A wise man once said, “Oh no! We suck again!”
After the last week of Iowa athletics, it certainly resonates. Such is life as a Hawkeye fan. We can never just have nice things. Have a 12-0 regular season in football? Here’s your obligatory soul-crushing loss in the Big Ten Championship and complete turd in your first Rose Bowl trip in 25 years. Make it to your third straight NCAA tournament in basketball? Here’s a near first round exit and complete dismantling from an eventual champion.
But those were last year, JP! Those are every year. Every. Year. Ever. The only discernible difference is at what point in the year the rug is pulled out from under our collective feet. Yes, hope springs eternal. But Lucy is always there, waiting to pull the football away at the last second. This year, it just seems she got a head start and pushed us all face first into a mud puddle before we got within striking distance of the ball. Is that better or worse?
So let’s review this week in Hawkeye inevitability.
After righting the ship with a takedown of Rutgers and knocking off a top-20 team in Purdue, the basketball squad got back to the roller coaster. We saw not 1, but 2 (OK, 1 and a half)
shit-shows uninspiring performances. First was the pitiful showing at Northwestern in an 89-54 loss - the largest margin of victory ever for jNW in the series. Luckily, the young group of Hawkeyes rebounded and came out firing.
The first half (and then some) against Maryland was equally brutal. There was terrible defense, no rebounding and awful shooting. Finally, there were signs of fight. I’ll use nearly all the positivity I have this Monday morning to say that the ability to get back into that game and take a lead late should give Hawkeye fans some serious hope for the future.
But that’s all I got for positivity. The youngsters were forced to play chunks of time without the senior star, Peter Jok, and it didn’t look great. That future outlook looks just slightly less bright given the glimpse of life without Jok. And in that brief glimpse the youngsters, uh,
pissed down their legs struggled to finish. The result was an 84-76 loss to Maryland.
Such is life as an Iowa fan.
Oh, and the cherry on top? Fran made sure nobody remembered how the game went, just how it ended. More specifically, how he ended it. On the court. Like, way out on the court. In a ref’s face. And people did remember. National talking heads were buzzing about it post-game and we may have been the only Big Ten blog not to run something on it the following morning.
MRW people tell me my gif game weak pic.twitter.com/8ynqdaUlLR— Big Ten Geeks (@bigtengeeks) January 20, 2017
I don’t love the attention it draws to the program and it worries me some that the guy can’t corral those emotions in tight situations where it can hurt the team’s chances of winning. But to an extent, I get it. I was screaming about some of those exact same things from the comfort of my own home. And unlike Fran, I have the luxury of venting those frustrations on the Twitters for 40 minutes straight. If I was forced to try and hold that all in I would likely be chasing down officials post game as well. But I don’t get paid millions of dollars to deal with those stresses. Time to channel it into getting the team focused on building for the future and a Big Ten tourney push.
I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m an expert in the world of wrestling. I’m not even going to sit here and act like I know a damn thing about it. But I will tell you I attended the University of Iowa during a stretch of three straight national titles. The wrestling world has certainly changed since those times, but never have I felt like things were moving so fast in the wrong direction as this week.
First it was the dismantling the Hawkeyes received at the hands of #1 Oklahoma State. As @dannypayne put it in the recap, it wasn’t a total disaster, but it sure coulda been better. Five days later, the now #4 ranked Hawkeyes looked to rebound and put on a show for a packed house at Carver. The fans showed up, were pumped up and were hoping to see Brands’ boys beat up on one of their biggest rivals.
Yeah, not so much. The night finished with only three decisions in favor of the Hawkeyes, who fell 26-11 to Penn State. The finish wasn’t what Iowa fans were hoping for, but it was much better than the start. Before things kicked off, we learned that heavyweight Sam Stoll will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL.
As I said before, such is life as an Iowa fan. When it’s sunny, it’s about to rain. When it rains, it pours.
At least nothing could really go wrong for the football team right? I mean, we aren’t in season and all the damage has been done on the recruiting trail. What could possibly be happening in the news there? Oh, you know, just players being forced to step away from the game due to persistent injuries (and at positions of need no less!). And players stepping away from Iowa to get playing time elsewhere - players who were actually going to play.
The losses of WR Jay Scheel and RB Derrick Mitchell Jr. are tough to swallow. Both were listed in the two-deeps released a few weeks ago and both are skill position guys. Historically, one of the struggles Iowa has had is building depth and especially so at the skill positions. Losing two guys in the two deeps at positions of need is not helpful. While it’s nice to know the holes need filled before National Signing Day, it would’ve been nice to have more than two weeks’ notice of the need to add buys at those positions.
Oh, and those positions, they just happen to be where we saw the most bleeding in this year’s recruiting class. I’m not going to beat you over the head with the dead horse that is the Eno Benjamin story (or will I?), but that loss continues to sting and losing Derrick Mitchell pours a little salt into a wound that is still healing for some (OK, maybe just me).
