets for men's and women's basketball via eBay. The only catch is that bidders must be $5K donors to the NCC.


We all know a high roller who bitches about the location of his seats, whether football or basketball. Here is a chance for that complainer to really show how much he values a prime seat. Honestly, I have no problem selling most of the best seats this way- but I will be the first to call out the ticketholder who only shows for the best games. Then again, knowing that every game is costing you $100? $300? $500? per seat is powerful motivation to get yourself to Hilton.

Bravo, AD staff. Can we do the same auction with the yet-to-be-built skyboxes?


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Nuggets from media day

There are some interesting tidbits in this wire service story about B12 football: this wire service story about B12 football:

-Nebraska and Oklahoma are both replacing four starters in the OL. NU had better get things shored up before they go to LA to meet USC, and OU has two games to set the offense up before a roadie to Oregon. Oh, and OU just kicked off their starting QB, with no backup in sight. Ouch.

-Baylor thinks it can win the South. I'll have what they're having if it carries over to ISU, but I suspect it will be nothing stronger than Diet Coke.

-ISU kicking game, while good percentage wise, misses the ones that matter. No kidding. The whole team and coaching staff seems to get tight helmet in the close ones.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Beano lives!

Imagine my surprise to see ESPN News defrost Beano Cook from the cryogenic freezer in July to talk about not just the SEC, but Barry Bonds and Penn State Women's Basketball.

Is he really so expensive to preserve that you have to get six month's work out of him to justify the cost? Did the timer on the liquid nitrogen bath kick off three weeks early? I didn't expect him until August 15th at the earliest.

Hearing Beano talk about more than Notre Dame and Michigan was refreshing, but I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that he had an opinion on women's basketball. If you were placing bets on which male ESPN talent would be the first to have an opinion on women's college basketball, Beano would have easily been a 500:1 shot, at the minimum.

If only I had called that British bookie yesterday.


Back in the 515

The long part of my summer has passed, most of it spent out of state.

It gets hot everywhere, unfortunately.

I return to the CSJ compound to discover that JP has sold skyboxes in Jack and Hilton that not only don't exist yet, but are little more than an architect's sketch.

JP must be an even better salesman and closer than any of us expected. Wow.

Now if he can convince the football team to play as if they are using B12 trophies as doorstops instead of wishing to have just one.......


Saturday, June 24, 2006

The best money never spent

SUI named a new AD, Gary Barta, who is a friend of Jamie Pollard. JP called GB's cell and said "Welcome to the Cyclone State".

Game On.

Indeed, the money quote of the DMR article comes at the very end:

"I don't want to put up a sign," Barta said. "I just want to win. It's a Hawkeye State - I believe that sincerely, but we can't just say it, we have to do it."

Whatever it cost JP to have a graphics guy mock up a billboard, ISU has received a million in attention from it. The message has been received in Iowa City.

I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that if Iowa wins the football game in September, they won't just draw a mock-up of a billboard between Ankeny and Ames.

They will put the damn thing up.

Game On indeed.


Building with the small checkbook

An interesting component of the new building plan for ISU athletics: aiming at the small donor.

Check out the second-to-last paragraph of JP's Q&A at Cyclone Fanatic: If 10% of the living ISU alumni joined the National Cyclone Club at the minimum $100, the building project is paid for. A$M did that exact thing 15 years ago, and adjusted for inflation, it is an even easier sell. Most importantly, a fan that buys into the NCC has made the most important connection with Cyclone athletics, the financial. Suddenly, they can be tapped not just for tickets, but for annual donations and increases in their NCC contribution. As long as athletics is successful, the positive feedback loop continues.

Very wise, and a better long-term strategy than continually squeezing the same hundred big fish. This household will be joining the NCC- and increasing their donation to ISU academics.



Thursday, June 22, 2006


When DI football returned to the 12 game schedule, I was concerned that ISU would take the K-State route and fill up the three available games (Iowa being the fourth) with I-AA or DII teams, take the big gates, write a check, and roll into league play at either 3-1 or 4-0.

Happily, there is some meat on the future schedules. (Thanks, Cyclone Fanatic) While not top sirloin, the schedules that are neither embarrassments nor suicidal.

The is a I-AA or lower game each year: UNI, South Dakota State, North Dakota State, all in Ames.

The MAC gets some games: Toledo, Kent State, Northern Illinois. Bad ISU teams can lose those games, especially on the road.

The Mountain West returns with UNLV and Air Force and Utah. Quality opponents with the potential for great games.

UConn returns to Ames. Hopefully ISU can show more heart against them in '11 than they showed in '02.

The right mix in my opinion: One sure win, one probable win, one tossup, one game with Iowa.

Nice job, folks.

