Cyclone Nation held hostage: Day 1,419.
The streak which-must-not-be-named now stands at 26 straight following a 62-59 collapsing loss at Missouri on Saturday in Columbia.
Proving that they can always find new ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when not wearing the white jerseys, the Cyclones blew a 12-point cushion with just 4 minutes and 35 seconds to play. The Tigers scored 17 of the game's final 19 points. Aiding their cause were three Iowa State turnovers, 1-for-5 shooting down the stretch, and ISU inexplicably fouling on three straight Missouri layups.
The Cyclones managed to find a way to get out-toughed down the stretch by a program rife with scandal, questionable-at-best leadership from its head coach, and a permanent hold on fifth place in the Big 12 despite some of the best talent money can buy—allegedly.
Is that a blunt enough assessment for you?
I know it's tempting to give Missouri credit for the comeback, since they overcame a 28-4 ISU run in the second half. However, the Tigers did it against the most underwhelming road team in the conference, which is little bit like claiming a great military victory against France.
Can I get a defensive rebound on a free throw miss? Can I get a defensive stop? Can I get an offensive possession that doesn't end in a turnover? Can I get a witness? I'm guessing those are just a few of the thoughts, along with some other "colorful" language, that were going through Wayne Morgan's mind during that time.
Don't blame this on that iffy out-of-bounds call. Watching the TIVO replay, it looked like the ball was out on Curtis Stinson. Speaking of Stinson, don't blame this on his two ball-handling mishaps in the final moments, because ISU isn't even in position to win any game at all without him. Don't blame this on Jared Homan's off night. Don't blame this on Morgan not getting mad enough on the sidelines. Don't even blame this one on Bruce Van De Velde.
Blame it on a paradigm that exists within this program, and all of Cyclone Nation. This defeatist mindset seeps in when you've won just six of your last 30 away games. If you're looking for answers you can stop. There aren't any.
- It doesn't matter if there is a hard-edged coach that preaches defense and rebounding, or a laid-back one that relies on athleticism and pressure. The result is still the same.
- It doesn't matter if you have Jake Sullivan putting up that last-second shot or John Neal. The result is still the same.
- It doesn't matter if you start three seniors or have a freshman and sophomore dominated squad. The result is still the same.
Homan has seemingly been at ISU forever, but he's never won a Big 12-road game in his career. Meditate on that for a second. In fact, there isn't a single member of this program who knows what it feels like to take the Cyclones away from Hilton Coliseum in conference play and come home the conquering hero. And it's no coincidence that this streak has perfectly coincided with ISU's NCAA Tournament drought, either. Until the former passes away, once and for all, there's no need at all to discuss the possibility of the latter.
The bottom line is this: it's time to stop to finding excuses, it's time to stop rationalizing these performances as making progress, and it's time to quit finding scapegoats after every one of these debacles. Morgan said it best to the Des Moines Register afterwards when he said: "I don't think it's an appropriate time to try and lift spirits. We should be sad. We should be upset."
There is only one possible explanation to what happened Saturday in Columbia, and the previous 25 road losses before it; no matter if the final margin of defeat is large or small. It can be summed up in four words: here we go again.
If you at home were thinking that when the Cyclones began to unravel against Mizzou, what do you think the Cyclones themselves were thinking at the time. After all, we just experience it vicariously. They've been through this a multitude of times in the first person. They've lived it, over and over again. This is basketball's version of Groundhog's Day.
Take that famous axiom of "those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it" and stick it where the sun don't shine. As I see it, there's too much history going on around here as it is every time this team goes on the road, and nobody seems to be learning anything but heartache from it.
The Good Book teaches us not to overcome temptation by focusing on not doing it, but instead by drawing closer to your faith and the author and finisher of it. It's time for everyone associated with ISU basketball, no matter how loosely, to start practicing that principle.
And I'll start with me.
From this point forward, I'm not talking about it. I'm not writing about it. I'm not getting frustrated by it. I'm going to use my little corner of the fourth estate to do my civic duty for Cyclone Nation.
We can complain, we can whine, we can criticize…yet none of those tactics have gotten us anywhere over the last four years. That doesn't mean the program is off the hook, it just means we're not going to do our part any longer to contribute to this fatalistic approach for the time being.
What if that doesn't work, you ask? Then God mercifully grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change.
Jason Berryman Update
The newspapers keep writing about him. People on our message boards keep posting about him. Callers to our radio show keep discussing him.
ISU's 2003 team MVP as a freshman is still sitting in the Story County Jail for his "Dorf on crime" episode last summer. It's been more than four months since Berryman was a free man. Nevertheless, that doesn't stop folks from wondering about his future as a football player at ISU.
Berryman is now a convicted felon, so given Dan McCarney's disciplinary precedents it didn't seem likely he had much of a chance to reclaim his spot on the roster. Players have been asked to voluntarily leave for far less, and Mac has been known to have little patience with character issues in the past. In fact, it's one of his most admirable qualities, if you ask me.
However, despite all the media updates on his criminal status, there still hasn't been any definitive, on-the-record comment from anyone at ISU about his status. And it hasn't been like the administration and football program haven't had ample opportunity to declare something, either.
