During the Friday news dump, we learned one very important thing about the Iowa track and field team — it’s losing assistant coach Andrew Dubs.
Dubs, who joined the Hawkeyes in 2014, was the throws coach and is moving on to take a position at Virginia Tech. This is bad news for Iowa, who return two of the best throwers in the nation — Laulauga Tausaga on the women’s side and Reno Tuufuli on the men’s.
Tausaga just won a junior world gold medal in discus, while Tuufuli finished 5th in the NCAA Championships in the same event.
"I leave Iowa with a bittersweet feeling," Dubs said to HawkeyeSports. "I cannot thank Coach Joey Woody enough for the opportunity he afforded me here at the University of Iowa. It has been a pleasure working for him and with our incredible student-athletes. The university and the Iowa City community became my home away from home and I leave here with nothing but positive memories and incredible feelings toward Iowa. So while it is tough to leave in that regard, I am incredibly excited to move back east and be closer to my family. I look forward to joining the Virginia Tech program and working for head coach Dave Cianelli."
During his time at Iowa, Dubs was one of the best position coaches the school has in any sport. Losing him sets the team back.
The move makes sense. Dubs is a Pennsylvania native and previously had coaching stops at Harvard and North Carolina, and as he said, a move back to the east coast appealed to him. Maybe it was a money thing — this isn’t something I’m going to spend much time speculating on, simply because I don’t know everything going through his head.
As an avid Iowa track fan, this is frustrating. Not because Dubs wants a change of scenery — I’ll never fault any coach or athlete for wanting that — but because for the second time in four years, the Hawkeyes are losing a talented throws coach.
Scott Cappos — who spent 18 years with Iowa — left for Nebraska in 2014. I remember covering the team for the Daily Iowan at the time and being thoroughly confused why he’d leave. I contacted the Cornhuskers media relations staff at the time and was told Cappos respectfully declined to comment.
I just don’t get it.
If it’s a money thing, then Iowa needs to step up its support for the track and field squad. The Hawkeyes have $145,975 devoted to its head coaching spots and $167,136 devoted to men’s assistant coaches.
The same amount is devoted to coaches at the women’s coaching positions as well. Iowa has a system where the coaches get to coach both the men’s and women’s squads and it would stand to reason they get to double-dip. There are no specifically men’s or women’s coaches.
With Dubs leaving, Iowa has just one assistant coaching position filled right now, at least according to its roster — Jason Wakenight, who is also the recruiting coordinator. That said, Iowa also has two associate head coaches — Clive Roberts and Randy Hasenbank. Interestingly enough, Hasenbank’s official bio has him listed as an assistant track and field coach — he’s also the head cross country coach, which is lumped into the track and field budget.
However the budget split really isn’t a lot of money.
Outside of Iowa and Ohio State sharing the Big Ten title for wrestling in 2015 and this year’s Big Ten baseball tournament win, the last Iowa program to win a conference title was the men’s track team in 2011.
There’s a whole thinkpiece to be written on why Iowa doesn’t win conference championships despite having one the biggest budgets of any Division I school, but we’ll save that for a later date. Regardless, since 2011, Iowa has been flush with solid track recruits. They had talented athletes before this, of course, but it seemed to pick up after the title.
No, the Hawkeyes are not going to compete for a team national title in track in the near future. They’d love to, of course, and I’m sure it’s on track and field director Joey Woody’s mind, but as a Big Ten club, it’s hard to break into the national picture.
This could, however, change. Iowa’s new indoor track is one of the fastest in the nation and is a huge selling point for recruits. Even more, the athletic department got full control of the Recreation Building, where the indoor track sits. Before this, it was a flat track and students were allowed to spend time there. Now, it’s a multi-million dollar banked track.
A huge investment in the track and field program, but more is needed. Iowa has a gorgeous running surface at Cretzmeyer Track, but it only gets to host one event a year — the wonderfully run Musco Twilight Meet. The stands aren’t great and it doesn’t have the feel of a place where track is taken as seriously as it should be.
And why isn’t it? I mean Iowa hosts the Drake Relays — one of the premier track events in the world — and Iowa high school track is a big freaking deal. To not have the support for the sport blows my mind.
If Iowa wants to be taken seriously (on a national, team championship-threatening basis) then it needs to figure out ways to keep its coaching talent.
While it was always shaky, this has me seriously concerned as to whether we’ll ever see Tristian Wirfs or A.J. Epenesa in discus or shot. I had the chance to talk to Wirfs a couple times this year and he wasn’t completely sold on it then and expressed to me he was a bit worried about time commitments. With a new throws coach neither of those players know? Forget it.
The bottom line is this — Iowa’s in search of a new throws coach, but it could be the sign of a larger issue. This is a Hawkeye program that actually has a lot of potential to become even more relevant on a national stage, it just needs the sustained support to do so.