While I wouldn't be opposed to building the program the way Bowden built FSU when he took over (check out who his team played in '81: 9-3 Nebraska, 9-3 Ohio State, 5-6 Notre Dame, 11-1 Pittsburgh, 3-7-1 LSU and 7-5 Florida. All on the road. The first five in a row. FSU went 3-3 on the road, 6-5 overall) I realize that belonging to a conference limits your flexibility and craziness. But a guy can dream. I guess Nebraska, Texas and OU will have to suffice.


Monday, June 19, 2006


Iowa fan is rightfully crowing about the 45,000 season tickets they have sold for 2006.

Iowa fan also snickers that ISU fan celebrates selling 30,000.

Given Iowa's play the last five years, 45K shouldn't be a surprise- it should be the norm.

Given ISU slightly above average results the last five years, 30K is commendable.

A quick review: Iowa has every advantage over ISU in fan support, fawning press coverage, TV exposure, membership in a league with bottomless pockets and a very sports friendly campus. They should sell twice the number of tickets ISU does, and right now could if Kinnick could hold it. But these are exceptional times in IC.

Before KF hit his stride, sales were slipping a few thousand each year. When football fortunes turn south again- and they inevitably will, as nobody wins forever- the slide will return. Only the true hardcores will be in the stands, as the fans of winning will have moved onto something else, finding the overpriced seats with bad sight lines that required a 45 minute walk from a $10 parking place in somebody's yard not worth an entire Saturday.

At the end of the day, it comes down to simple math: A bigger percentage of the ISU fan base buys tickets, despite having a lame history of success, uninspiring game day atmosphere, and a gnawing feeling deep down in their bellies that their Cyclones will some how, some way, break their hearts.

To the Cyclone fan, I say: Bravo!


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sub Titles

Now that Kirk Fernentz makes more than all the ISU head coaches combined- and he should- will the Register reopen its policy of reminding readers of who is the State of Iowa's highest paid employee?

Fat chance.

It seemed that every article about LE in the Paper that Polk County Depends On featured at least one use of ".... Larry Eustachy, the State of Iowa's Highest Paid Employee......". Now a regular reader of the sports page would have a hard time knowing that little tidbit.

As I recall, LE's extra tag didn't begin with his off-court shenanigans but early in his tenure, after on-court success was rewarded with cash. Suddenly, his salary was his most important stat.

Why won't KF get the same treatment? Two thoughts: One, as long as he keeps winning, he's untouchable. If a 7-5 season or two shows up, The Tag will be the first sign that KF has lost the press. Two, he's in Iowa City. If he were in Ames, or if DMac was the one making $3M, the tag would be in full use.

What good is a double standard if you don't apply it?


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Headline Accuracy

The Register really nailed a headline Sunday. Above an article about graduation in Iowa City:

"U of I Students Listen, Graduate".

So perfect, they used it twice.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Warning to caterers

If you happen to be catering one the Cylone Outings for a Cyclone Club somewhere this summer, a word of warning- you had better be on top of your game. If the entree is lousy, Jamie will have someone else bringing out the desert if you know what I mean.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Get out your checkbook

Two items for everyone's calendar:

1. Send $25 to every school you consider a recruiting rival of Iowa State;
2. Start buying dinner for every athletically talented kid you know that isn't interested in ISU. Take pictures. Keep your recipts.

The rest will take care of itself.


Monday, May 01, 2006

Outside View: GMac gets an A

Gregg Doyel of CBS Sportsline passes grades on many of the recent basketball hires.

While he uses a friendly curve (12 of 23 were given some form of A) it is an interesting read on who did well and who hasn't.

Grading the hires


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Code Words

I hear certain descriptions being used for the Wayne Morgan era of ISU basketball:

Street Ball
Father Figure
Great recruiter, lousy coach

Some of the talk-radio types using these terms seem to be talking in code- the same code I heard about George Raveling. It's subtle, almost unconcious racism. Nobody's dropping the N Word when describing coaches or players, but its there.

When was the last time a white coach was hung with the "Great recruiter, lousy coach" label? Who was the last black coach to be a great "X and O man"?

Are either descriptions really accurate?


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Catching up

A few things have happened since I was last able to post:

Cael Sanderson was elevated to Head Wrestling Coach aka "The Move That Had To Be Done". Like Cael's ankle pick, everyone knew it was coming, but this arrived sooner than expected. I believe Cael will be a solid coach, but he certainly has almost unreasonable expectations to meet as "The Next Gable", who ironically has come out of retirement in Iowa City.

Cael's quiet, soft spoken demeanor belies the fierce competitor inside. I don't see Cael being much of a screamer, and he certainly won't be as animated at the mat as Tom Brands or Mark Manning. But I expect he will learn exactly what to softly say to a wrestler as they head out onto the mat.

The starters dominated the backups in the spring game, as it should be.

