It’s been a bit. We got lazy last week. Well, we didn’t get lazy so much as we got busy later in the week. Our weekly conversation was shortened by a holiday on the front end and actual work later in the week. So we held onto everything for an extra week.
The result? You get a couple things this week. First, you get a longer read than normal. I know, I know, it’s always long and now I’m telling you it’s longer. But it isn’t that long. And that should be eased by the second thing, which is that you get to ride the roller coaster with us.
This started a week ago in the midst of some crappy weather in Iowa City and a 5-game winning streak. So we’re touching on Carver and those fabulous crowds. Then we’re jumping into some talk on a couple of guys who were instrumental in those big wins. Different topics should make this lengthier read totally digestible.
However, we did wrap before last night. So you have to take it in the context of the high we were all riding going to College Park.
And with that, strap in, baby! It’s about to be a free-for-all!
JP: Jerry, my man, how you livin’ this fine, holiday-shortened week?
Jerry: Holiday shortened week? Since I graduated from the greatest university on the face of the planet in 2011 and started my professional career, I haven’t had a single MLK Day off. And honestly, I’m tired of it. It seems like everyone else always gets these extra holidays to take a nice big deep breath and here I am waiting for the 4th of July. It’s just not right!
But, with that said, despite not having a three day weekend, it jumped off to a wonderful start after Iowa rolled Michigan at home in front of their best crowd this season and maybe since we hosted a NIT game a few years ago. I know you wrote about it this week for OM, but damn was it nice seeing Carver semi-filled with the most passionate fans in surrounding Iowa City area. Only the strong survived on their way in, and they made sure to let Michigan have it.
Were you in attendance for this one, JP? Do you think that the people that normally sit on their hands watched that game tucked away in their studies noticed how “LIT” CHA was? Or do you think they all just watch the games on mute to give themselves a more realistic in game experience?
JP: I must be getting soft with my cushy office job recognizing bank holidays (though not banker’s hours, sadly). Despite the time off from work, I have not been able to make it to any games in Carver since the Maryland beatdown. Admittedly, I feel guilty for not making it to Michigan or Rutgers as the inclement weather is a much bigger deal for those coming in from out of town than those of us just needing to get across town. But an 8pm tip is virtually impossible for me to make with three kiddos under the age of 5.
The oldest has been timing his “nap days” quite well and has been allowed to stay up and watch most of the last couple games, but I’m not trying to take him to a game where we aren’t getting home until almost 11. Especially when his primary interest is the pre-game festivities and soft serve.
BUT, for the last one I made it to, Carver was indeed lit. That despite a substantially reduced crowd thanks to this glorious Iowa weather. And from what I could tell over the tube, they were every bit as vocal these last two matchups against ranked opponents.
That really gets at the core of what’s wrong with Carver in my opinion. It’s not the number of fans in the seats, it’s who is there and where they sit. The structure of Carver doesn’t have the benefits we see in Kinnick. Instead of fans being on top of opponents, they are further away than any other Big Ten venue I can think of. Add to that the fact there is no real premium seating in Carver outside the floor seats (note the people in the floor seats by and large seem like they are plenty vocal) and you end up with the quieter, older, business types in the seats closest to the floor and those seats are already too far away.
I don’t think you can fix it in the current stadium. I really don’t. But what you can do is push forward with some of the stuff they’ve done for these recent games in inclement weather. Remove some of the restrictions on parking so your average fan isn’t walking half a mile in the freezing cold if they get there early enough. Reduce the ticket prices so people can afford to take a family of four to a game a couple times a month (right now you’re talking at least $60 for the tickets +$10 to park + whatever you’re spending on ice cream, food, drink – do that 3-4 times in a month and your budget is blown). Quick screwing around with the student tickets and just make them free. Charge a $5 per semester fee to all students at the U and cover your costs so they just have to show up with an ID.
Then get started on a new arena. Build yourself one on the east side of the river, closer to the dorms, downtown establishments and more entry points from the interstate. Make it smaller – say 10,000 people. Ditch the pit so you can have people walking 15 flights of stairs instead of 30, limit the aisles on the lower bowl since there is a breakpoint midway up (note I’m not saying avoid ADA regulations, I’m saying what they have now far exceeds them on the lower portion thanks to the pit design) and add some damn suites on the baseline. Get the wealthy donors who are there to entertain business guests or as a social outing out of the premium seats and into a box. Give those seats to the people who are there screaming their heads off. Namely, the students. Get them the first 10 rows behind the benches and put them on top of the court. Put a break point behind them so they can stand all game (do they really even need seats?) and the people behind them can still see. Then invest in some infrastructure to ensure everyone can use wifi to talk about the game, post their pictures and order their soft serve delivered right to their seats.
Teams like the one Iowa has this year deserve a crowd that is loud and into the game from start to finish, regardless of the weather conditions. They deserve the type of home court advantage teams like Michigan State and Wisconsin enjoy. Give it to them!