One report in the Ames Tribune right before Christmas said that Berryman had been dismissed from school and the squad. Then the Des Moines Register reported last week that Berryman had hand-written a note to the judge in his case pleading with him to reconsider a denial of his request to lesser his sentence. The Register reported that Berryman had indicated in his note that if he could be afforded that opportunity, he was informed that he would be allowed back in school. It should be noted, however, that university spokesman John McCarroll said he was unaware of any deal to allow Berryman back into ISU when classes began today.
Given NCAA eligibility requirements, it would be extremely difficult for Berryman to get himself academically viable in time for this fall if he isn't allowed to enroll this semester. In order to enroll this semester, he needs his 300-day sentence reduced immediately because he still has almost half of it to go. Since the judge already denied this petition once, he is under no requirement to even respond to Berryman's personal plea for reconsideration, let alone in a timely fashion.
In other words, Berryman is far more likely to spend another three months in jail than he is to spend it as a student at ISU.
Now, this scenario begged the question about whether or not it would be right for ISU to allow him back in school and back on the team. I have found that the vast majority of those in favor of putting him back on the team are so because he's very good, which I view to be shallow reasoning. Although I do give them credit for being honest about it. After all, if Berryman were the walk-on long-snapper no one would give a rip about his future in the cardinal-and-gold. On the other hand, returning him to the team after such a sorry episode could certainly be construed as a serious breach of standards.
I could give you my take on this, but in essence it would just be my take. I have no greater reasoning than anyone else, whether they agree with me or not. I'm not the coach, I'm not Berryman, and I'm not God. On these character, integrity matters I strive more and more to reach beyond myself for something more absolute and transcendent. That would be my faith.
My faith teaches me that you reap what you sew. So, since Berryman did the crime – even if he only ended up with $4 and a cell phone – he should do the time. Yet my faith also teaches me that no one is beyond the bounds of grace, and no one should be written off.
Therefore, perhaps one solution would be to allow Berryman back into ISU as a student, and even back on the football team, but only as a walk-on. We shouldn't subsidize scholarships for convicted felons at ISU or anywhere else, especially when that felony was committed on our dime as taxpayers and ticket buyers to begin with. However, we shouldn't just discard someone – especially someone with a full life ahead of him – once he has realized in full the consequences of his actions.
Thus, if Berryman is willing to pay his own way and re-earn his spot as a Cyclone he should be afforded that opportunity. But under no condition should he be given that chance in the form of a scholarship, or a handout. If he can't pay his own way financially, he should get a student loan like most of us did. If he won't pay his own way than he may not be truly repentant for his behavior, or just looking for another school that will give him a free ride. In that case let him go.
On Thursday, I was finally able to get Mac on the record about Berryman on KXNO. Mac said he hadn't spoken to him since he was incarcerated, and since he was dismissed from school he has no comment now. When I asked Mac if there is a way for Berryman to come back, he said he didn't know and would have to wait until he talked to him upon his release from jail. When I asked him if he could get his scholarship back, Mac seemed skeptical.
Right now, linebacker Dominique Flower is back in school after leaving last spring for personal reasons. He didn't commit a felony while he was already on probation, but he still was forced to earn his spot back on the team as a walk-on. If Flower had to meet that threshold then I can't imagine Mac giving Berryman his scholarship back anytime soon.
My Top 25
The final college football poll of the just-concluded 2004 season.
3. Oklahoma (12-1)…Preseason rank—2…Bowl result—lost to USC, 55-19, in the Orange Bowl….2005 opener—September 3rd vs. TCU.
10. Boise State (11-1)…Preseason rank—unranked…Bowl result—lost to Louisville, 44-40, in Liberty Bowl…2005 opener—September 3rd at Georgia.
13. Michigan (9-3)…Preseason rank—8th…Bowl result—lost to Texas, 38-37, in Rose Bowl…2005 opener—September 3rd vs. Eastern Michigan.
15. Florida State (9-3)…Preseason rank—5th…Bowl result—beat West Virginia, 30-18, in Gator Bowl…2005 opener—September 5th vs. Miami, Fla.
16. LSU (9-3)…Preseason rank—3rd…Bowl result—lost to Iowa, 30-25, in Capitol One Bowl…2005 opener—September 3rd vs. North Texas.
18. Wisconsin (9-3)…Preseason rank—22nd…Bowl result—lost to Georgia, 24-21, in Outback Bowl…2005 opener—September 3rd vs. Bowling Green.
19. Texas Tech (8-4)…Preseason rank—43rd…Bowl result—beat California, 45-31, in Holiday Bowl…2005 opener—September 10th vs. Florida International.
23. Pittsburgh (8-4)…Preseason rank—unranked…Bowl result—lost to Utah, 35-7, in Fiesta Bowl…2005 opener—September 10th vs. Ohio University.
Honorable mention: #26 Virginia (8-4), #27 Florida (7-5), #28 West Virginia (8-4), #29 Texas A&M (7-5), #30 Colorado (7-5).
(Steve Deace can be heard on the radio each weekday from 3-6 p.m. on 1460-KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network.)