Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fred Hoiberg and the Iowa State Marriage

Fred Hoiberg has come a long way since his days as Iowa State’s ball boy.

Hoiberg recently agreed to an eight-year contact to continue as Iowa State’s coach. His new deal will take effect after the 2013 season and pay him about $1.5 million per year. Not bad for a guy who previously tracked down player’s basketballs and helped clean-up the floor.

If there is such a thing as a perfect match, Hoiberg and Iowa State are one. Hoiberg grew up in Ames and handled ball-boy duties at a young age. He later starred at Ames High School in both football and basketball. He chose to play basketball at Iowa State, spurning former Iowa basketball coach Lute Olson at Arizona. He was such a popular player for the Cyclones he was nicknamed the “Mayor.”

He returned to Ames a couple years ago as the Cyclones new basketball coach. It didn’t matter that Hoiberg had zero head coaching experience. The philosophy “he is one of us” trumped any misgivings of how the wonder boy would perform as coach.

Two years into this project, the fans love affair with the local boy couldn’t be greater. Hoiberg’s first team was competitive and developed great fan interest. The second team exceeded all expectations. The Cyclones tied for third place in the Big 12 Conference standings and won a game in the NCAA tournament. They lost to eventual champion Kentucky in the third round.

The Mayor has Iowa State fans thinking big things. The Iowa State athletic administration is thinking big things too. That’s why it gave the local boy an eight-year contract.

There is much joy in Iowa State basketball land. You got to believe, Hoiberg is the most joyous of the group.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Will Football Playoff Kill Top Bowl Games?

Okay, I admit it. When it comes to college sports and other things in life, I am a traditionalist.

Many people have been crying for a college football playoff to determine the “true” champion. I have not been one of them. People say that college football is the only sport that doesn’t crown a champion. I get that, but college football is also the only sport in which bowl games conclude its season.

This much I do know: there would be a playoff soon in college football. NCAA officials will meet in June to discuss the topic. My question is will a playoff system kill the top-tier bowl games?

What’s the real reason to play the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl if they aren’t going to have a direct say in the national championship. If they do survive, will we see a bunch of 8-3 and 7-4 teams in those games? It would just create more mediocrity.

The low-tier bowls will survive. Their importance will remain the same: a consolation prize for teams hoping to complete their season with a win in a warm climate (minus that bowl in Michigan).

It will be interesting to see what the NCAA decides. The people who think a playoff system will solve all college football ills could be badly mistaken. I imagine the bowl games will be a major lobby presence at these NCAA meetings too.

One thing is for sure: change is on the horizon and that bodes negatively for tradition.

Friday, May 25, 2012

One Transfer Rule I Can Live With

It seems there is lots of discussion about college athletes transferring lately. Why are so many athletes transferring and how can the NCAA limit such moves?

One transfer rule the NCAA instituted in recent years involves final-year eligibility. If a student athlete has graduated from his/her university and still has a year of college playing available, he/she may go to another school and play immediately. The student athlete must attend graduate school and pursue a degree in field not offered at the previous school.

The most noticeable athlete to take advantage of the rule is Russell Wilson. Wilson starred at quarterback for three years at North Carolina State. He was also playing professional baseball and Wolfpack Coach Tom O’Brien wanted full football commitment out of Wilson. As Wilson pondered his decision, O’ Brien told him NC State was moving on. Wilson landed into the welcoming arms of the Wisconsin Badgers and put together a solid season.

I imagine some people consider this graduate transfer rule similar to other transfer situations and call for the athlete to sit out one season. But what happens if the athlete has already sat out one season as a redshirt? Also, isn’t the fact that he/she has already earned a degree worth something? Other students go to graduate school in other places than where they earned their undergraduate degrees.

Besides this is a select group of athletes. Trust me, folks: this isn’t a major problem. The NCAA should focus on some pressing issues such as policing more cheaters.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Florida State and the Big 12 Conference

If we have learned one thing over the years about collegiate sports, it is this: forget about conference loyalty.

Last week, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) member Florida State made quite a stir. Is Florida State really satisfied in the ACC or does it have eyes for the Big 12 Conference?

This controversy all started when a Florida State Board of Trustee member said that he was unhappy with the ACC’s television contract. That sparked rumors of the Seminoles’ possible interest in the Big 12. Florida State officials denied any interest in moving to the league that features football powers Texas and Oklahoma.

So this rumor is either simply Internet-generated material or possible Florida State positioning. Could the Seminoles be playing this rumor to increase their power and possible revenue in the ACC? Or behind closed doors, is Florida State secretly interested in the Big 12 and hopes the affection is mutual.