And we all know how brutal the WR play was this year. Scheel was a part of that group, but remained a guy people were expecting to step up and contribute next year. His departure only exacerbates the losses of former WR commits Gavin Holmes and Beau Corrales from Texas.
On that front, the next man in mentality is great and all, but you gotta have those next men. And it’d be nice if they were of similar quality to the guys you lost. As for those guys you lost? We’ve now seen Eno commit to ASU, Holmes get upgraded to a 4-star and then commit to Baylor and Corrales commit to UNC. They’ve been replaced by an open spot on the depth chart, an unrated (and since then upgraded to 3-star) former directional Michigan commit and a pair of walk-ons.
There is still a little over a week until NSD so there is time to bring more guys in. And admittedly there are some very nice prospects still out there and considering the Hawkeyes. But the departures of guys expected to contribute is the proverbial icing on the poop cake that I’ve been eating since the recruiting departures a few months ago.
And since it is Overreaction Monday, let me just go all Fran on you. Before you carry on with your happy little Monday, let me run halfway out onto the court and get in your face to give you one last piece of my mind.
The policy or rule or, whatever Captain Kirk wants to call it these days, that started all these recruiting dominoes falling? It’s rearing it’s ugly head again. Iowa isn’t the only one with the policy, but make no mistake, it’s still hurting the Hawkeyes’ chances with some recruits.
Current Minnesota commit and Iowa target Trey Creamer was on campus this weekend. Apparently, Minnesota and their new staff likes rowing the boat, just as long as it doesn’t row south down the river. The Georgia CB had originally stated he wouldn’t be making the visit, then showed up, then put this out there.
Respect what I'm saying pic.twitter.com/B9Dfgmql2O— #️⃣Trey_Creamer1️⃣ (@Trey_CreamerxD) January 22, 2017
A few hours later, there was another tweet, followed by some back and forth with folks on the Twitters. The tweet has since been deleted, as have some of the back and forth, but here’s a quick summary:
Random Person: if things were reversed and you were committed to Iowa, you would have your offer pulled for taking a visit to Minnesota, luckily Minnesota isn’t doing that to you (I somehow managed to summarize in more characters than the original Tweet - it’s Monday morning guys).
Creamer: you got it reversed.
Repeated flame emojis! It looks like he is implying Minnesota pulled his offer for taking the Iowa visit. It wouldn’t be out of left field given the approach he seemed to take with regard to scheduling and then seeming to back and and then eventually take the visit.
Random Person: no, it’s there policy, Kirk will pull your offer.
Creamer: show me
Random Person: link to pic of the offer
Creamer: that’s nothing, they’ve never said anything like that
Random: read the first bullet point
Creamer: indiscernible sounds
Now, it’s not possible to really get a grasp for the situation by creeping a few Twitter comments, but it sure looks to me like we have ourselves a kid who, like Benjamin, may have found himself in some hot water with his coach over taking visits after committing. This time, the roles were reversed and he wasn’t happy about it. But just when he was feeling burnt by Minnesota, he learns Iowa has that same
BS policy and maybe he isn’t as excited about walking into Iowa City with middle fingers pointed north.
Total conjecture there. But it gives you a glimpse into my pathetic existence and my thinking on this archaic policy.
The more important part, if the reading between the lines is at all correct, is the lack of communication is still there. In Eno’s tell-all open letter about the situation, he indicated he did, in fact, communicate his desire to take additional visits to the two guys recruiting him at Iowa and they told him to go ahead. In light of recent developments, some notable members of the local media have, in a round-about, don’t want to get my credentials pull, kind of way indicated those two coaches have since been let go. And yet here we are with another kid basically saying he got an offer and didn’t know that offer came with strings about taking other visits.
Look, I don’t like the policy. But Kirk is Kirk and Iowa is keeping that policy it sounds like. Moreover, they aren’t the only school with it. Whatever. But I can’t get over the lack of communication thing. You are building a relationship with these kids and their families. It is built on trust. If you want to be able to trust them, they better be able to trust you. You preach that stuff as a way of life in the program. So communicate your expectation, your policies, your rules, whatever you want to call it.
And finally, because the staff is a glutton for recruiting punishment, they continue to leave prospects in limbo with respect to the staff changes. As I said above, we are a little over a week from signing day. As it stands, there are three open spots on the staff and the potential for a fourth in April. Two of those openings come at position coaching spots where Iowa is actively trying to fill major holes. Maybe show some urgency? At least get an announcement out there for the WR coaching spot. Oliver Martin’s dad was quoted in a great piece from Scott Dochterman saying essentially that Oliver is still undecided and is waiting to see what Iowa and OSU do with their vacancies (if there was any umbrella to shield Hawkeye fans from the rain this weekend, it was OM cancelling his visit to OSU due to scheduling issues). For the love of all that is holy in Hawkeye football, get that spot filled and get Martin on board.
Instead, I can assure you because this is Iowa, the spot will get filled the day after he announces. And the staff won’t make any changes to their recruiting policies. And more kids will leave the program. And we will forever go 8-4.
Such is life as an Iowa fan.