Can It Get Better Than This?

Honors are rolling in for Iowa's football team. Hawkeye Coach Kirk Ferentz was named the Big Ten's coach of the year, quarterback Brad Banks is the conference's offensive player of the year and guard Eric Steinbach is the Big Ten's lineman of the year.

When the football team wins, in roll the honors.

That's certainly the situation at Iowa. The Hawkeyes have won a school-record 11 games this season, shared the Big Ten championship with Ohio State with an 8-0 record and now are waiting to receive their official invitation to the Rose Bowl.

Coach Kirk Ferentz, criticized when his 1999 team went 1-10 and his 2000 team went 3-9, was chosen the Big Ten coach of the year today and is my choice to be named the national coach of the year.

Ferentz's conference award was just one of many honors received by Iowa.

In addition, Hawkeye quarterback Brad Banks was chosen the Big Ten's offensive player of the year by both the coaches and media, and guard Eric Steinbach was named the conference's offensive lineman of the year by the coaches.

Banks, running back Fred Russell, center Bruce Nelson, Steinbach, offensive tackle Robert Gallery, tight end Dallas Clark and placekicker Nate Kaeding were named to the all-conference offensive first team by the coaches. The coaches picked tackle Colin Cole, middle linebacker Fred Barr and strong safety Bob Sanders on the defensive first team.

Iowa players chosen to the Big Ten's first team by reporters were Banks, Nelson, Steinbach, Gallery, Clark, Cole and Sanders.

Even a Hawkeye assistant coach won a big prize. It was a national award. Defensive line coach Ron Aiken was chosen the NCAA Division I-A assistant coach of the year.

Sure, there are those (you're a very smart guy, Steve Deace, but I think you're wrong on this one) who say Tyrone Willingham, Notre Dame's first-year coach, will get the national coach of the year prize.

Willingham is certainly a candidate, but Ferentz deserves the award because he's done more with less.

The Notre Dame coach—whether he's Tyrone Willingham, Tyrone Power or Tyrone Rockne (no, make that Knute Rockne)—should be a prime candidate every year to be the national coach of the year because the Fighting Irish have one of the best recruiting classes every season.

Banks, a one-year wonder, has done enough to win the Heisman Trophy. There's some nervousness, though, because Banks' regular season is completed and others—like Ken Dorsey and Willis McGahee of Miami—still have games remaining.

Indeed, in a USA Today poll of 48 Division I-A head coaches—none of whom has a ballot—Dorsey received 58 points and 13 first-place votes to Banks' 52 points and 12 first-place votes. Larry Johnson of Penn State received 51 points and seven first-place votes.

The voting deadline for 1,000 Heisman voters is Dec. 11, and the award will be presented Dec. 14.

As Jack Carey wrote, this could be the closest vote since Auburn running back Bo Jackson finished 45 points ahead of Iowa quarterback Chuck Long in 1985. The 1,509 to 1,464 result was the narrowest margin in Heisman history.

Nile Kinnick, the halfback on Iowa's 1939 Ironmen team, has been the Hawkeyes' only Heisman winner.

The announcement of the national award to Aiken was made by the American Football Coaches Association of America (AFCA). It's the first time an Iowa coach has been selected for the assistant coaching honor.

Aiken is one of five winners named in various divisions of collegiate football. The honorees were selected for "their dedication to their teams and communities."

The other winners were Roy Wittke, assistant head coach at Eastern Illinois, Division I-AA; Tony Ierulli, defensive coordinator at Shippensburg University, Division II; Brian Ward, defensive backs coach at Wabash College, Division III, and Charles Gartenmayer, defensive coordinator at Benedictine College in Kansas, NAIA.

Once again, five outstanding assistant coaches have been selected for their dedication, not only to their teams, but to their communities," said executive director Grant Teaff. "Oftentimes the head coach receives must of the credit for his team's success. Any head coach is only as good as his assistants. Much of an assistant coach's work is done behind the scenes. It is a our pleasure to bring it to the forefront." Winners of the assistant coach awards will be honored at the AFCA kickoff luncheon Jan. 6 at the AFCA convention in New Orleans, La. Aiken came to Iowa as a member of Ferentz's original staff. Under his leadership, the Hawkeyes lead the Big Ten in rushing defense—allowing opponents an average of only 68 yards per game.

Aiken has been very involved in the Iowa City community. He's a frequent speaker at Athletes in Action and Fellowship of Christian Athletes functions. He has also been a volunteer reader at local public schools, and speaks at the men's breakfast of his church. In the summer, he works as an assistant coach of his son's baseball team.

Messages From Under the Bridge

was having hashbrowns and hot peppers at the Waveland Café the other day when I ran into a guy wearing bib overalls, a Grand View T-shirt and black high-top canvas Chuck Taylor All-Star basketball shoes. No socks, of course.

"Have you seen our old buddy, Alive in Clive, lately?" the guy asked. "No, he's been keeping a very low profile all fall," I said. "He may be sleeping under the bridge Permanently, I mean. Don't forget, he doesn't like it when Nebraska loses." Wouldn't you know it? In the next week, I received two e-mails from Alive in Clive. It must have been cold under the bridge. First of all, let me say that the more I read Alive in Clive's stuff, the more he's starting to sound like a very insightful guy named Roundy Coughlin, who used to write outstanding newspaper prose in Madison, Wis., a number of years ago.

Alive in Clive's first e-mail:

"Let me see if I have got this right. Nebraska a not so good team goes to Texas A&M to play against the wrecking crew. Even though they are losing in the fourth quarter, they come back and defeat the mighty Aggie defense.

"A few weeks later, here comes Oklahoma, one of the top two teams in the country, and they lose. What is one to think? "Iowa without the Heisman type and lots of media is quietly banging the heck out of its opposition, while Iowa State falls to pieces against Oklahoma and Kansas State. However, the BCS!!!! does like Iowa because they don't think they can produce the fans. Are we being driven by the media?

"Last but not least, as you well know, I have always felt that the backroom of the NCCA [He means NCAA] were trying to turn college football into a mini NFL, and guess what they are succeeding. Once again, I predict that the College Championship game will be a failure with the wrong teams playing each other. We shall see what we shall see. I remain Alive in Clive."

I had barely gotten through that message when Alive in Clive sent a second e-mail:

"Good job, Iowa. The Minneapolis police showed them, however, by jailing couple of the young fans and throwing away the key for the weekend. The thought of the wild and crazy guys taking down the goal posts. But then Minnesota hasn't a reason to do that in the college or pro level for a long time.

"Sad weekend in Nebraska. The worst season since 1961. The only way he [my guess is that Alive in Clive means Coach Frank Solich] will save his head is if he can beat Colorado at Lincoln. Surprisingly, the people I talked to are taking it in stride. No suicides of jumping off tall building that they knows of. I remain Alive in Clive."

Ron Maly
Vol. 2, No. 104
Nov. 26, 2002
[Ron Maly's e-mail address is ]

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