A new feature at Cyclone Stadium has arrived: One of the brick pillars from old Clyde Williams Field has been installed at the bottom of the ramp the players use to enter Jack Trice. The last thing the players will see will be the weatherbeaten plaque that states: "Honor Before Victory". That is an appropriate motto for a program that is dismissing players for being unable to stay out of trouble (Berryman) or monitor what they ingest (Robertson). A cynic would point out that placing honor before victory has kept ISU football lousy over the years. Both are correct- and ISU should be proud to place that motto front and center.

Greg McDermott continues to look like a great hire. While half the team has weighed options outside ISU, and a couple of recruits have decided they don't fit into a more regimented scheme, others are choosing to come in. I'm not sure if a two-for-one with Iowa will be equal in the end, especially with the baggage some of the players bring with them.

Tasheed Carr, according to my source, doesn't look like a player who is transferring by the effort he is giving in workouts.

Steve Alford remains in Iowa City, his personal Elba, and he cut loose two assistants as he signed a contract extension. Odd. The new help should come cheap since, as Jim Rome joked, "they need not have experience in the second round of the NCAA's". Ouch.

My source in IC says Steve was deeply hurt by not getting an interview in Bloomington. So much for using Iowa as a stepping stone.

I'm on the road for many of the coming weeks. Set your RSS reader to pick up posts as I make them.


Thursday, March 30, 2006


The breeze that is carrying new coaches into ISU is blowing through the marketing department, too.

I cannot recall football tickets being sold in a smarter way in the spring. Rather than focusing on selling full and split season tickets at the maximum price, Pollard and crew are doing their best to make all of the hardest to sell seats disappear first at a discount price. Jaime grasps some economics that has escaped earlier staffs.

The biggest drag on season ticket sales, after frustrating product on the field, is the ease of buying a walkup ticket. At four or five games each fall actual seats are available the day of the game, which keeps Cyclone Football an option to many fans. They can wait until Saturday morning to decide to go or not. Weather, opponent, the games on TV, the mood of the spouse, and any other variable can scrub a fan from going to the Jack when they haven't made the cash outlay. By selling those normal "walkup" tickets in April, buying anything but an SRO on Saturday will become a crap shoot, which will convince many to just commit and buy a season ticket next spring.

This could be an excellent year to be a scalper, as thousands may learn the hard way that supply has dropped, hopefully dramatically.

With the $99 end zone ticket gone, ISU is now pushing two other brilliant options: Season Hillside for $125 ($17.85 per game) and "Cy's Pack", actual seats in slow-selling sections for $150 ($21.42). An actual seat and a better view for only an extra $3.50? That should be a quick seller.

The most important thing is that come August, when people really get football on the brain, the only thing left will be full-price season and single game tickets, and hopefully a sellout for a game other than Nebraska. Get people in the habit of planning their weekends around Cyclone Football, rather than going to Ames only if it is convenient. Iowa fans view football that way, even when they sunk. Nebraska fans do, even as they have slid to merely being good. The sooner ISU fans change their thinking, the better.

The extra cash will come in handy with all the buyouts going on.



When Pollard moves, he moves! He has now hired and fired two coaches in the time it takes most schools just to form a hiring committee. Jaime has already matched the number of important hires some ADs make in a tenure.

If the new AD is anything he is decisive. He has a plan and we are headed in his direction. Whether that plan bears fruit we can only wait to see, but the man in charge certainly isn't shy about jerking the ship away from icebergs.

May Cael have the Gable touch.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Another new start

First of all, I think the McDermott hire was the best case scenario given the circumstances. I shake my head at the naysayers who complain that GM doesn't have "national recruiting experience". It's a chicken/egg situation. It's hard to recruit nationally at any mid-major, because you're a mid-major, and at the same time, you don't necessarily have to. UNI had three players who would have started at either ISU or Iowa this year, and all were from the Midwest. Iowa's five best players are natives.

GM will be fine, both in coaching and recruiting. He has an eye for talent, and runs a system that fits the talent he has. Most ISU fans prefer a team that may be a notch down athletically, but overachieves on the court- the opposite of what we had this past season.

The '05-06 Cyclones were much like a buddy's 60's-era British sports car: A real hoot to ride when it's tuned up up and tearing down a curvy road, but the downside is that it only performs that way about 20% of the time. The majority of the trips are frustrating slogs of misfiring pistons, a grumpy clutch and lousy acceleration.

The Morgan Cyclones were devastatingly good when focused and motivated. They could drop a 20-2 run on you at any time. But those times were few and far between, and the norm was undisciplined offense and half-assed defense, which was devastatingly bad to watch. If your scheme gives up six dunks and a dozen layups each game, you had better be filling it up on the other end Grinnell-style.

