Let's face it; the summer has reached that strenuous middle point. It's a struggle to find things to entertain ourselves in the world of sporting activity. There are no college sports in season, the best storyline in baseball is of the resurgent Tigers (who have about as much star power as a movie on the Lifetime Network.)
The six week World Cup escapade is
over and guys like Trevor Immelman and Geoff Ogilvie are winning PGA golf
tournaments. Color me unimpressed.
ESPN is in stage 7 panic mode, as they
are forced to give large portions of their programming to the "Ultimate Depth
Chart" which I firmly believe is an excuse by the boys in Bristol to torture America with Mark Schlereth's
thoughts on the Jets wide receivers. The Jets, apparently, have the
27th rated receiving corps according to Schlereth, just edging out
the Titans. The Titans are clearly at least #24, come on now Markie Mark. I
imagine tuning in tomorrow and seeing this on ESPN's promo: "Next up on
SportsCenter: 4 year olds fight over Legos; Johnny beats Susie in Horse after
executing the infamous shot from the knees with eyes closed; and Stephen A.
Smith on why he thinks Allen Iverson should run for Congress." Needless to say,
it's not an easy time to keep entertained.
The news on the Iowa sports scene is just
as barren. I think everybody is taking a refreshing power nap after the
exhausting three month stretch. For a good solid three months, the four big
state schools had a PR war of Bush-Kerry like proportions. Jamie Pollard threw
enough media punches to knock out Joe Frazier. I'm pretty sure all of the local
news stations set up stationary cots in the Jacobson building. From Morgan, to
McDermott, to Cael, to Robertson, to Kindler, to the BUS, to expansion, to
billboards, to Stinson, Blalock, Taggart and Degand; the news never stopped. It
has all been a blur.
Iowa, not to be outdone, had their
own counter punches with the Kinnick renovation, to hiring Brands, to Bowlsby
departing, to making Ferentz the highest paid state employee ever in the 160
year history of Iowa (sorry couldn't resist), to extending Alford and Bluder,
firing basketball assistants and hiring their new AD in Barta.
Drake hired a new
UNI has a new basketball
It has reached a point where you
expect to see that the Central
College coach cured the common cold or
the Simpson coach climbed Mt. Everest in tomorrow's paper. Heck, that's
probably the only way they would even make the back page of the sports
We are living in the age of
college sports in the state of Iowa. Never has there been such a flurry of
information regarding the athletic departments of the state schools in a period
of time. They have a strangle hold on the people of this state. And it's great
to see. Because, let's be honest, who wants to hear about the CIETC scandal all
There are several reasons for this
recent spike of interest. First and foremost, Iowa State
and Iowa have
both enjoyed unprecedented success on the football field at the same time during
this century. Their combined winning percentage this century is 58 % (combined
record of 87-62). Compare that with these two "big-time"
Florida (Florida, FSU, Miami, etc.): 61 %
Ohio (Ohio State, Ohio, Toledo, etc.): 55 %
The state of Iowa has in fact become
one of the big boys in the college football world. No longer is Iowa State resigned to be the little brother.
They have become noticed not only on an in-state basis, but slowly they are
being recognized nationally. Iowa
State has out-grown the "beating
Iowa as the
only positive" era. They now have their sights on loftier goals and their Big 12
brethren are taking note. Nobody in the Big 12 marks down ISU as an easy W like
they once did. The only Big 12 schools ISU hasn't defeated in the last four
years are Texas and Oklahoma. And several of
those wins came on the road, something which was unheard of in the ‘90s.
State has picked up eight
conference road wins in the last six years. Not great. But, the Cyclones had
zero conference road wins in an eight year stretch from 1991-1999. The ball is starting to
Most of that success came with
Bruce Van de Velde running the point in the ISU athletic office attack. And to a
large extent, Van de Velde did a below average job of promoting the changing
tide of Cyclone football. Other than the Bergstrom indoor practice facility,
which would have been very difficult to screw up, Van de Velde didn't take
advantage of the momentum in the program. Season tickets increased only
moderately, the marketing of ISU football remained unchanged, as Van de Velde
was satisfied to just sit back and watch.
With Pollard taking the AD
position to a much more visible and aggressive level of performance, the
potential of improvement is impossible to ignore. He is not going to allow the
Cyclone football team to wallow in the back pages. Dan McCarney has always
played the lack-of-respect card, and he has done all he could to change ISU's
unhealthy perception. But the only real work he could do to change that
perception was to win football games. He has done that. Now, it's up to someone
else to take the ISU torch and spread it across state lines. Thus the recent
three month PR war in the media.
Pollard realized right away how
important communicating the Cyclone message is. He hired Steve Malchow as the
senior associate athletics director for communications. Malchow is one of the
sharpest fellows you will ever talk to and has been invaluable in recent months
to Jamie Pollard and the Cyclones. Every move Pollard announces has been crafted
and calculated by Malchow and the rest of the athletic department. They have
been hard-set on changing the reputation of the Cyclones. Last month's
"Billboard-Gate" wasn't just a random move. That was an orchestrated attempt to
motivate the ISU base in enemy territory and at the same time grab headlines and
generate discussion in eastern Iowa. It worked brilliantly. Even before the
billboard was constructed, it was already front page material in newspapers
across the state. And it sent the folks in Iowa City backpedaling like a burned defensive
Don't expect that to change.
The moves Pollard has made have
accentuated the thought that the Cyclones are no longer comfortable with being
average. "Go hard or don't go at all."
Now if we could just fast forward
to football season. We are only 49 days away and I'm tired of watching Kobiyashi
eat hot dogs.