Iowa could have used these two games last year, as they were one of seven teams that were bowl eligible but didn't get an invite.
Well, at least some Hawkeye fans might feel that way. Some other fans felt that the team didn't ‘deserve' to go to a bowl game last year, even though they won four of their final five games and finished with the same record in the Big Ten as Penn State, a team that won nine games overall last year.
Iowa's inconsistent play on the field in 2008 sealed its fate, and there weren't too many folks crying foul when the Hawks were shut out of the bowl season.
But I guess I have a hard time with folks who step up on the soap box of what a team does and doesn't deserve, when they don't put in the work.
This isn't to say that the fans don't carry their weight; they do, and they have. Iowa made it to a January bowl game at the conclusion of the 2005 season because of its fans, and their reputation of following the Hawkeyes through thick and thin.
One year later, a 6-6 Iowa team went to the Alamo Bowl, which was another nod to the Iowa fanbase.
Last year, it just wasn't in the cards.
I tend to think that the segment of fans that cry the loudest on the ‘undeserving' front are folks that might not ordinarily go to the bowl games. Because the folks that do go to the bowl games with regularity know that the bowl experience is much more about enjoying one another, time away from home and a new city, than the game itself.
Folks will usually fly off to a bowl destination and stay for three or four days. Three days is 72 hours. Four days is 96 hours.
You have two hours for the Hawkeye Huddle, maybe another hour for some other team related activity, plus the three hour bowl game. That's about six hours of the entire trip that is dedicated to the team…at most. Not everyone goes to the Huddle, not everyone stands along the Riverwalk, not everyone is at the meet the team night at Channelside, or on International Drive.
Folks that go to bowl games spend the overwhelming majority of their time with family and friends, or making new friendships that last years and years.
The game is merely a device that gets tens or thousands of people that have a shared common denominator, to go someplace warm for a few days in the winter.
That's not a bad thing in my book, having been to Iowa's two bowl games in San Antonio, two in Tampa, one in Orlando and one in Miami.
Two more bowl games means four more opportunities for teams that finish at least 6-6 to play in December, work in 15 more practices, give younger players a chance for more practice time, etc.
Is that really all that bad? I don't think so, since the kids are the reason we are able to go into Kinnick Stadium or travel across the country to partake in something we all really, really enjoy.
Now, you won't get an argument from me that 34 bowl games is too many. My main argument is just tradition; I would prefer the old days system, where the bowl bid process was more dramatic, and a few more back alley deals were orchestrated by AD's…I didn't mind those days, because Iowa was a major player in that system, and would be again today.
68 of 119 teams making it into the bowl season is a lot; that's 57.1 percent of D-1 teams. If the same percentage was applied to the NCAA men's basketball tournament, the field would be around 192, and I don't think anyone wants that.
Still, it is what it is. There are 34 bowl games as of right now, and since that's the system, who are we to say whether or not the kids that comprise the Iowa football team ‘deserve' to go or not?
I know those are only opinions and probably don't have much bearing on a team's ultimate bowl chances. Until the rest of Hawkeye Nation decides to stay home in December, such naysayers are probably just spitting into the wind.
On another topic, Harrison Barnes of Ames will be one of the more highly recruited basketball players to come out of the state in the last decade. Jeff Horner, Greg Brunner, Adam Haluska and Kirk Hinrich were solid players and had offers, but the first three committed very early in their careers, while Hinrich wasn't a nationally recruited player. Nick Collison had more attention than any of those players, and he chose to attend Kansas, in part due to Tom Davis' lame duck status as Iowa's coach. Hinrich found his way to Kansas after a solid senior season and Tim Floyd moving on to greener pastures.
Barnes is shooting up the national rankings, and some folks think he might contend for a Top 10 national ranking.
So here's the question: will he stay in state, or will he go elsewhere?
He's going to have the options to leave this state, no doubt about it. What's here to keep him close to home? He has the local tie to Iowa State, being an Ames product and being very, very familiar with that program and coaching staff. He has also been to Iowa City on a few occasions, and Todd Lickliter does have some hope and playing time to sell in his hip pocket.
But think about this for a second, as you ponder what may be going through the minds of prospective junior's to be in this state. Those players are probably 16, going on 17 for the upcoming school year.
When the Steve Alford era began at Iowa, those kids were 7 years old, going on 8. So the majority of their formative years, the Iowa basketball program has been mediocre at best, and Lickliter is left to clean up the residue of the Alford era.
Meanwhile in Ames, they have had four different basketball coaches since next year's junior class was 7 or 8 years old. The 2000 Elite 8 season happened very early on in that process and is ancient history. They've known some scandal, some alleged scandal, and constant change as the norm in Ames. And out of 18 combined basketball seasons, the schools have combined to appear in five NCAA tournaments.
Both schools have a long way to go before the kids in this state can once again look on the major basketball programs with loads of excitement and optimism. I think both schools have great head coaches at the helm…it's just going to take some time.