End of Iowa Basketball Drama?

With Indiana's hire of Kelvin Sampson coming to light on Tuesday, it would seemingly put an end to the quagmire of speculation that Iowa fans have found themselves in over the course of the past two months. Where does that leave the situation? How is Alford's relationship with the Hawkeye fan base? What's next?

With Indiana's hire of Kelvin Sampson coming to light on Tuesday, it would seemingly put an end to the quagmire of speculation that Iowa fans have found themselves in over the course of the past two months.

It began with former Indiana coach Mike Davis announcing his resignation, and the Alford to Indiana speculation reaching a fever pitch. When Iowa won the Big Ten Tournament title in Indianapolis earlier this month, it seemed to underscore that his departure to Indiana was all but a foregone conclusion.

Iowa wound up losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but that certainly could not have stopped Indiana Athletics Director Rick Greenspan from not pulling the trigger on Alford.

Maybe Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler was right back in February when he wrote that Greenspan might be crazy to hire Alford, because of the sway and power Alford might have over the fans from the Hoosier State, and that Greenspan might be giving up control of the program, which for all intents and purposes, is the entire athletic department there.

Who knows?

Then came the out of the blue speculation that Steve Alford was interested in the Missouri job, and that the feelings were mutual. Last week, Gregg Doyel of CBSSportsline.com wrote one afternoon that he learned that there was mutual interest between Alford and Missouri. Later that night, ESPN's Andy Katz, who has the reputation amongst members of the media as being downright chummy with Steve Alford, filed a report saying that Iowa AD Bob Bowlsby had confirmed that Missouri AD Mike Alden had asked for permission to speak with Alford.

That is when all heck broke loose on Iowa message boards and in coffee shops throughout the state.

Iowa fans could understand Alford being interested in the Indiana job. They could live with that. But when it appeared that Alford was interested in Jezebel, err, Missouri, it felt somewhat adulterous.

That might not be totally fair to Alford; after all, coaches come and go all the time across the landscape of college basketball. It's just that Iowa fans have not had to deal with that too often during the course of the last 20 years. There has been a great deal of stability at Iowa, what with the tenures of Hayden Fry & Tom Davis. Kirk Ferentz will enter his eighth year as Iowa's head football coach, making him one of the longest tenured coaches in Iowa football history. Alford has been at Iowa for seven seasons, which is also a very reasonable time for a coach to stay in one place; only Tom Izzo has been at his present Big Ten school longer than has Steve Alford.

Fair or not, the alleged sidelong stare at Mizzou caused the fragile relationship between Alford and a faction of the Iowa fan base to absolutely splinter. The goodwill that was built up during the course of this past basketball season, a wonderful year that has sadly taken a backseat to all of this, faded into the Ozarks.

Then last week, Alford released a press release saying he and his family were happy at Iowa, that he had no interviews scheduled for other jobs and he looked forward to his future at Iowa.

An already skeptical fan base and media contingent were not necessarily convinced.

For one moment, let's assume that Mike Alden nor his representatives had any level of talks with Alford or his representatives about Alford being interested in the Missouri job, and that Alden's call to Iowa really was out of the blue. Alford gets painted as someone who wants out of Iowa as fast as he can get there, and the level of animosity towards him grows, even though he had nothing to do with it. He can't win.

I exchanged some emails with someone who has been a high level athletic department official in the Big Ten conference, someone who has been in on the hiring's and firings of coaches at the Big Ten level, in the major sports.

I asked this person if it were normal for an AD to call another AD and ask for permission to speak with his coach, without the coach having any knowledge of the interest or there not being mutual interest.

This person told me while that is supposed to be how it happens, it rarely, if ever, happens that way. The normal course of action is for people close to both sides of the fence to have some talks and express a mutual interest to move forward, and then the AD to AD call is made.

So while it's not impossible that Alden called Bowlsby unbeknownst to Alford, it's the road much less traveled.

All of this scrutiny might not be totally fair to Alford. What if his statement was sincere? What if it were wholly true? What if he really had no idea that Missouri was interested in him, as uncommon as that might be with regards to how things are done? To me, that is the very essence of the problem that Bob Bowlsby now faces.

His head basketball coach could tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but there is a sizeable portion of the Iowa fan base that either won't believe Alford and will always be sore at him for making them feel second rate, due to the perceived/alleged/real interest he had in the Missouri job.

Given the level of displeasure that I have read on message boards like HawkeyeNation.com in the recent weeks, in addition to the conversations I have had with Iowa fans around the Des Moines area during that time, it's tough sledding for Alford right now. Perhaps it's just the dissenters that are choosing to voice their displeasure, while a legion of Alford supporters sit back and say nothing for fear of being shouted down by the mob. That is always a possibility, I guess.

I don't know what Bob Bowlsby does with this situation, but someone a lot smarter than me is going to have to figure out some kind of tenable solution. As things stand right now, the Iowa program, which includes fans relations, is not in good health right now.

Another part of this to consider; how does Alford feel about his alma mater hiring Kelvin Sampson?

Indiana AD Greenspan basically just said, ‘Anybody but Knight. Anybody without ties to old Indiana.'

Indiana just hired a man with recent baggage; Oklahoma is in the middle of an NCAA investigation from Sampson's watch and they have graduated one player under Sampson. How do you think former Indiana man Miles Brand is thinking about this hire right about now? At first blush, the Indiana fans don't seem too happy with this move, either.

I am not sure exactly how to feel about Indiana's hiring of Sampson, other than it seems a bit desperate, while again throwing legacy players such as Alford and Randy Whitman a signal that they were not welcome…at least by Greenspan.

Perhaps this serves as greater motivation for Alford, the manly desire to show someone when he has been slighted?

At any rate, it appears that much of the drama may be over, which is a good thing.


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