I was looking forward to the development of an all-out "40 minutes of Hell" style in Hilton, because it can be so much fun to watch. But in the end, winning at all is more fun than losing with style, so Morgan had to go. I was one of the last to admit that the inconsistency of the Cyclones should be laid at the feet of the coaches and not the players. I'm old school in thinking that a player should arrive ready to commit maximum effort towards whatever the coach draws up; that thinking has gone out of style. So it goes.

Here's hoping that a new scheme and 40 minutes of effort lead to more wins for the Cyclones.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Ten minutes

Wayne Morgan's tenure at Iowa State died in a ten-minute span.

Wayne was watching DSM Hoover play at the Iowa Boy's State Tournament Wednesday when his cell phone rang.

Stinson was on the line. He told Coach he was going pro. Coach was not pleased. Curtis then passed his phone to Blalock, so that Will could chime in with a "Me too".

Wayne, agitated, went to the hallway to finish the call.

Ten minutes later, again watching the game, he took another call. This one was about his non-confrence schedule. Again, he left the arena, not to return.

I saw Wayne in Hilton Thursday night. He was walking alone, slowly, looking tired. I realize now he had the body language of a defeated man, one who had accepted his fate.

This was a humane dismissal, unlike the last basketball firing at Hilton. No circus. No dueling press confrences. Nobody twisting in the wind. It's done.

Ten minutes is all it took.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Do Something Different

Another ISU sports blog has appeared, and it's full of intrigue, behind the scenes rumors and cloak-and-dagger speculation. It will be an entertaining read one way or another.

Cyclone Fanatic's March 1st post laments a lack of fieriness out of Coach Morgan, and then his March 6th post sites unnamed sources as being stressed out over choosing sides within athletics over the status of Morgan's program. Next year is being called "The Year" for Morgan, due to solid veterans and a solid recruiting class. But the same complaints about Wayne from Season 1 still haven't been put to bed, and they all about how perception changes depending on the number of wins and losses.

Jeremy's money quote:

"If Morgan would simply show emotion on the sideline, he would be cut more slack than any coach at any other school. ISU fans want to love their coach, but they have to be able to relate to them."

That speaks to the feelings of many that I have had conversations with. When Wayne stares out at the court after something bad happens, people don't think he's doing anything. Fans must want a coach who is screaming and yelling at the players and refs the same way they are, whether the fans are in Hilton or their living rooms. But it was exactly that kind of ranting and raving that fans loved about Tim and Larry when they were winning and hated when they were losing. Johnny Orr was beloved for such behavior, but cursed when his teams collapsed on the road. LE "shamed himself and the program" when he melted down at the end of that infamous game against Michigan State.

The same goes with football. I read multiple posts in the early Ferentz years wishing Kirk would "show some of the fire Dan shows"; now the conventional wisdom is that Kirk is "professional" and "even keeled", while Dan is a "one-trick pony who's act gets old quickly". Fans adjust their perception to fit their feelings of the program.

John Wooden was famous for going entire games and only standing for time outs. I imagine modern fans would blame the occasional Wooden UCLA loss on a "lack of emotion".

If Wayne wins 20+ games next year, the lack of emotion complaint is out the window. 15 wins and Wayne is out the window. Personally, I hope its the former.


Tourney Coach

Bill has done it again.

The other 11 coaches in the league have to hate seeing ISU anywhere in their bracket come tourney time: ISU owns the best winning percentage in the history of the B12 tourney. And with a 72-68 win over Texas, that percentage is now .682 (15-7).

Granted, having two titles will help the average, but c'mon! They don't have the leagues best talent, percentage wise, so 15-7 is worth saluting.

But now comes the other side of the winning percentage coin: #1 seed OU. While OU is 11-7 all-time, they carry with them the 23-3 (.885%) record of the #1 seed in the tourney. Ouch. A #9 seed like ISU has never made it past the second round. Double Ouch. But even if they lose in that second round, they will have exceeded the #9 average of .400.

Here's to being slightly above average.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Win is a Win is a Win

From here on out, every win ISU can get is a good one- whether the victim has fired its coach or not. I'm not picky.

And with Stinson returning, it's never too early to play the "Next Year Starts Now" card. What the heck?

I want to be optimistic about Wayne's program because he, like Dan, seem to be genuinely decent fellows- the kind of guys you would want living next door to you. Not some slimey, smiling, looking to hop to the next job willing to pay him another $50 kind of coach.

So any wins ISU can earn, even without an NCAA bid, will help make this season less forgettable. If a nice finish can springboard into '06-07, all the better.

Now watch them get smoked in Boulder on "Everyone Is A Senior Night", and we will all be back to figuring out how much a buyout of Wayne's contract would be. We're a fickle, fickle bunch.