Some say Florida State is upset with the ACC’s basketball focus. The Seminoles are mainly a football school and are working on getting back to national relevancy under coach Jimbo Fisher. But their men’s basketball program is quite competitive too. Just ask Duke and North Carolina.

So will this rumor die or continue to sprout? From the outside, I think Florida State is a good ACC fit. The Seminoles are geographically close to other conference members and they compete well athletically.

But really what do I know? I’m still trying to sort out why West Virginia decided to join the Big 12 Conference. I guess I just don’t understand geography.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

College Bowl Victory Qualifications

If college football ever needed reform in the way it selects college football bowl participants, there is no time like the present.

Here in Iowa, we have had a little debate recently among Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta and Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard. Barta believes a type of football playoff will soon be coming and that teams should be required to collect at least seven wins for bowl eligibility. Barta said that the present six –win qualification was instituted when teams played 11 games. Now that schools play 12 games, Barta believes the eligibility should increase one game as well. Pollard favors the current eligibility because his school qualified twice recently with six victories.

I have long been a critic in this space about teams qualifying for bowl games with 6-6 records. Teams are not being rewarded for a successful season but for a mediocre one. Maybe, the NCAA should reduce the number of bowl games and actually make it a challenge (and a reward) to earn a trip.

Teams that haven’t made bowl games recently need to simply step it up a few notches. The present system allows teams to make a “C” grade and reap the rewards, whereas these same teams should earn at least a “B” grade.

Mediocrity isn’t a cause for celebration. It’s an incentive to achieve more.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Big 12 Conference Needs to Step Up

Last week, I applauded the Big 12 Conference for hiring Bob Bowlsby as its new commissioner.

This week, I am thinking the Big 12 should act like a big-time conference.

The Big 12 signed a new television deal in the not-the-too-distance past. But let’s hope it provides the league with some big-time exposure. This has definitely not been the case in past arrangements. Every football and men’s basketball contest should be available somewhere on television. For example, Iowa State did not have all of its football games on TV last season. A key game with Missouri was not shown. There was really no excuse for that occurring.

Missouri will have all its games televised this season as it joins the SEC. The Big Ten makes sure its terrible football teams are even on television. That’s the beauty of having your own network.

Step up to the plate, Big 12 Conference. This is 2012 and the college sports arms race is leaving you behind. Get into the game.

P.S. The college sports scene is pretty thin in terms of news this time of year. If you follow my blog, you realize my postings have been thin too. I still hope to post 1-3 times a week but plan to become more frequent when the football season begins to spark interest in the late summer/early fall time period. Thank you for reading All About College Sports---Paul.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bob Bowlsby is a Great Choice

The Big 12 Conference hit a home run last week when it hired Bob Bowlsby as new commissioner.

Twelve to 18 months ago it seemed everybody was fleeing the Big 12, now the conference lands one of the country’s most respected college athletics leaders.

Bowlsby did an outstanding job as athletic director at Stanford. He helped lead a program that stresses academics and athletics. Bowlsby could have stayed at Stanford probably for a long time, but apparently he wants the challenge of guiding a league that is finally heading in a positive direction.

Many wondered if the Big 12 would survive after Colorado and Nebraska left. Then Missouri and Texas A&M did the same. There were rumors that if Texas and Oklahoma left, it was the end of the league. But both schools recommitted. Now, TCU and West Virginia are coming on board this year. The skies are turning blue in Big 12 land.

Interim commissioner Chuck Neinas had a big hand in saving the conference. Bowlsby’s job is to make the Big 12 an elite league again. All signs point to that happening with this home run hire.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Larry Brown and SMU

The smoke has cleared in Texas. Larry Brown is the new basketball coach at SMU (Southern Methodist University).

Yes, that famous Larry Brown: the ultimate vagabond of basketball coaches. Frankly, I cannot recite how many coaching jobs these guy has filled in the college and professional ranks. He seems to get bored after a couple years and then takes his suitcase to the next coaching stop. But at age 71, Brown and his suitcase are probably getting tired. SMU may be his last stop.

Despite his change of address challenges, Brown is one of the most successful basketball coaches in the history of the game. He is the only guy to win both a NBA and NCAA championship. Brown can coach.

The SMU administration made this hire for two reasons: Brown’s successful track record and his name recognition. But if it is for the mainly the second reason, I still cannot blame the Mustangs.

Most people don’t know much about SMU basketball. They don’t know much about SMU athletics in general other than the football scandal that earned SMU the death penalty.

Basketball has been a non event for the Ponies. But they are joining the Big East Conference and the teams in that conference really play basketball. SMU wants Brown to make it competitive in the new league not a laughing stock. SMU wants Brown to put it on college basketball map.

Brown will probably accomplish the task if he stays long enough. SMU just needs to hide Brown’s suitcase.