“Just the Facts Ma’am”

Last month I wrote on how we should “get the facts” first and let things play out, rather than spouting about what we heard and posting it on Twitter, message boards and various social media platforms, without confirming it.   Sadly, many of us that can’t seem to abide by this, because we’re back at square one.

Now, here’s my four cents worth, a few days removed from the story of the 13 UI football players who were hospitalized with symptoms of rhabdomyolysis:

  • I didn’t have a problem with what Gregg Doyel wrote.

Here me out, folks.  Yes, Iowa fans were furious when he suggested that someone should be fired for 13 players ending up in the hospital for rhabdomyolsis.  Doyel main concern was about the players’ health.  If you think I’m crazy, I encourage you to read Doyel’s column from August 2010 about his concern about players adding on weight and putting their health at risk.

Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports online. Don't send him hate mail, because he will make you a topic in his "Hate Mail" every Thursday.

He didn’t write the August piece to be a smartass, though he has the reputation of being one, but with the issues of concussions, painkillers, and other health issues that players face during and after their careers are over, is one of debate and discussion.

  • How is Iowa SID Phil Haddy not take some responsibility on how convoluted the last two press conferences have went?

Yes, everyone expects the athletic director and the coach to be there and to answer all  the questions, but given the way the “pressers”, as media professionals call them, are arranged and handled, it is the sports information director’s job to make sure the pressers go smoothly, communicate press releases, et cetera.

  • I want to give Jon Miller of Hawkeye Nation a nod for his piece.  He is the closest person to the athletic program with regards to media, for he is the sports director at WHO radio and runs Hawkeye Nation.

Jon succinctly wrote, as Jim Mora would eloquently said…

I take Jon Miller’s view of the situation over that of Pat Forde and Jim Rome.  Jon, Marc Morehouse, Mike Hlas and others who are embedded in Iowa City work hard to get the story accurate and right, and make fair criticisms and offer praise.  That is what reporters do.  They don’t sit behind a microphone like Rome and form opinions based on “second-hand” heresy.

Jim Rome may have a lot of listeners, but Doyel can and will eat his lunch. Plus, Doyel is on the road covering stories.

In case you didn’t know, Forde and Rome has never liked Ferentz.  They have never given him praise for the good things the program has done.  All that Ferentz gets is scorn if one small thing goes wrong.

Forde thinks that Ferentz is a fraud and can’t coach.  Pat, if a guy can beat Michigan 3-4 times in the last 10 years, goes 7-2 versus Joe Paterno, and win 3 straight bowls game for the first time in school history, I guess that coach knows what he is doing.

I used to enjoy listening to Rome when I was younger.  Not as much today, because he is closed-minded and think that what comes out of his mouth is pure gold.  He still harbors a grudge back in 2002, when Ferentz politely declined to be a guest on his show.  Rome’s response was “What does he think he is, Bear Bryant?  Guys like him are a dime a dozen.” He has went as far to block Iowa callers from responding and talking about the team.

That’s not professional.  That’s childish.  Sadly, he continues to conduct his show in that manner.

Forde and Rome have shown in the past their unwillingness to respond to Iowa fans.  Both of them will not come on local shows to openly discuss their issues about Iowa and why they don’t like Ferentz.

Give Doyel credit on this:  he read Jon’s blog and responded to it.  Will Jim Rome do that?  Hell no.

Kirk Ferentz and Iowa SID Phil Haddy. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Gregg Doyel is a bigger man for being willing to hear a different view. He may not agree with Miller, but the fact that he acknowledged it and tweeted it speaks volumes.  That is why I like him and read his columns.

It’s funny, last month we, the fans, wanted the coaches and administrators fired.  That is, until the football team beat Missouri.  But we hate it when someone else who doesn’t live here pops off about our school and we become defensive. Welcome to the world of hypocrisy.

Welcome to college athletics.  If your team is mentioned across the nation, then you have to be ready to deal with the bad, as well as the good when it comes to your program.

