Monday Musings

In this week's word to Cyclone Nation readers, Steve Deace agrees with the decision to give Dan McCarney a hefty raise, but he also says it will raise the expectations of fans as well. Plus, Deace discusses the Big 12 woes of the men's basketball team and some bush league tactics deployed by another Big 12 school.

Iowa State Athletic Director Bruce Van De Velde is a man true to his word.

Back in the fall, while the Cyclones were riding high among the nation's elite in college football, Van De Velde said he had every intention of awarding Coach Dan McCarney a deal commiserate with fair market value. How did he define "fair market value?" When asked that by the Des Moines Register, Van De Velde said a deal worth $900,000+ per season.

Last week Van De Velde put his money where his mouth was.

Van De Velde showed Mac the money with an extension through 2010 that gives Mac a base pay of $925,000 a year plus incentives. That's slightly higher than Kirk Ferentz may or may not make over in Iowa City next year, by the way. Just in case you're keeping score <wink>.

Mac certainly seems to deserve it, the team's odd 7-7 record this fall and late season disappointments notwithstanding. If you look at the progress of the program, it's improved national standing, where it stands in relation to its rival to the east, and the revenue generated by Mac's success it's a no-brainer. The 23 wins and three consecutive bowl games posted by the Cyclones the past three seasons is one of the most successful stretches in ISU's history.

Van De Velde points out that Baylor is paying new Coach Guy Morris, who owns a 9-14 record as a head coach, over a million per season. Oklahoma State rewarded Les Miles for winning the program's first bowl game since 1988 with an extension that will pay him $1.4 million a season. Before John L. Smith bolted Louisville for Michigan State, he was making $800,000 per season. The Cardinals were averaging around 38,000 fans per game in a relatively new stadium.

Therefore, if you're a believer in free market capitalism, Mac's contract seems justified. Besides, if Mac were to leave Van De Velde would definitely have to pay a successor more than the $625,000 Mac used to make anyway, so you might as well dance with you brought you.

However, despite all of the success the past three seasons, the only job Mac's ever seriously been linked to by more than just idle media speculation was TCU after Dennis Franchione left in 2000. That means there hasn't been, to the best of my knowledge, any serious interest from a BCS conference school. So, it's not as if Iowa State gave Mac a raise strictly because of competition. It was also a reward for a job well done, if not yet completed.

It's that not yet completed part that could get tricky for Mac. The first caller to my radio program on the day Mac's new deal was announced was a die-hard ISU fan by the name of "Mike from Waterloo." Mike is so devoted to the Cyclones that he calls every coach's show each week to offer his support.

Nonetheless, Mike from Waterloo's initial reaction to Mac's new deal was essentially "congratulations, now go win me a Big 12 championship." From he who earns more, more is expected. After the magical season enjoyed by their rivals to the east, it's doubtful the Cyclone Nation will be content three years from now with more Independence and Humanitarian Bowls given the type of money we're talking about here.

Unfortunately, given the current state of the Big 12 conference, that's just what Cyclone fans may realistically have to look forward to. It's going to be very difficult for the Cyclones to ever qualify for the BCS, because there are too many teams ahead of them with the tradition, talent, and stability in coaching in place to maintain their current status quo indefinitely. The Big Ten, which Iowa swept this season, is far more volatile. Only Michigan and Ohio State can honestly say they meet the same criteria that teams like Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas State, and Colorado have set in the Big 12. The Huskers suffered a "down year" at 7-7, but still have facilities, resources, and tradition in place vastly superior to 75 percent of the rest of college football.

In the Big Ten, a team that finishes 2-6 in the league can still make a great bowl like the Alamo and win it (over the Big 12 North Division champion, I might add). You finish 2-6 in the Big 12 and you're toast. Purdue was 6-6 and won a nice bowl trip to the Sun Bowl and momentum for next season with a victory over Washington. In the Big 12, a 6-6 Texas A&M team stayed home altogether.

There simply isn't a lot of room for upward mobility in the Big 12 if you're an Iowa State. The addition of Franchione at Texas A&M – a program with a slew of money, great tradition and fan support, and a rich in-state talent base to recruit from – means the Aggies will likely re-join the league's elite sooner rather than later. Oklahoma State has a potential top 25 team returning for 2003. Texas Tech has been to 10 bowl games the past 16 years. Missouri is a young program on the rise as well. And the Longhorns, Buffaloes, Wildcats, and Sooners certainly aren't going anywhere.

