Miller: Right Now, Apathy Isn't So Bad

Steve Alford's Hawkeyes have five games left to save their season. They have five games to get to .500 in league play, with a best case scenario record of 9-7 still being possible with a perfect finish. But this season has been anything but perfect, and the Hawkeye Nation is boiling over with a range of emotions, most of them negative. It would appear that the large segment of the fan base that has been apathetic in recent years has become something else; angry.

These are the times that try the spirit of Iowa Hawkeye fans.

I just got done watching Scothawk's video tribute to the 2004 Iowa Hawkeye football team as well as his Capital One Bowl masterpiece…again.

I just can't get enough of Iowa football, and I am sure that you feel the same way.

Regardless of the state of affairs regarding the Iowa Men's Basketball program, I think that all of us would still be living in this state of Hawkeye euphoria surrounding the success of Kirk Ferentz's charges.

But perhaps we cling to them a little bit longer given the fact that the basketball team has brought more pain than pleasure in recent years.

I have written before that the worst thing that can befall an athletic department is when a significant portion of your fan base is no longer moved to feel one way or another about what transpires on the field or court of play.

I have written that a large portion of the Iowa fan base has become apathetic to what transpires on the Hawkeye hard court.

Part of what I believe is my job description at HawkeyeNation.com is to more or less live on the message boards with the tens of thousands of Hawkeye fans who pay us a visit each and every month. Were it not my job, I would probably be on the message boards each night in my free time, just like you are.

What has transpired during yet another winter of discontent here in the Hawkeye Nation is not apathy, as one message board poster pointed out in the HN Clubhouse on Thursday.

Here is the dictionary definition of the word ‘apathy':

Lack of interest or concern, especially regarding matters of general importance or appeal; indifference. Lack of emotion or feeling; impassiveness.

There was a time where I felt this description was accurate. But that is no longer the case.

It can't be, when several of the most active days on our message boards have followed losses by this year's Iowa Hawkeyes. The loss at Northwestern seemed to have been the breaking point for a lot of fans, and the day of that game as well as the day after produced the two highest single-day post totals in the history of this website.

Sadly, the negative always brings out more emotion in people than does the positive.

There examples of where positives bring the fans out in droves; the two most active days in the history (page views) of the website occurred on the Saturday of the US Army All American Bowl and signing day 2005.

Then again, I can't say that the record number of page views that occurred on signing day were totally a function of Iowa's signing their best recruiting class in school history, because that was also the day that Pierre Pierce was dismissed from the basketball team.

But the amount of traffic on the website after recent Iowa losses, as well as the reaction on the message boards rules out apathy for the most part.

What we see now is anger, bitterness, despair, and disillusionment.

Fans are being moved to get some things off of their collective chests as the Hawkeyes appear to be headed for their fourth straight season where they do not qualify for the only post-season tournament that matters, the longest such drought since the 1970's.

Nine Iowa coaches have led their teams in more than 100 games during their careers and Steve Alford has the worst Big Ten winning percentage of the nine.

Selection Sunday used to be an event in the state of Iowa; now it has become a day of frustration and waiting to find out if the Hawkeyes are going to host a first round game in the NIT.

During this coming Selection Sunday, Bob Bowlsby will be talking to Jim Nantz and Billy Packer about how he and the committee came to decide on the field of 65, one that may not include Iowa. If that happens, if Iowa does not make the field of 65, there is a pretty good chance that Packer or Nantz will bring up the status of Alford at Iowa.

There is a very good chance if Iowa does not make the field of 65, that many of you will want to hear what Bowlsby has to say to this hypothetical question. If Packer doesn't ask it, the Iowa media is going to or will already have done it.

I said before this season began that if these Hawkeyes, a talented collection of players, did not make the NCAA tournament, that it would be time for Iowa to go another direction with regards to its head coach. I said that no excuses were going to be applicable this year. It would not matter if there were academic casualties, defections, injuries, etcetera. There has been one pretty significant etcetera this season in the form of Pierre Pierce.

The most painful aspect to all of this is that the team is leaving it all on the court. They don't make every shot, they don't always come through, but they give great effort. The players who are on this team deserve a better fate.

All of them will be here next year.

Whether or not their head coach will be back next year is another question.

The Hawks have five regular season games left to win at least four of them. That would get them to 8-8 in the league and to 20 wins overall. Based on their record down the stretch and RPI killing losses to Northwestern and Purdue, that does not mean they are a lock for the NCAA tourney.

They would likely have to win at least one game in the Big Ten tournament, on top of finishing the regular season going no worse than 4-1.

Top ranked Illinois comes to town on Saturday, so the ‘one' in that scenario looms.

If Iowa loses to Illinois on Saturday, that will not be the story. The story will be the number of orange shirts in the seats in Carver Hawkeye Arena, if the rumored estimates turn out to be true.

If Illini fans paint Carver Orange, the only way that can be salvageable is if Iowa pulls a shocking upset.

Iowa will have its chance to shock the world and regain some respect on the national scene if it can beat the Illini. They could add a nice little bullet point to their NCAA resume with a win.

I will be pulling for them until the final gun.

I just wish there were better odds.


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