We All Need “Coaching”

Jamarcus Russell

Recently, I watched an interview of former Oakland Raiders quarterback Jamarcus Russell.  Russell was the first pick in the NFL Draft several years ago.  Since the end of last season, Russell was released by the Raiders and was arrested in July for possession of a controlled substance known as “purple drank.”  NFL critics and fans are starting to consider Russell the “biggest bust” in the history of the NFL.

That’s a lot to say when the other “busts” have been Ryan Leaf and Tony Mandarich, among a selected few.

How can a player of Russell’s caliber be such a bust?

Is it because his coach didn’t develop him to prepare him for the NFL?

It leads me to believe that his college coach, LSU’s Les Miles,  either didn’t spend more time helping Jamarcus work on his mechanics and maturity as a quarterback, or Russell thought that he didn’t need to change his “game”.  Talent is a great thing to have, but you have to hone your skills and work on your weaknesses in order to be ready for whatever happens.

Jim Tressel aka "Sweater Vest" (left) and Kirk Ferentz (right)

Which is why Kirk Ferentz is respected and admired by the NFL community.  NFL coaches and scouts know that when a former Hawkeye joins their team, that player is ready mentally, physically, and prepared for the next challenge.

Just like in sports, “coaches” are everywhere and are available to help people work on a weakness, better utilize their strengths and skills, and help build confidence to tackle on life’s challenges.

There’s a “career” coach, “life” coach, and even a “motivational” coach.  There is a coach for almost anything that we need help in.

In one ear and out the other

Post-script from the ESPYs:  I was thinking of something that has been on my mind since Wednesday night, after Aaron Thomas’ acceptance speech.

How many professional athletes and coaches who were in attendance at the Nokia Theater for the ESPYs is going to “take heart” to what Aaron said?

Maybe it’s me, but how likely is it for athletes like Terrell Owens and Albert Haynesworth to take Aaron’s speech and apply (or reapply) it to their lives?

To the majority of those athletes (and entertainers), it goes through one ear and out the other.

Which is a shame because individuals who are grounded in their lives are the ones who will benefit from the speech.  It gives them reinforcement to remember the principles they were taught at home, school, church, or any place.  Principles such as humility, respect, sportsmanship, and responsibility.

Do you think that the audience at the ESPYs will take Aaron Thomas’ speech about what his dad taught him and use it in their lives?

I’m not holding breath on the answer.  Sadly, I think I know the overall response will be.

A Good Divorce

Greg McDermott made the smart and right move to return to MVC basketball. He will be Creighton's new coach on Tuesday.

The old cliche “spring roared in like a lion” will be considered as the greatest understatement of 2010.  Several weeks ago, it was Todd Lickliter leaving (not by his own choice) and Fran McCaffery enters.

Today, it’s Greg McDermott who has decided to leave Iowa State and will be named the new men’s basketball coach at Creighton University on Tuesday morning.  Some will say “good riddance”and others will look at it in a more reasonable way and say “it’s probably the best for ISU and McDermott.” The latter is the best way to summarize it.  It helps Cyclone fans, it lifts a burden off of McDermott.  It’s a mutual separation with no ill-will towards each other, sans for a few knuckleheads.

Similar to Lickliter, McDermott worked hard to make things go in the right direction in Ames.  You can’t say that he didn’t try.  But, as with Lickliter, bad luck seems to find their way into situations where you least expect it.  When AD Jamie Pollard named him to replace Wayne Morgan, Curtis Stinson, Will Blaylock, and other players left the program, in deference and support of Morgan. Players leaving the program because they didn’t like playing set-screens and discipline basketball that works well in the Missouri Valley conference.

Dana Altman dealt with the same thing. He won games at Kansas St., but their fans were never happy. He went to Creighton, and now to Oregon.