To make even a mid-major bowl like the Alamo, Holiday, or Cotton (let alone the BCS) the Cyclones would likely need at least nine wins in a season. That's because among Oklahoma, Kansas State, Texas, Nebraska, and Texas A&M there will be plenty of nine or 10-win teams with higher national profiles virtually every single year.

Now, before you get too depressed and wonder if you can handle celebrating the next several New Year's in Boise, read this:

It was harder for Mac to overcome over a generation of losing at a school with virtually no long-term tradition of winning, facilities, resources, and talent than it will be to keep it there. Why? Because now the coaching and attitude are in place. The personnel is almost where it needs to be as well. And the facilities are also improving. The program has been installed, now it just needs to be enhanced with better material.

I believe 2003 will be a very telling year for the Iowa State football program. As long as Mac and his program are here, there's no chance of a return to the nuclear winter that was the 1980s & 1990s. But with the amount of upperclassmen and lettermen returning next fall, the instability inside the Nebraska program, as well as a chance to face the Big 12's crème de la crème inside the friendly confines of Jack Trice Stadium, this year seems like as good a time as any to take it to the next level.

Assistant Coach's Next in Line for a Raise?

One item that still remains on the table is assistant coach's pay. That issue, which Mac has long been very vocal in voicing his displeasure about, was tabled in lieu of discussing Mac's deal first. The Cyclones rank near the bottom of the Big 12 in salaries for assistant coaches and lost three top members of Mac's staff to other opportunities last winter.

The ISU public has been very vocal on Internet message boards and my radio program with its criticism of some elements of Mac's staff. However, Mac is extremely loyal to his coaches and told me this week he stills has loads of confidence in offensive coordinator Steve Brickey, despite some complaining from within the Cyclone Nation. I'm just speculating here, but I wouldn't expect Mac to many any changes unless someone gets a better opportunity elsewhere.

Van De Velde told me on the radio this week he desires to raise football assistant coach's pay as well, but it's about performance as far as he's concerned and he's not just going to give someone a pay raise because he holds the position. Read into that what you will.

Men's Basketball gets Reality Check

Was I the only one stung by the way Kansas Coach Roy Williams chose to motivate his team prior to its Big Monday showdown with Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum? Williams ran down ISU's relatively soft schedule for his Jayhawks and asked them if they even knew who Coe College was?

The implication was that Kansas was more prepared for its Big 12 opener than were the Cyclones because it had already faced vastly superior competition. Unfortunately, the reason Williams' remarks stung is because there's an element of truth to them.

However, that's not the real reason for the team's 0-2 league start. As much as I loathe soft non-conference schedules, I somewhat understand why Larry Eustachy did it this year with such an inexperienced nucleus. Building confidence was a priority, although I don't think playing one non-conference toughie in the same class as a Kansas and losing by a wide margin would've shattered their fragile egos.

No, the reason the Cyclones are 0-2 in league play with consecutive blowout losses is obvious: they're just not as good as their opponents. Simple, isn't it?

Granted, I thought Iowa State would pull the upset against Kansas last week, and the Cyclones have done it before. But in retrospect Kansas was a team returning four starters from a Final Four squad, plus two Parade All-Americans who were reserves last season, and it added a JUCO All-American. These Jayhawks also are not the same as Roy Williams' teams of the past. They play three guards and they've learned a thing or two about toughness after so many NCAA Tournament disappointments. Kansas may be the most battle-tested team in America.

Texas just ran Iowa State off the court, literally. The Longhorns are quicker, more athletic, and more experienced at virtually every position. And they were at home. If you did a preseason W&L on Iowa State's schedule and counted this one as a win you need to put down the Cardinal-and-Gold Kool-Aid.

Still, there are a couple of problems that I can see with my relatively untrained eye. Adam Haluska seems much more tentative than he was during the non-conference season. It was good to see him exert himself more in the second half Saturday night. He's probably the only Cyclone that can go end-to-end and get his own shot and actually make it so he's vital.