Jerry: I couldn’t have said it any better myself. Carver is unsaveable at this point in my opinion for every single reason you mentioned above. In my eyes there are two main problems (and they’ve been problems ever since that little group known as the “Hawks Nest” was just an apple in the eye of the 8 or 9 of us back in 2009)... let me lay them out from easiest to fix to the most difficult:
1. Student engagement and ticket pricing- This is the easiest thing to figure out but it will take buy in from the Athletic Department and Student Services. As you’ve laid out, Carver isn’t in the most ideal location. Hell, it’s not even in the most ideal location for the students that are dorming at Hillcrest and Petersen. In the winter months it just a little to far to get to for nearly three quarters of the campus. You can’t really walk there and back from the majority of off-campus housing on East Burlington. You definitely aren’t walking from Burge of Mayflower. Maybe it’s slightly changed since I graduated a decade ago, but the Cambus situation wasn’t very conducive to getting students to Carver either. On top of that, from the looks of it, tickets aren’t worth the price. I can’t tell you how many times I asked the Athletic Department to drop their prices (GIVE THEM AWAY) to get students to come to the games. I can’t tell you how many times I begged them to create a special basketball committee that would involve each and every dorm, RA’s, greek life, intramural services and football season ticket holders to create a plan of attack on how to get their built in numbers to the games. Why not hike the football tickets $5 bucks a game and give the basketball tickets away as a “free” add on? It just never seemed to resonate with them. Ultimately perception is reality and if people think they’re getting a deal, they tend to take advantage of it. But to the AD, “We just need to have a better product on the floor... that will get all of the students back. And if that doesn’t do it, well, then why would we ever cater to them?”. That was always the AD’s dangling carrot to the Hawks Nest back in those dark, dark days. How can we move the students out of that little corner we sliced out for them back in 1983 when they don’t pay for student season tickets or come when we give them away for free? Well, because you just assume you can do football numbers in the dead of winter with little engagement or help to move your built in fanbase from the east side of campus to the west side efficiently. With little to no care to create a home court advantage or creativity to look at it from a student perspective, nothing will ever get done! Look at what Carver does for big time wrestling events! It’s possible to do in that fake looking bomb shelter!
2. Move Carver - that’s it. Just move it. Move it to the Mall next to the Old Capital and make it state of the art. Raise tuition again just like you did for the new Rec Center back when I was on campus and make mens and womens basketball and wrestling events the center of attention all winter long.
Will either ever happen? In my opinion, not under this regime.
Now, you teased a Toussaint/CJF take earlier in this piece. Lay it on me.
JP: 100% agreement re: Carver. Which is why I may be the only person in the world to be slightly disappointed with the news the wrestling team is getting their new facility as an add-on to Carver. The wrestling program is tremendous and they absolutely deserve a state of the art facility. BUT, I had naively hoped they would simply get Carver all to themselves with that hoops practice facility converted into a wrestling facility. That would have allowed for a new hoops arena closer to campus and built in a way that makes sense for college basketball.
Alas, that’s enough about stadiums. Joe Toussaint and CJ Fredrick. CJ Fredrick and Joe Toussaint. Buddy, I cannot say enough good things.
We talked at length about Joe Toussaint and the need for a nickname in a prior iteration of this dance. At that time I believe I told you it was too soon to be talking about the Toussaintesance. Now is that time. We are seeing the lightbulb come on in front of our very eyes and it’s effing beautiful man. The guy is learning when to press and when to pull the ball out. He’s attacking at the absolute best times and he’s finishing through the contact.
His shoot isn’t going to come this year, that’s an offseason or two away, but it really doesn’t need to. He’s a good enough free throw shooter and he’s tough as nails. The performance we saw from him against Wisconsin was nothing short of Turbo-tastic.
And CJ Fredrick. CJ effing Fredrick. CJ “get the f$&% off my court” Fredrick. I was mulling my take on him for an Overreaction Monday post, but buddy I don’t know that it’s an overreaction.
CJ Fredrick is an upgrade over Jordan Bohannon.
**ducks for cover**
I know, I know, JoBo is a saint. He has the biggest of huevos. He has hit a million big time shots and he’s going to leave Iowa City with records that may never be broken. BUT, CJF also has massive huevos. CJF also is unafraid of the big shot, he simply hasn’t had the opportunity or the need to hoist a game-winner.
In addition, CJF is taller. He is longer. He is better off the dribble. He is a better defender. And – and it pains me to say it – he’s a better shooter. Bohannon is a career 40.3% three-point shooter. We only have the one half season of data on Fredrick, so it is admittedly too early to know for sure, but he is shooting a blistering 47.8% from deep.
The guy is a machine from deep and he has enough juice to keep defenders from riding his hip pocket. Best of all? He has every bit of swag that Bohannon has and a major chip on his shoulder.
Getting 3 more years of Joe Toussaint and CJ Fredrick is going to be a goddamn treat and I am elated to think about the potential they add to this team.
Jerry: This is the only thing I have to add to this as I stand over here nodding at your love for both CJF and Toussaint (who were my preseason predictions for break out performers on SpoCo Radio) and avoiding any JoBo hot takes because when I suggested he would transfer to Villanova at the end of this season I basically got Twitter-Harassed:
CJF is the swaggiest player Iowa has ever ever ever had https://t.co/Sn0EquaqSR— Jerry Scherwin (@JerryScherwin) January 18, 2020
That’s a “show your real fandom” deep cut right there baby.
UPDATE: F Maryland. That is all.