The losses.  Yes the losses have been a major flaw.  Agonizing, puzzling, and tough to watch.  Unlike Lickliter who was more dissociated with individuals, McDermott wasn’t afraid to vent his frustration and how the program wasn’t meeting the expectations of the fans and the boosters.

Give him credit, he wasn’t afraid to take the heat and hear it.

But when Dana Altman decided that 16 years was enough at Creighton, AD Bruce Rasmussen didn’t waste time asking McDermott if he wanted to return to the Missouri Valley.  There is no mistake that McDermott is a smart guy and understood his situation.  If the Cyclones struggled again this winter, with Jeff Grayer and Nick Nurse recently joining the staff, he and his staff would be looking for work in March 2011.

There was no guarantee adding Jeff Grayer to the staff was going to turn it around.

That includes Grayer and Nurse.

Maybe it wasn’t worth having that risk play itself out, even after Cyclone fans were rankled after Pollard endorsed keeping McDermott for next year.  Yes, ISU is in a pickle now, but so is Creighton and Oregon, with respects to the recruiting season and getting prospects.  But this can’t be disputed:  Greg McDermott staved off the inevitable.  Which is being fired or forced to resign should things go wrong again this winter.

Was he over his head in the Big 12?  It’s likely he was in the area of recruiting and major conference players who’s sights are on the NBA.

The case studies of Todd Lickliter and Greg McDermott should be considered as examples of how to handle situations when it doesn’t work out.

I hate to include myself in this entry, but it’s just like the business world.  I worked at a place that after I arrived, wasn’t the right fit.  I worked hard and made every attempt to do make it successful.  The only regret I have is that I should have left earlier. My health could have benefited from it and I would have gotten a head-start on something new.

McDermott knew it was the right time to leave before the relationship further deteriorated.  Altman knew it was time to go as well.  His decision to take and then rescind the Arkansas job in 2007 was an indicator to him that he needed a new challenge.   Lickliter didn’t think he would be let go.

“Indiana wants him, but he may not go back there” #NBPRD

Here is the 1st “recycled” post in honor of #NBPRD!

The following was my first ever blog post, titled “Indiana wants him, but he may not go back there” which talks about the rumors that former Iowa coach Steve Alford could return to Indiana, where he was a star player.  This was written on February 20, 2006 for Juice.

“Indiana wants me, Lord I can’t go back there.” — R. Dean Taylor from the song “Indiana Wants Me,” 1970

With Mike Davis stepping down as Indiana coach, Iowa fans is anxious to line up Dubuque Street in Iowa City to give Steve Alford his farewell tour en route to Bloomington.

Steve Alford, still an Indiana boy at heart

With that said, I wouldn’t be so quick to say Steve is leaving right away. Consider the facts: after six years of moaning and griping, the Hawks are in first place in the Big Ten for the first time since Lute Olson was patrolling the sidelines in the old Iowa Fieldhouse (I wonder if Lute made a deal with the devil for his good looks. He hasn’t aged since 1970).

Alford has finally found his comfort zone with this program. This year, there has been no Pierre Pierce, no academic casualties, and no one being thrown under the bus (yet). It’s a given that a good number of fans are still not down with Alford, but give him credit for learning from the mistakes he has created prior to this season. Unfortunately, our friends to the east (Indiana) seem to keep screwing it up for us.

It’s ironic that something crazy happens at Indiana at this time every year. Remember the histrionics that followed Bob Knight around when his teams went to the Big Dance? You know, the whip he “used” on Calbert Cheaney, the verbal berating of the NCAA public relations guy, the allegations of him mentally and verbally abusing Neil Reed and the video evidence prior to one of their first round games? General Robert Montgomery Knight was and is still good for college basketball., depending on how you viewed him.

What if, and that’s a big “if”,  Alford doesn’t want to go back home? Indiana expects national championships. Iowa is content in beating ISU and going to the Big Dance. Indiana is a pressure cooker, while Iowa is the little kettle brewing hot tea.

