Tonight I’m thinking about…
ISU Coaching Search: The only thing I know for sure, is that I’m not sure of anything. I’ve talked to every source I know, but the only one who really matters—Jamie Pollard—isn’t talking. I’ve heard the same things you’ve read elsewhere, Jim Harbaugh was the early favorite, but Jay Norvell had a good interview. Norvell is also lobbying for the job in a BIG WAY. Keep in mind, he’s an assistant, so he can let it leak how interested he is, while current head coaches have to be careful because most will have to go back to the jobs they’re in now and pretend they’re right where they want to be. It’s how the game is played.
Norvell shows much promise as a head coach, but his hire would not cause a run on season tickets at ISU. He’s the offensive coordinator at Nebraska, but Bill Callahan runs the show. The always entertaining Marty Tirrell, of KXNO’s Marty & Miller, really put Norvell’s name out there after Marty had a conversation with his dentist (Not making that up). Marty makes compelling points why it will be Norvell (e.g. Ties to Wisconsin, Alvarez, and key recruiting. Norvell lived in Ames and coached at ISU. He understands the job. He’s worked for some of the best minds in coaching, etc.), but he lacks the WOW factor most fans hope for. I still think Pollard’s privately talking to someone off our radar. We’ll know for sure in the next ten days. I think you’ll see an announcement on one of the next two Mondays, and you can expect a pep rally welcome like McDermott received—hopefully, with more fans.
The McCarney Hangover: No, this has nothing to do with Mac being “half in the bag” for his ESPN interview after the 2002 Nebraska game. The hangover is the funk still reverberating through the ISU athletic department. I think Pollard had to do what he did, but I also think he underestimated how beloved McCarney is in many Cyclone circles. You hear so much from the often critical vocal minority, that it’s easy to overlook the more reasonable majority. I know this because I fight the same thing with all the SoundOFF feedback we receive.
There are key people at ISU who are having a hard time going forward after Mac was forced out. I’ve talked to three people who are downright despondent. They can talk for hours about all the things McCarney did for ISU both on and off the field, and they just don’t understand how he could lose his job.
Pollard’s next hire determines how he’ll be remembered, and he knows it. I applaud him for being bold. Keeping Mac would have been the safe way out, but ISU won zero conference games in 2003, and just 1 this year (with help from a holding a call the Big 12 says it blew). No matter how much Dan did for ISU, and he did do more than any coach in history, there’s no way season tickets at a higher price were going to sell at the volume Pollard needs. It’s all about money these days. All.
McCarney’s Feelings for Pollard: Mac took the high road and stayed on it. He showed so much class that it made more than a few fans question their thoughts that he should be fired. But don’t think for a minute McCarney really has all those warm and fuzzy thoughts about Pollard. Mac did not want to resign, does not think it’s best for ISU, and does not believe Pollard made the right decision. In his shoes, wouldn’t we all feel the same?
Seniors Back Mac: Two different players told me the Seniors voted unanimously to not invite Pollard or President Geoffroy to the football banquet. As far as I know, or one of my sources could see, neither showed. I wouldn’t read too much into the Seniors gesture either. Those close to Mac are intensely loyal. What would you expect?
Pollard Hired McDermott: And he’s off to a great start. How nice was it to see the Cyclones playing team basketball at Minnesota. They’re actually playing defense, rebounding and passing the ball through designed plays. They’re also 5-0, which against the competition is no big deal, but it’s impressive when you consider all the new players, no Hubalek, and a new system.
ISU will have some rough nights this season, but I’ll stick with my prediction that the Clones will somehow have a winning record and make a run at the NIT. I think McDermott is that good. Remember, I think Pollard went into the interview process thinking Rob Jeter, but had the good sense to hire the more qualified candidate, one who wasn’t even in the picture to start. That earns Pollard a little trust in the football process.
Hawkeyes Head to the Alamo Bowl: Iowa should buy the fans free tickets. The fans are the reason the Hawks get the nod over a team that just beat them (Minnesota). Few “teams” travel like Iowa. The Hawk fans show up in large numbers, and spend much cash. Bowl games are, first and foremost, a business. They’d love good teams and a great game, but not as much as they’d love a full house and millions pumped into the economy. Iowa usually provides both.
Kirk Ferentz gave much love to the fans at the news conference announcing Iowa’s good fortune. Ferentz says he’s not apologizing for going to a bowl game, and he shouldn’t. There are, obviously, far too many bowls, and it’s not his fault the Big Ten has an agreement with the Alamo, while Michigan and Ohio State moved into the BCS, so everyone in the conference moves up. But let’s not kid ourselves. Iowa did not earn a bowl bid. Not after losing its final five conference games. Has a major conference school ever headed to a bowl on a worse skid??? I doubt it.
Ferentz Spin: I was disappointed to hear Kirk talk of the tremendous accomplishment of going to “six bowls in six years”. This sounds a lot like the “5 bowls in 6 years” for which Hawk fans gave Dan McCarney a hard time, and rightly so.
With the new 12 game schedule, schools like Iowa and Iowa State play at least 3 games at home they expect to win easily—including 1AA opponents like Montana. That means, you need 3 more wins in 9 games to become bowl eligible. It’s the exact formula Iowa used despite going 2-6 in the Big Ten. Truth is, reaching a bowl is no big deal anymore. Iowa fans should expect it every season.
Ferentz Salary: I’m sure the USA Today story showing Ferentz will make more than $4.7 million dollars in 13 months is causing the coach stress. The timing couldn’t be worse. However, Ferentz deserves a pass from all Iowa fans. He’s won two Big Ten titles in the past five years. He led Iowa to January bowl games in four consecutive seasons. Yes, he’s an easy target for the label “overpaid”, but he’s a big reason Iowa sells out a newly renovated Kinnick Stadium every Saturday afternoon. The guess here is Ferentz will figure out what went wrong this season and fix it. He’s earned that faith.
p.s. As one of you noted, Ferentz and his wife deserve props for donating $400,000 to University of Iowa hospitals. That’s a huge chunk of change and will do a lot of good.
Let me know what you think…