Howe Column: Rudock Deserves Better

All signs are pointing to Jake Rudock playing his final season some place other than Iowa. As Hi Publisher Rob Howe writes, the veteran quarterback should find a new home. He deserves better.

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Jake Rudock deserves better.

If you're accusing him of bailing on Iowa, not being a true Hawkeye, you're misguided. He's not the disloyal one here. Not with the way things were handled.

And this isn't about who should be the starting quarterback. That's debatable. Perhaps C.J. Beathard is the better man.

It's the way Rudock lost his job that smells fishy. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz sold a piece of his soul on this one. A man of high character compromised himself.

Plenty of fans are fine with the way Beathard replaced Rudock. By any means necessary, it needed to happen. Some of them have said it showed a commitment to winning and encouraged them to renew season tickets they may not have otherwise.

Fine. That's big money college athletics. Concessions are made, morally, ethically and otherwise, in the interest of winning.

After another inconsistent season on offense, few folks would have had issue with an open quarterback competition this spring. Even Rudock probably would have understood that and taken it on.

However, that's not what went down. For the first time in 17 seasons as coach, Ferentz released an early January depth chart. He listed Beathard as his starter.

The move came less than a month after Casey Beathard, C.J.'s father, told The Tennessean his son was considering a transfer. It looked like a parent had forced Ferentz's hand. The coach has been ineffective in dispelling that belief.

When Ferentz kicked off spring practice last week, he repeatedly was asked when Beathard passed his competition. He was vague, saying time and time again, it was what was best for the team.

It's reasonable to take that to mean Ferentz knew he must list Beathard as his starter or lose him. With two years of eligibility to Rudock's one, it's better for the program to have a experienced signal caller for two seasons rather than one. There's little evidence beyond that being the reason.

Rudock and Beathard have been competing during the last two seasons. Rudock started 25 of 26 games played in those campaigns, missing only last year's Purdue game with injury.

Ferentz and offensive coordinator Greg Davis talked about using both quarterbacks all last off-season. That conversation continued throughout the fall. It never panned out that way.

Rudock clearly was their top choice. Even when the offense struggled, as it did against Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin (first half) and Nebraska (second half), he played all of the meaningful snaps.

In fact, it looked like Beathard's days at Iowa might be numbered midway through 2014. He spoke out about wide receiver Derrick Willies, his friend, leaving the program, not only for family matters, but for a lack of playing time. From that point forward, when he saw the field, it was minimal or mop-up duty.

Davis revealed during bowl prep that the competition was wide open and both guys would play against Tennessee in the postseason. This came just after Casey Beathard's quotes in the newspaper.

It also happened after we were told all year that the competition was open. Wasn't it? If not, was it because they felt Rudock clearly was better?

So, Rudock starts the bowl game. Beathard plays more. Ferentz is asked what he thought of their performances right after the embarrassing loss to the Vols.

"I think they both did some good things.They both had some down plays, too. That's part of it. The way the game got away early, it's tough to evaluate anything in a real great fashion," the coach said.

Ferentz did not allow media access to his quarterbacks after the bowl game. In fact, Rudock last was available for interviews following the Nebraska loss in late November. Beathard's final session with local journalists came when he talked about Willies leaving.

It's no wonder with how badly this situation has been botched. It's likely someone would say something he regrets.

So, after asserting that it was tough to evaluate things after the bowl game, Ferentz inserts Beathard has his starter going into the spring. It would have made a whole lot more sense to make he and Rudock co-No. 1s. But, then, the guy with two years left probably would have, well, left.

Need more evidence? Ferentz was asked last week when Beathard beat out Rudock, if it was during bowl prep, when the competition was "open."

"You know, if it was in the bowl prep then we would have started -- if we felt like C.J. was the best guy to win the game, we would have gone with him in the bowl game, but we did make the decision to let them compete after our last regular season game, let them both compete throughout December, and we also made the commitment we were going to let them both play in the ballgame, and that's what we did. You know, and then at some point you've got to make a decision. You've got to name a starter. I think you do. You could have played it a couple different ways, but I think in the best interest of our football team, after that ballgame it was best to name a No. 1, name a No. 2, and then move on from there," Ferentz said.

Why, other than Casey Beathard's comments about his son transferring, do you need to name a starter in January? Ferentz stated that if C.J. gave him the best chance to win the bowl game, he would have started, and possibly play the whole game. Then the coach said after the game that it was too difficult to evaluate them in the contest.

It would have been much more reasonable (fair) to head into spring with an open competition at quarterback and not name a starter less than a week after the bowl game. Unless, you were worried that the guy with two years of eligibility would leave that month, which was between semesters.

In review, the coaches felt good enough about Rudock to play him for most meaningful snaps last season unless he was hurt. Then, after opening the competition in December, still started him in the bowl game after which Ferentz said the quarterbacks couldn't be fairly evaluated. Less than a week after making that comment, he named Beathard the starter.

How would you view all of this if you were Rudock? Would you stay after that?

Following a flurry of quarterback questions to start his press conference last week, Ferentz asked reporters to change the subject. He clearly was uncomfortable and calculated with his responses. Part of his should have been embarrassed and likely was.

Ferentz has built an admirable reputation on fairness. Walk-ons have been given the same opportunities as scholarship players. The best players have played and it's been settled on the field.

The Rudock-Beathard competition was not decided between the lines. The choice was made based on keeping the guy with more time to play. That sent a terrible message to other members of the team competing for positions.

Ferentz now must hope he hits pay dirt with Beathard, who, by all appearances, was awarded his job based on a threat. Victories will satisfy the masses but it will be hard to forget how they were attained.

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