Indiana may want Steve back, it’s likely that he may not live up to their “expectations.” Just being “Back Home in Indiana” doesn’t necessarily equate to a coronation or a free pass. If he struggles in the first 4-5 years like he has at Iowa, Hoosier Nation will get ugly real fast, regardless if he’s an ‘Indiana man’ or not.

Steve Alford has to win games. His body of work, coaching-wise, isn’t good enough for Bloomington. Alford has to establish himself more in the area of coaching and managing a major Division I team before he can be considered getting another gig. He was successful at D-III Manchester (Ind.) and did reasonably well at Missouri State. This is a different animal he’s working with.

Alford isn’t the only guy on the wish list in Bloomington. Assistants and players like Dan Dakich (Bowling Green), Jim Crews (Army), Dane Fife, Keith Smart, and Isaiah Thomas, and heaven forbid, former assistant Dave Bliss (ex-Baylor) could be looked at. I don’t expect Indiana to be associated with dead bodies if Bliss gets hired. He’ll be pulling up to Assembly Hall with a funeral hearse.

The Alford critics may not enjoy hearing this, but he could stay. It’s about 50/50 right now. I could be wrong, but I bet that they are the same group who ran Dr. Tom Davis out to find someone who would take the Hawks to “the next level.”

Be careful what you ask for, because you might get something you will regret.

Too Smart For the Coach?

Myron Rolle, an excellent defensive back and a Rhodes Scholar

Myron Rolle was a defensive back for the Florida State football team.  On Saturday afternoon, he took part in the annual NFL pre-draft combine, which tests college players in physical and mental skills to determine who is ready to play in the National Football League.

Rolle is resuming playing football after an one-year break.  There isn’t anything wrong with him.  He’s never ran afoul of the law, spent time in rehab, or did anything to make anyone mad.

Except for some NFL scouts and teams.

What did he do wrong?

He went to Oxford to work on his post-graduate studies.

In case if you don’t follow college football, Myron Rolle is a Rhodes Scholar.  And he plays football.  Rolle is in an elite group of Rhodes Scholars which includes Bill Bradley, Byron White, Bill Clinton, and Bobby Jindal, and former Drake women basketball standout Lindsay Whorton. Whorton is the latest Iowan to become a Rhodes Scholar.  Both Rolle and Whorton are in the 2009 class.

Lindsay Whorton starred at Drake and is a Rhodes Scholar.

Sorry, Al Gore wasn’t a Rhodes Scholar, so he doesn’t get credit for the invention of the Internet (sarcasm invoked).

Rolle should not have any problems seguing from spending a year at Oxford to the NFL.  Bill Bradley went from Oxford to the NBA and won a NBA title with the New York Knicks.

However, there are some teams who are, shall we say, “brain-dead” when it comes to how they are dealing with Rolle.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for one, is receiving some criticism for the stupid questions they asked him.

Here’s one for example:

During a 45-minute interview before the Senior Bowl in January with seven members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff, including head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik, one member of the staff asked Rolle “what it felt like to desert his team this season.”

Are you serious?  Rolle didn’t desert his team.  He graduated from college.  His college eligibility ended.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com succinctly put it this way:

The deeper concern is that Rolle’s unconventional streak could make it even harder for an NFL coach to properly control a room full of grown men, several of whom make more money than the NFL coach.  Then there’s the fact that Rolle might be not only smarter than his teammates, but also smarter than his coaches.

It’s the kind of thing that makes control-obsessed football coaches very uneasy.  If, after all, a player possesses the smarts to out think some or all of his coaches, the player could end up with far more power than any coach ever wants any player to have.

To question Myron’s intelligence and whether he’s smarter than the coaches is outrageous.  Ask Peyton Manning.  How many scouts questioned Manning’s smarts before he was drafted?  Or did that not matter, solely because Manning is a quarterback, and he has to be the smartest position player on the field?

Does it matter that Myron is smarter than everyone else in the locker room?  Will that scare teams away?  Tell everyone what you think on the blog.