2015’s ceremony to honor Roy Marble during the final months of his life was poorly planned, lacking in its execution, and shortsighted in its rhetoric. Marble, by that time, had fought through decades of addiction, including many run-ins with the law. There was certainly an opportunity to reconcile and Iowa failed there. KGYM’s Todd Brommelkamp summed up just how complicated the whole situation as well as I’ve seen anyone so far today.
However, Marble was not granted the same honor - his number in the rafters - three of the last four career scoring leaders have had happen. In each instance, Luka Garza, Greg Stokes, and Ronnie Lester were told their number would be retired in their senior day ceremonies.
It’s impossible to know the motivation of withholding Marble from the same honor. However, his case at the time of his last Iowa game was ironclad to be deserving of that recognition and in line with past honorees.
- All-time leading scorer in Iowa history (would be fourth leading scorer honored)
- Four-year starter on four straight NCAA tournament teams, including Iowa’s last Elite 8 (1985-1989 was the last 4-year stretch where Iowa made the tournament each year)
- 10th on Big Ten’s scoring charts and one of 16 2,000 point scorers
This is where people may chime in with cases against him by virtue of missing out on all-American or even All-Big Ten honors. It stinks when you play the same position, in the same class, as another 2,000 point scorer in Glen Rice.
If it takes a third party to validate a decision to retire or not retire a number, those standards should be clear and steadfast in the vain of Iowa football’s Ring of Honor (must be in two-time consensus All-American or college football hall of famer to have your name/number in Kinnick). Yet the same cannot be said for Iowa basketball. Jon Miller of Hawkeye Podcast broke it down, with half of Iowa’s retired numbers coming from the Fabulous Five - a group who started every game their sophomore through senior seasons and went to back-to-back Final Fours.
There’s BJ Armstrong, whose number was retired with NBA accolades taken into account (his 10 is being worn with permission by Joe Wieskamp). Chris Street’s 40 is retired and should never be worn again.
All of this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if Gary Barta’s words in 2015 - “I don’t ever envision retiring any more jerseys or numbers in any sports” - didn’t come back to bite him by retiring Garza’s 55. Truthfully, there was a part of me who just got a little mad Marble’s 23 was not retired when first learning 55 would not be worn again.
So I understand where Devyn Marble is coming from:
I’ll never watch another iowa game in my life with the amount of disrespect that school has shown me and my family. Love the fans but I’m in no way affiliated or connected to the university. https://t.co/8ylZg0iK4U— Devyn Marble (@DevMarble) March 9, 2021
Moving forward, the damage control is already in place. Barta has walked back the words as he and Fran McCaffery have reached out to the Marbles, though there’s been no response as of this writing.
Iowa AD Gary Barta: "We do apologize for any disrespect to the Marble family." Regarding the jersey situation. He said he has reached out to Devyn and the family— Scott Dochterman (@ScottDochterman) March 9, 2021
When Fran first arrived in Iowa City, his first effort was to retain the recruits committed at the time which included Devyn Marble and establishing a relationship with Roy. Nobody has done a better job at bringing alums back into the fold of Hawkeye sports than Fran McCaffery and it began, in part, with Marble.
"I know that Dev knows I love him and I loved his dad," Fran McCaffery says. He has not yet heard back from the Marble family, but reiterates that he would never do anything to disrespect their contributions to Hawkeye basketball— MarkEmmert (@MarkEmmert) March 9, 2021
Next, Iowa needs to make some headway on the six-plus years in the making “wall of honor” to honor past Hawkeye greats.
Finally, standards should be put in place to establish retired numbers for the future. Does that include current honorees? Does two-time consensus All-American enter the lexicon? Does it retroactively include every career scoring leader back to a certain point?
Time will tell if Fran and Iowa can mend the reopened wound with Devyn Marble, yet the frustration he showed is long overdue.