Sunday, February 26, 2006


If the Cyclones insist on being disinterested ( CrossCyed's excellent choice of words) when they play a team with only 13 games under its belt on the road, I suppose it is fair to be equally disinterested in writing about it.

The basketball season has become an even bigger disappointment than the football season. Alas, it appears that the only good memory is dumping Iowa in December - and the same can be said of football.

Anyone of the Black and Gold persuasion still clinging to the myth that a win over Iowa makes the season for ISU fan should closely examine the dour expression on our collective faces.

A tough start to the Pollard regime- one that will make the rubber chicken circuit an interesting one. Better toss the Cy-Hawk trophy in your trunk for those road trips; it's all you have to hang your hat on this summer.


Monday, February 20, 2006

A Sprint to the NIT?

As strange as that sounds, that's what Cyclone basketball now must do.

At 14-11, and with a sure loss at some point of the Big 12 tourney, ISU must go 2-2 in the last four to avoid a must-win situation in the first round in Dallas. That first round game will probably come against a team that ISU might have beaten (NU, KSU) but will definitely come against a team that has beaten ISU (NU, KSU, a$m, Tech). Perhaps everything would come together in the Must Win, but given the knack for Finding A Way To Lose this bunch exhibits, I'm not holding my breath.

At this point, the NIT is the best thing for the team. Imagine if ISU somehow rips off the last four games, then gets to the semi's in Dallas. What then? A 12 or 13 or 14 seed against a team that knows how to exploit an opponent's flaws? Aside from a banner in the rafters of Hilton, would that first-round thumping really achieve anything? I'm not sure.

Since ISU can't open a Big Man's Camp during the off week, three or four winnable games in the NIT might be better than a sure loss in the NCAA in the long term. An NIT run seemed to serve ISU well last year- perhaps the same can set up next season.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Football adjusts to the market

What was mentioned last week is official this week: New start times for the three football non-conference games in Ames.

Toledo will play on the Thursday before Labor Day, and games against UNLV and UNI have been pushed back to 6 PM. All three moves make sense.

Cyclone Football has to walk before it can run. In order to build a fan base that schedules its collective life around home games (like in Lincoln and Iowa City) you have to get a fan base in the habit of coming in the first place. Given Cyclone Football's nasty habit of breaking fan's hearts , making the product as accessible as possible is a smart move.

By shifting to a "family friendly" schedule, ISU can continue to push tickets to the half-million who live within an hour's drive of Jack Trice. Granted, an evening game is a hardship for those making a long drive in (my extended family included) but Pollard will gladly trade 4 lost tickets from Dubuque or Sioux City in exchange for 24 tickets sold to Clive or Fort Dodge or Altoona. The point is getting butts in seats, and then hopefully delivering a win.

Athletics is on the right path for the former. The latter needs some work.


Self Perception

Compentency is hard to define. Strangely, those who are most competent at what they do usually judge their skills as only above average; conversely, those who are terrible think they are great. Self-analysis appears to be the problem. The inability to properly judge one's work against the whole leads to both lousy work and an overinflated self-worth.

Which leads us to Rashon Clark's comments in Sean Keeler's Sunday column. Clark gave Saturday's defensive performance in Lawrence a "B". They gave up 88 points on 50 percent shooting.


Try a "D".

Granted, KU has scouted ISU's defensive schemes perfectly, and knows exactly how to slice and dice them. KU's stregnths match perfectly with ISU's weaknesses. But on effort alone, it was not a "B" day.

CrossCyed has a breakdown of the day, "breakdown" being the primary word. ISU now needs to win virtually every game, and a couple in Dallas to avoid the NIT. I don't think they have either the horses or the heart. May they prove me wrong.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Laughable Optimism

Well, this was a ridiculous bit of optimism in my morning paper.

Money quote:

"Win six of the remaining seven regular-season games, and the Cyclones have a 93 percent chance of being among the 65 NCAA Tournament teams, according to history of the 10-season Big 12 Conference. Finish with an RPI of 63 or higher while having at least a .500 conference record, and there is a 92.6 percent chance."

This team winning six of seven, which includes roadies to Lawrence, Norman and Boulder, is as likely as Coach Morgan sprouting a Mod Squad 'fro. Considering this Cyclone squad has yet to win consecutive conference games, barring a miracle in Dallas, Pollard may as well call the NIT folks today and cook up another double header that went over so well two seasons ago.

Randy Peterson spent last season reporting from Iowa City, and this article shows it. While the Black and Gold crowd eats up any Glass Half Full mullarky that appears in print, ISU fans have BS detectors that are much more sensitive. Nice try, Randy.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Little things, II

Good teams rebound. Good teams make their free throws down the stretch.

