Ahhh…a New Year is finally upon us. And if you're a member of Cyclone Nation, it couldn't come soon enough.
2003 has featured more than its share of heartache and disappointment. However, things look to be turning around just in time for 2004. Both the wrestling and men's basketball programs are off to great starts, and so is ISU football – which is desperate for some good news – in recruiting.
Nonetheless, I feel compelled to dole out some advice on how to make 2004 the year of the Cyclone. So this week I'll use this space to suggest to a select few what they should resolve to do in the New Year.
- Universities President Gregory Geoffrey should resolve to more strongly support his athletic director publicly or just get another athletic director. In an interview with WHO-TV's Keith Murphy after the resolution of the Larry Eustachy saga, Geoffrey didn't exactly heap praise on Bruce Van De Velde. He has been strangely silent since. He also didn't exactly give Van De Velde all the tools necessary for the job by forcing the athletic department to absorb 17 percent of the state budget cut, far less than what President Skorton at Iowa dealt Hawkeye athletics. People in power shouldn't be enslaved to public opinion, but they should be aware of it. Geoffrey appears to a lot of folks in the ISU sporting community to be distant towards athletics at best, and an ivory tower academic who doesn't put a priority on athletics at worst. For the record, we're scheduled for a sit-down with Geoffrey after the Holidays. That should be an intriguing discussion.
- Speaking of Van De Velde, perhaps he should resolve to more clearly understand the pomp and circumstance that goes along with a chief executive position? Bruce, at times, is too honest. Openly questioning whether or not ISU truly has the commitment to athletics to remain competitive in the Big 12 may be a justifiable response to the pending budget cuts, but that's not the message the man in charge should be sending to the already-depressed masses. I'm not saying Bruce needs to bow to the whim of the message board poster and sports talk radio caller, because he shouldn't. In fact, even you Van De Velde skeptics out there have to admit that Bruce is willing to do what he thinks is right because some of his decision weren't exactly popular. However, for whatever reason, Bruce struggles to connect with a certain segment of the fan base.
- Unless Steve Loney is willing to come back, Dan McCarney should resolve to go outside the program for fresh ideas to fill his two open positions on the coaching staff. After losing 16 of their last 19 games, several of them by wide margins, the Cyclones are need of an infusion of ingenuity. One of the positives of playing the schedule of tough opponents ISU has faced the past two years is that has given Mac a birds-eye view of some great young coaching talent. Whether its an offensive line coach from Northern Illinois that helped mold a young unit for a 10-2 squad, or somebody who has helped make Boise State explosive on offense and a national power the past two years, there is ample opportunities to bring something new and improved to Ames.
- Iowa State fans that continually sell themselves short should resolve to stop being so defeatist. How many times this year did I hear – whether on my show, on our forums here at CN, or in actually live conversation – stuff like "nobody will want to come here" for a myriad of reasons. You are in the Big freaking 12 Conference, one of the premier leagues in America. For goodness sakes, Baylor's football coach left the SEC to go to Waco. One of Wayne Morgan's new assistants was previously at Notre Dame and North Carolina. The Cyclones have more players in the NBA than Oklahoma. There are only 60 colleges in the nation that are a part of the BCS, and you're one of them. Some of you need to start realizing that.
- Iowa State fans that continually have unjustified expectations should resolve to get a reality check. And no, this doesn't contradict what I just wrote above. I'm really speaking to those of you who think Mac should be run out of town after this year's 2-10 debacle. Obviously, that record is unacceptable under any circumstances. But the only reason there is a standard for ISU football is because Mac established it. To people like "Bill from Cedar Rapids" who call Mac's success at ISU "ancient history" you need to realize where you're at. You're at a school that until 10 years ago was considered a coaching graveyard. You're at a school with the second-smallest budget in the Big 12, and the smallest of all the other public universities in the league. Your coaching salaries – until recently – ranked near the bottom of the league. There's been quite a lot of success to talk about the last four years in all of the sports that matter: Cael Sanderson, Big 12 titles in men's and women's basketball, Elite Eight appearances in men's and women's basketball, the only bowl victory in school history, and beating Iowa in football. Considering the un-level playing field ISU is competing on, that's pretty darn good. Some of you need to get more of a perspective.
- Bill Fennelly should resolve to see if Angie Welle has any more eligibility.
- Wayne Morgan should resolve to play more of that Syracuse 2-3 matchup zone defense. It's unique to the Big 12, and would make the Cyclones even more of an irritant to foes who only see it once or twice a year.
- Cyclone Nation should resolve to sell another 26,000 season tickets in football. I know that's a hard sell after 2-10, but if you want the best coaches and facilities you have to be willing to pay for them, and buying those season tickets this offseason is where you come in.
- ISU administrators and fans who think my job is to simply spin for the Cyclones all-day, everyday on the radio should resolve to get thicker skin. KXNO maybe the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network, but we first and foremost are a radio station for all Central Iowa sports fans. In fact, we're the only radio station for Central Iowa sports fans. With that comes a certain responsibility for credibility. Whenever I can dispense the gospel according the cardinal-and-gold, I will. However, I'm not going to tread lightly on discussing tough decisions or scandals. Besides, I don't hate the Hawkeyes like some of you do, or subscribe to that "four legs good, two legs bad" mentality. Iowa may not be my favorite team, but I have several good friends that I like and respect associated with the Hawkeyes. And since at least half of our audience are Iowa fans, we're going to cover them whether some of you like it or not. And we're going to say nice things about them at times, whether some of you like it or not.
- Finally, I resolve to stop provoking those of you who dislike me as much as I do. These past few months, especially, I've been having too much fun watching some of you try and unethically get our premium info over to the Rivals' site, or use the Rivals' site as a way of complaining about how we run our business or I conduct my radio program. As a result, I almost look for ways to send you nattering nabobs of negativity into an emotional tizzy. And as fun as it is to gawk at I should aspire to better. I should also resolve to finally lose some weight so you player-haters out there would need to come up with another putdown.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Since this is my final column of 2003, I just wanted to take a minute and say thank you to the thousands of Cyclone fans out there who support this site and our magazine with their subscriptions.
It's been a trying year for Cyclone Nation as a whole, but our business has not just survived but thrived nonetheless (despite the better efforts of some lawyers). Obviously nothing says you support the quality of our product both online and print more than your financial commitment.
For that, Bill Seals and I are grateful. We're also grateful for the behind-the-scenes support we get from so many ISU coaches and administrators. To all of you allow me to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
See you in 2004.