IOWA CITY, IA (AP) -- Citing an increased inability to even remain competitive in games, University of Iowa athletic director Gary Barta announced plans for the school to discontinue its men's basketball program and replace it with the unconventional Calvinball instead.
"It's just too hard these days," said Barta at a press conference announcing the change on Thursday afternoon. "I mean, did you see that game on Tuesday? Granted, I was watching it with my hands over my eyes and after downing half a bottle of Templeton Rye, but holy god it was bad. I've seen better interior defense in lay-up drills in my son's gym class. And the shooting... oh god. The horror, the horror..."
Barta said that the decision to cancel the men's basketball program was not an easy one, given the sport's long and rich history at Iowa. "We've had a really good run at this sport, yeah. Won a few league titles, made the NCAA Tournament a bunch, had some great ballplayers. But I think things probably peaked with Ricky Davis. He wasn't just a basketball player, he was an artist. It's all been downhill since then.
"Truthfully, we should have made this move years ago. I mean, losing to Northwestern State? That was a sign right there. And then those years with Lickliter... Well, let's just say I learned a lesson or two about not letting Mr. Templeton have a say in hiring decisions."
Barta said the move will be effective immediately and explained that the Big Ten was in full support of the decision. "I taked to Jim [Delany, Big Ten commissioner] and he said he wasn't surprised that we were making the move; he kind of figured it was coming after the last few seasons and then the games over the last few weeks. He said they'd done scheduling for years with eleven teams, so us dropping out would be no big deal."
In a surprise move, Barta also announced that current men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery would be retained as the new Calvinball coach. "I've played and coached basketball my entire life, yeah, but it's not like basketball is the only thing that defines me. Just ask my kids, Full Court Press, Backdoor Cut, and Dribble Drive, they'll tell you how much I care about other things. Like that sport with the stick and the little white ball... uh, ping pong? No, baseball. Definitely baseball. I can't get enough of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
"Honestly, I'm excited about the possibility to do something new for a while. The last eighteen months have been pretty hard on me. I mean, I don't want to name names, but I've seen some seals at the zoo who had better hands than these guys. And seals have flippers. Plus, I told Marg that if I see another missed lay-up or an airball on a runner in the lane, that so help me god, well, actually, you probably can't print what I said then. Let's just say it may or may not have involved a hammer and some kneecaps. And a car battery."
McCaffery doesn't think his inexperience with the sport of Calvinball will prove to be an impediment to developing a successful team this year. "No, not at all. From what Gary has been telling me, it's largely improvised anyway, so I look at it as a fascinating new challenge. I consider myself a pretty imaginative guy, so I think we'll come up with some dynamite new sets that those other Calvinball players have never seen before. And of course we're going to bring a full-court press with heavy trapping to the game. We are going to run those other Calvinball teams right off the field. Or court. Is it a pitch? I'm not really sure what it's played on, actually."
Several of Iowa's current players were also excited about the switch from basketball to Calvinball. "Oh yeah, I can't wait," said senior Andrew Brommer. "I think my skills are way better suited to Calvinball than basketball. Getting to carry a stick around and run in any old direction? It's going to be amazing. Also, Mr. Barta was telling me that they don't really have fouls in Calvinball, which is, like the most awesome thing ever. I'm already working with Coach Doyle to improve my cardio."
"It's been my dream since I was old enough to dribble a basketball to come to the University of Iowa and play basketball here," said senior Matt Gatens. "But, uh, as it turns out that wasn't a dream -- it was a full-on nightmare. It's been rough: the losses, the transfers, all the empty seats. I mean, I'm a proud guy. I don't want my legacy at Iowa to be being the best player on four of the worst Iowa teams ever. I'd rather be known as the first guy to lead Iowa to a Calvinball championship, and I think we have a real good shot since most of those other schools are just doing it as an intramural."
Not all current Iowa players were as excited about the move, though. "I don't know yet," said freshman Aaron White. "Mr. Barta was saying that it's an automatic five-point deduction for being a ginger and that gingers get twice as much time in the penalty box for any infractions they commit, which doesn't sound like much fun to me. I really love Iowa, but I don't just know. I'm thinking about shaving my head maybe. Or dying my hair."
Iowa's first Calvinball game is expected to take place on Saturday afternoon against a team from Balls So Hard University. Tickets to the men's basketball game formerly scheduled for 2pm CT will be honored, Barta said. "I can't really say when the game will start or end, due to the amorphous nature of rules in Calvinball. It might also leave the confines of Carver-Hawkeye Arena, so I would advise any fans traveling to the arena to dress warmly."
Barta also said that Calvinball may not be the only new sport taken up by the university. "We're strongly considering replacing the baseball team with a blernsball team, yeah. President Mason is a little concerned that the travel costs for road games against the Crab Nebula could be exorbitant, but I really think we can make it work with the BTN money we have rolling in."