Good teams win.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Pollard on KXNO

I came in late, but a summary of what I heard:

A big push is needed on deferred maintenance on all of the athletic facilities, especially Hilton. Included in the long term plan:

Suites- New center scoreboard- ring of lit signage around the balcony (like all the new buildings)- basketball practice and volleyball practice and game facility somehow attached to Hilton- More office space at Jacobsen and Hilton- bowling in the south end of Jack Trice- eventual upgrades for swimming and tennis when men's teams return.

Also mentioned:

The Marching Band is moving to their own set of bleachers in the north end zone to interact better with the students.

The south end zone will be sold as a $99 season ticket. 600 tickets have already been sold, and there has been only a whisper marketing campaign.

The non-conference games will probably move to night games to accommodate family life. The Toledo game on Labor Day weekend may move to the Thursday before.

In the big picture, baseball, men's swimming and men's tennis won't be brought back until all the sports programs are performing at a higher level.

All of the above will require serious cash, and Pollard is challenging ISU fans to "get out of their comfort zone". Translation: Get ready to donate more to keep the football and basketball tickets you have, and to donate more in general.

All of the things mentioned need to be done, but brace yourself for the whining that will erupt when change happens.


Back in the saddle

Sometimes it's fun just to open a Can Of Whup on somebody. CrossCyed has a nice breakdown.

Clearly, the week off was a major factor in ISU's win over CU: the players seemed focused on their individual roles, the effort was tremendous, especially inside, and the team kept the pedal to the floor with Bufflao blood in the water early in the second half. The killer instinct is a nice addition to the game plan.

But coaching won this game. Morgan and crew clearly tweaked what ISU had been doing on defense, from guard harrassment of the ball in the back court, to new wrinkles in the zone, to sending all 5 players to the defensive boards. Granted, tweaks like that work against CU, which seems to rely on athletisism and streaky shooting to win ballgames. But the tweaks were made, they players bought in, and CU had no response.

With a double roadie to KSU and KU this week, ISU's fourtunes may become cemented. Get a split (we won't even think about a sweep) and remain on the NCAA bubble. Lose both, and a Dallas miracle may be required.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006


This author has made boatloads of bad decisions in his life. Fortunately, none were in the public eye, and none were as costly as Jason Berrman's.

When a student does not do what is required to retain a full scholarship, that is a waste. When an athlete with professional talent does not do what is required to continue playing his sport, that is also a waste. Jason failed both ways.

For being unwilling to wait the three weeks until he was 21 to go to the bars, Jason now gets to start over in another town, with another team, in another league. I suspect his cell phone has been ringing non-stop in the last 48 hours with a fresh round of recruiting calls. He will play college football again, for someone, but he will again be on a short leash.

I was skeptical about Jason's return to ISU football, and took it as a sign that ISU was suddenly willing to play by the same weak rules that Big Time Football powers play by. It appears my reading of the tea leaves was in error. Cyclone football appears content to place its integrity before winning, which in the long run, gets coaches fired.

that will be a waste, too.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Down the Rabbit Hole

Perhaps the most disconcerting part of ISU's recent troubles at Hilton is how the Cyclone Basketball World has been seemingly turned upsode down. Water flows uphill. The sky is yellow, not blue. Hawkeye fans are decent to be around. No of it makes sense.

So far in league play, ISU has 2 wins on the road, yet 3 losses at home. They are 3-0 at neutral sites- all three wins coming in Hawaii. They won at Drake, which always gives them trouble. They lost 2 non-conference games at home, which is especially unheard of to anybody other than Iowa. It's the Orr years, but backwards.

During Johnny's run, ISU was a tough out in Ames and a walkover on the road. They seemed to always find some pathetic way to lose when wearing the red suits, whether it be a close loss at the end, or a blowout from the get-go. It was maddening, but at least you got to see the good show in person- the horror flick was always on TV, and you could just walk away.

Perhaps that is what exlemplified Hilton Magic the most- the fact that for no apparrent reason, a team that was lousy to average for some reason could rise above it all and dump the big boys at home. It made no sense. There was no logic to it. It just happened. It was Magic.

Until the scene normalizes, and ISU returns to it's routine of home wins and road struggles, I will try to enjoy the scenery here in the Rabbit Hole: Road success, home failures, friendly bumblebees, and free beer.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Turning point

ISU now has no margin for error.

After another humbling loss in Hilton, the Cyclones are in essentially do-or-die mode for the rest of the season. With a stunningly bad Donut Defense (nothing in the middle) ISU will earn an NCAA bid the hardest of hard ways- having a winning record on the road to compensate for a losing one at home.

That means at least four wins out from games at:


Despite recent success on the road, I think three is pretty optimistic.

A sweep of the remaining home games goes without saying:


But without Marston or gaining another year of eligibility for Jared Homan, what can change? I doubt the scheme will, and that will be the noisiest part of the remainder of the season. The Zone Haters will be at full roar.