Speaking of making shots, Jake Sullivan needs to start making a few more in the first half of these games. He was cold as ice against Kansas to start off and barely got a look at the basket against Texas in the first half. He needs to set the tone for this team and let everyone else feed off of him. Tim Barnes needs to shoot better as well, particulary his pullup jumper in transition.

Some sort of inside presence must be established. Frankly, Jackson Vroman looks lost and is rapidly developing a reputation he doesn't want with Midwest referees. Saturday night he collected his fifth foul while being smacked in the face. I think the officials just figured since a foul was committed and Vroman was in the general vicinity that it must've been him. Chris Alexander looks like he can bring a back to the basket element to this offense, but he needs to be more decisive with the basketball. He travels too often while deciding what to do when he gets it down low.

With a week to go before Oklahoma – my pick for the national championship – comes calling it will be interesting to see how much tinkering and adjusting Eustachy and his staff can accomplish. Hopefully a sellout crowd this weekend at Hilton will be a motivator. In terms of the psyche of this squad, I think this is a very big game. They've at least got to be competitive until the bitter end.

Thankfully, the schedule softens considerably down the stretch.

Bush League

Everyone, Cyclone and Hawkeye alike, has been talking about the speculation swirling around Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz and the Jacksonville Jaguars head coaching job in the NFL.

What disturbs me greatly about this story is this paragraph in an article this week by respected NFL beat writer Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union:

The Daily Oklahoman also quoted sources within the Oklahoma (football) program as saying the Jaguars interviewed Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz on Wednesday. The Jaguars declined to comment on that report.

If this report is accurate, and considering Stellino has been covering the NFL for years at numerous publications there's no reason to suspect it wouldn't be, then I say shame on whomever leaked this inside the Oklahoma program.

Negative recruiting is a fact of life in today's college football. Nearly everybody does it in some way, shape, or form. I've read outrageous stories about coaches faxing kids depth charts of a team they've verbally committed to in order to point out the lack of playing time available. Often times it's more subtle than that.  

This is blatantly bush league, especially when you consider the close Hawkeye ties to many members of the Sooner program, including the head man himself. If the Oklahoma coaches are willing to say this about a program in another conference that three of them graduated from, I can only imagine what they say about Iowa State, Nebraska, and the rest of their Big 12 rivals when the cameras and tape recorders aren't on. Leaking information about another coach's job status has to violate some unwritten rule among the coaching fraternity.

You'd think a program of Oklahoma's current standing would be above such infantile tactics. Apparently Bob Stoops really did learn a lot from Steve Spurrier after all.  

Top 10 Picks if NFL draft were held today

1. Cincinnati Bengals: Carson Palmer (QB-USC)

2. Detroit Lions: Charles Rogers (WR-Michigan State)

3. Chicago Bears: Byron Leftwich (QB-Marshall)

4. Houston Texans: Terrell Suggs (DE-Arizona State)

5. Arizona Cardinals: Jimmy Kennedy (DT-Penn State)

6. Dallas Cowboys: Jordan Gross (OT-Utah)

7. Minnesota Vikings: Terence Newman (CB-Kansas State)

8. Jacksonville Jaguars: William Joseph (DT-Miami, Fla.)

9. St. Louis Rams: Gerald Hayes (LB-Pittsburgh)

10. Seattle Seahawks: Johnathan Sullivan (DT-Georgia)

Editor's Note

Please accept our apology for the dearth of articles this week. Frankly, we're trying to shake off our post-holiday funk. We also had the February issue of the magazine to conclude last week, which got held up because we were waiting on the outcome from Boise before deciding which angle to take. We're also hard at work already on March's football recruiting issue.

Another reason for the lack of recruiting insight this week online is that things ground to a halt last week. The ISU coaches were at their national convention until Wendesday,  so there really wasn't much progress to update other than another erroneous report on Ron Prelow committing that we had to correct again.

This week, the pace will quicken again and our very own Bill Seals will be back on the case with the latest breaking news. Plus, CLONED returns from a rather extensive business trip as well. Thanks for your patience.

(Steve Deace can be heard every Monday-Friday from 4-7 p.m. on 1460 KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network)






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