So, this isn't going away.
As you're likely aware, Iowa throttled then-No. 16 Maryland at Carver-Hawkeye on Sunday, 71-55, a stellar win but one with a little bit of a problem: Adam Woodbury, already a marked man for officials for extracurricular dirty play after poking a pair of Wisconsin Badgers a couple weeks ago, caught Maryland star Melo Trimble right in the eye during the game, causing a turnover that led to a Jarrod Uthoff three as Trimble, quite understandably, dropped the ball to hold his eye. Officials convened after Uthoff's basket to consult the monitor, and Woodbury was eventually assessed a Flagrant-1 foul. Meanwhile, Trimble was able to return to the game, but only after icing his swollen eye area. It was a legit poke.
Here's what we said in the immediate aftermath of the game about the incident:
I don't really know what to say about it. I don't think it looked intentional-the people who say it did are operating in ignorance of the face-guarding that happens in basketball all the damn time, but it's awfully hard to believe that he's not cognizant of where he's putting his hands and what he can or can't reach at any given time. The officials gave him a Flagrant-1 after review, and that was appropriate. Let's hope the Big Ten doesn't see fit to levy any further punishment, and let's hope this sort of thing never happens again.
All of that remains true, by the way—Woodbury's getting a little bit of a hard time here and there, but since the intent was effectively impossible to determine, punishing the act with a flagrant is the right thing to do.
This would probably be a non-issue if things ended there; Woodbury apologized to Trimble after the game, Trimble told reporters he thought it was accidental, there's no evident lasting damage from the incident (heck, it might not even be the worst thing that happened to Trimble's face during the game, considering a damn TV camera fell on him and bloodied his nose earlier in the half), and presumably we'd all be able to move on and enjoy the win.
But then Fran McCaffrey had to make the situation a whole lot worse for no real reason.
(If this auto-plays, our apologies; blame the Register, it's their video.)
Well, Fran's wrong, obviously. That was a totally fair question by Michael Admire of WHO TV 13 in Des Moines, and Mike Hlas of the Gazette following up with "why is that not an intelligent question?" was equally valid, despite Fran's curt dismissal. That was bogus, full stop.
As you might expect, the rest of sports media is having a field day with this, as media members do every time they get to be part of the story. That's to be expected, mind you; everybody (regardless of industry!) loves to talk about their areas of expertise, and no matter what a media member specializes in, there's nothing they know better than themselves. It's the easiest subject in the world. Oh, they flop and flail, they scream bloody murder every time it happens, but do not think for a second there isn't truckloads of glee involved. Accordingly, never take it seriously.
Bob Ryan is a legendary sportswriter with a legendary knowledge base. Bob Ryan is in-fricking-sane if he honestly thinks McCaffery should be suspended three games without pay and that the school and athletic department's decency is at stake.
Michael Wilbon is a Northwestern-educated, longtime veteran of print and television. Michael Wilbon doesn't know the meaning of the word "bully" if he honestly thinks McCaffery is one.
Pat Forde is a consummate professional sportswriter. Pat Forde is almost certainly feeling left out and trying to poke the bear.
There are probably other examples, but there's no real need to belabor the point: media members are grousing about Fran because they can and it's fun and they're self-obsessed doofuses. If you engage their opinions at face value you're playing on their insane terms; you might as well play Tic-Tac-Toe but spot them two turns to begin with.
McCaffery went on SportsCenter later with Chris Hassel and gave a more thorough (non-)answer to similar questions:
McCaffery: "Let's start with this. All three situations that you're referring to, there wasn't a foul called any time. If you watched the play happen, you wouldn't even realize anything happened. If you slow anything down, you're going to see some contact. If a player is driving to the basket, we're going to poke at the ball. You might have your hands up, you might poke at the ball. If you lead with your head, which happened in all three cases, you have the potential for something to happen. It's very unfortunate. ... ‘This is much ado about nothing."
Hassel: "Any kind of adjustments you and Adam would have to make in his defending technique moving forward?"
"The only thing I would say, the plays you're talking about, the other two he was out on the perimeter. This was when Tremble drove on somebody else, and he (Woodbury) was kind of helping. ... The two in the Wisconsin game, there was nothing there at all. In this case, he swiped at the ball, inadvertently hit the kid in the eye, and everybody's making more out of it than they should."
So yeah, he didn't really back down from his earlier attitude, but at least he's backing up his opinions pretty thoroughly, and unless they're saying something truly ridiculous/prejudiced/evil, that won't get a coach in hotter water.
So that's that, mostly; if McCaffery doesn't cock off about this the next time he's asked, some other shiny thing will distract sportswriters and all this will die out, as it should. Have we all learned anything from all this? No? Okay, great. See you all next time.