And they are wrong, unfortunately. I don't see ISU's soft interior defense being any better in a man scheme than what they are doing now- all the same issues apply. But anytime one tries to live outside the norm- be vegetarian, not wear a tie at the office, live without a car- you become a magnet for criticism. I suspect the fans at Tech are complaining about a lack of talent, which is exactly what ISU fans should be complaining about, too. We are still experiencing the LE Hangover.

Bitch about talent and effort- both are valid. But I don't think the scheme is at fault, yet.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

It's the little things

A turnover here, a turnover there, and the other team shoots 50%+ and becomes hard to beat.

Miss a freethrow here, miss a freethrow there, and a team can hit a late 3 to send it into OT.

Bad D on the press here and there gives the opponents 10 easy points- points you struggle to make up out of your offense.

Small things add up to be big losses, losses that may send you to the NIT if you aren't careful.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Viva la Hilton West!

Check the note at the bottom of the Omaha World Herald story.


Surprise, No Surprise

Tuesday's win in Lincoln will be a benchmark for the remainder of the season.

On offense, ISU was composed, efficient, and usually made the extra pass to find the player ready to shoot. Granted, you always look better when the ball goes in the hole, but ISU generally took makeable shots, and converted Husker turnovers into at least 25 points.

On defense, Nebraska never got into the flow. For every time they broke the press and scored a layup they twice turned it over, or otherwise looked nervous when running the offense. Both teams tried to surprise the other with shifting defensive looks; only Nebraska was rattled by it.

There will be several nights over the next two months that we will collectively ask: "Why can't they play the way they did in Lincoln?" I expect every team in the XII will have a near-perfect night, and some horrid nights as well. While the league is even (but for Texas), each team has a major weakness. When teams hide the weakness, they win; when opponents expose the weakness, the team loses.

I was surprised that KU choked a 9 point lead in 90 seconds; I was surprised that ISU didn't just win in Lincoln, they were in control for most of the game. When surprises become the norm, they are no longer surprises.

Normalcy ahead!


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Iowa fans can be a soft bunch

Kinnick Stadium is in the middle of a (well-deserved) $100 million dollar renovation. Part of that renovation will increasing the width of the seats- or rather, repainting the numbers on the bleachers from 16 1/4 inches to a whole 18.

As a result, every single ticket holder in the stadium is being reseated, according to the Paper Iowa Used To Depend On:

"Fans earn the right to select earlier based on a system that factors in longevity of season-ticket purchases, every $100 of giving from records dating back to 1973, membership in groups such as the Kinnick Society, being a U of I graduate and being a male or female letterwinner."

A high score will be a bad reward, because when you visit the "select my seats" area of the special Kinnick Renovation website, you learn that to earn the right to a seat along the sideline- known among fans as "A Seat That Doesn't Suck" you must contribute anywhere from $50 to $600 per seat, per year.

Per Seat, Per Year. That will pay off a $100 million dollar debt in a hurry. They are officially Big Time.

Thanks for all the years of support and cash. Your reward? The privilege of writing an even bigger check.

There is one big downside of fans throwing that kind of cash at a football program: When things start to turn south, the crowd will turn ugly in a big, big hurry. If fans thought the grousing about Kirk was loud after losses to Michigan and Iowa State, imagine the roar when the bottom falls out of a season and 4-8 is the result. $600 per seat will generate a pile of indignation.

My favorite quote was this:

Ross, a student season-ticket holder the past six years, said those who were attending games when Iowa's team was struggling in the late 1990s should be rewarded.

"I know it's a big deal for the athletic department to make money, but it kind of stings when you're put in the cheap seats," Ross said. "You feel your loyalty is not rewarded."

Yeah, those three non-bowl season you had to endure were just brutal: 3-8, 1-10, 3-9. If you get points for suffering through that "drought", the then ticket holders who endured the 20 Consecutive Losing Seasons get seven fold the points the recent "sufferers" get. It's only fair, isn't it?

I can just imagine the requests for extra considerations for ticket holders who have to sit through the next losing season, whenever it happens. Call them Suffering Rewards.


Monday, January 16, 2006

KU lost in its own Phog

For the Jayhawks, it doesn't get much worse than this.

15 games in, and KU still doesn't know who they are.

Jan. 16th, and an NCAA bid may be on the line?

That's Must-See-TV .


Old coach shows us a new way to beat ISU

For most of this season, the MO to beat ISU has been along the lines of this: Pack your defenders into a zone, limit the penetration by the guards, and force ISU to beat you with the three. For the better teams, this has worked.

But not for Bobby Knight and Tech. They went the other way, using their man defense to shut down Stinson, rolling the dice that the rest of the team couldn't do it without him. Blaylock tried, but after he got the same faceguard treatment Stinson was recieving, ISU's offense ground to a halt. Tech's offensive rebounding didn't hurt anything, either. It seemed that for most of the second half, every possesion by Tech resulted in either a bucket, a foul, or a 3 rebound garbage bucket by some big man.

The number of one missed shot possesions by Tech in the second half could be counted on one hand, and that may be the biggest liability for ISU the rest of the season.

Until the big men collectively learn to rebound and play defense, ISU will have to be very efficient on offense. They have no margin for error.

Now they face a Nebraska team that should be feeling good about itself. With wins over KSU and OU, they have the momentum that ISU lacks. I'll let Ryan at Crosscyed give you the nitty gritty breakdown, but this is already a crossroads game for ISU. NU's power ratings are in the 90's- like Tech's- so while ISU has dropped to around 50, this is still a winnable game. But with a whole slew of teams in the 70-115 range ahead, if ISU can't right the ship and start beating teams the are "better than", an NIT invite will be their only postseason hope.


Monday, January 09, 2006

UT too tough

Texas killed ISU in every way: 3 point shooting, offensive rebounding, breaking the press, free throws, disrupting ISU's flow on offense, eliminating the ISU crowd.

Sometimes you play bad, and sometimes you just get beat. Tonight, ISU just got beat. So it goes.

Hope the long roadie to Lubbock goes better.


Storm cloud ahead

Texas claims the Big 12's two best rebounders.

ISU's biggest weakness: rebounding.



Sunday, January 08, 2006

An improvement over last year


That has a nice ring to it.

ISU's win over K State sure beats last season's 0-5 conference start. It was the classic half-empty, half full game for fan's.

ISU beat a team with a good record/KSU had played a lousy schedule.
22 KSU turnovers were converted into 24 ISU points/KSU shot 57% thanks to layups after beating the press
ISU won a close game late/ISU blew a 12 point lead with 6:50 to play
KSU only made 3 three pointers/all three came inthe last 5 minutes, helping to make it close
ISU was 15-19 from the line/ISU missed the front end of TWO one-and-ones late
The 9-day layoff put rust on the Cyclones, but they overcame it/A better opponent would have buried ISU early
ISU's offense improved as the game wore on/ISU offense dissapeared late
ISU beat KSU's zone after making some 3's/ISU shot way too many threes

Visiting the various message boards, I suspect there are too many fans who weight style points too highly. There are those who seem frustrated that ISU can't pitch a shutout defensively and score 100 every night. Granted, this Cyclone club has serious flaws, but so does almost every team in the conference. This year, given no clear favorite, there should be only one goal for each game:

Just win, baby. I'll be half full.


Now ISU has a slight chance

So long, Vince.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

More stats than you can shake a stick at

Ryan over at Crosscyed posted some fascinating stats concerning the ISU basketball team. My favorite are the ones that put into numbers the basketball equivalent of slugging percentage. Points per weighted shot, effective field goal percentage, and O and D rating should become common vernacular of basketball broadcast and reporting.

The conclusion? Rashon Clark is a stud who is blossoming before our eyes, and Stinson and Blaylock need to improve their free throw shooting and overall shot selection.

I don't understand all of the methodology behind the stats, (my math and verbal ACT scores were mirror opposites) but I love the resulting analysis they provide. Give them a look.


Hook 'Em Horns!

It's good to see UT win The Big One, getting a giant monkey off of Mack Brown's shoulders- a monkey whose perch I've helped maintain with lines like "No coach has done less with more".

Sometimes all you need is One Great Player to push you over the top. Without Vince Young, Texas is still a very good team.

With him, they are Champs.

Now, Vince, go pro. ISU goes to Austin September 23rd. We will need all they help we can get.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Tipping Point?

Longtime ISU viewers can't help but wonder if the loss to TCU may come be a turning point in the McCarney administration.

The last 5 seasons have been building to the '05 season. Talent has been building. The schedule was favorable. Ticket sales were at an all-time high. But all 5 losses had common themes: second half leads that were blown, opportunities to win late, a lack of kicking game becoming an fatal liability. And those issues are nothing new.

But ISU's inability to win the tight games the last two seasons, and the games that really matter, may be rapidly burning the good will that McCarney has earned with his constant enthusiasm, wins over Iowa and Nebraska, and bowl trips to sometimes desirable destinations. Once that capital is used, it will be extremely hard to win back with the casual fan ISU needs to push the ticket average from 35K to 50K+.

Clearly, Dan and staff must evaluate how they manage close game situations. Some are tagging Dan as a choker, and we can't argue that point with the results of late. Unless football fortunes shift, and that label is shed, Cyclone Nation may drift into the same kind of program killing indifference that afflicts the basketball program in Iowa City. And that is quickly followed by pink slips.