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Monday Rewind: Hawkeye Baseball, Potential NCAA Violations Headline the Week

We touch them all in a weekly recap of the major headlines around Iowa baseball, football and basketball.

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It was a notable weekend for Rick Heller and the Hawkeyes.
Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

We’re deep in the throws of the offseason and that means, typically, a pretty quiet time in terms of news coverage for the Iowa Hawkeyes. So we’re toying around with a few things and dabbling in a few potentially new staples this time of year. This is intended to be a sort of weekly recap of what went down in Hawkeye Nation over the prior week so you can kick off your week all caught up. Love it or hate it, let us know in the comments.

It was a surprisingly busy week for the Iowa Hawkeyes with some big headlines across a couple sports. While football almost always rules the day, Hawkeyes baseball had some big news over the weekend and that’s where we’ll kick things off.

Heller Tops 1,000

Let’s start with the good news, which in this case, is really good news. Your Iowa Hawkeyes took two of three games from the Ohio State Buckeyes over the weekend. The Hawks put up a ridiculous 31 runs in the Friday and Saturday games to take the first two of the series. The 15-3 shellacking of OSU on Saturday pushed head coach Rick Heller to 1,000 wins in his career.

The milestone places Heller 10th among active coaches in the NCAA. Of his 1,000 career wins, 310 have come at Iowa where he holds a record of 310-184. Congratulations to Coach on a “Heller” of a career to-date (sorry, it’s Monday and I need more coffee to stop from dropping bad puns).

You Can Bet On It

One unalienable truth for Hawkeye fans is when there is good news, bad news is surely soon to follow. Coach Heller notches 1,000 career wins and the Hawkeyes move to 34-12 on the season, so bad news is going to follow right? You can bet on it.

And it sounds like, unfortunately, some Hawkeye athletes may have been betting on something. We’re still very much in the rumor mill phase of this one, but rumors started to spread on various forums over the weekend that the Iowa baseball team may have had 1-3 players who were being looked at for gambling. As of this writing, there are no details on what that may have involved, but it does not appear to be a situation like the one that led Alabama to fire head baseball coach Brad Bohannon.

However, there is some smoke here and any flames that may have been there late last week were certainly fanned when the AD sent out this communication on Friday evening:

A few things worth noting here:

  • The statement does not actually say anything about gambling, simply that there is a potential NCAA violation.
  • As On3’s Kyle Huesmann (who btw is a tremendous follow for baseball and women’s hoops coverage) points out, Keaton Anthony’s absence over the weekend was... notable. The release indicates there are multiple athletes involved and there was a rumor out in the ether that this involved three baseball players. No details on the other two who may have been held out.

Update: Other players absent for the OSU series include Jacob Henderson, Ben Tallman and Gehrig Christensen per On3’s Kyle Huesman.
Updated Further: The Action Network’s Darren Rovell is reporting the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission has confirmed an investigation into the Iowa baseball team has been initiated.

  • This hasn’t been posted digitally anywhere that I can find. That seems strange.
  • There were also rumors floating that this may have involved a former Hawkeye football player. Nothing has been substantiated there, but it’s safe to say all Iowa athletes are going to be heavily scrutinized on this topic for a while.

Blueblood Bouncebacks

In case you missed it, the Hawkeyes added another football player via the transfer portal last week and it was a big one. Former Ohio State wide receiver Kaleb Brown hit the portal just ahead of the April 30 deadline and made the trip to Iowa City a few days later. He promptly cancelled planned visits to Oklahoma and Texas A&M and now plans to be a Hawkeye when the team reports for summer activities in mid-June.

Brown is an elite talent who had offers from a who’s who of college football bluebloods when he was a 4-star prospect in the class of 2022. He took a redshirt year as a true freshman at Ohio State and thus will have four years to play four for the Hawkeyes.

He fills a massive need for Iowa, who went through spring ball with just Nico Ragaini and Diante Vines as available scholarship receivers. He also continues a trend of Portal Kirk being quite active in the transfer market as Iowa looks to improve on a roster that nearly won the West in 2022, but had one of the worst offenses in modern college football history.

Iowa picked up transfers at QB, TE, WR, OG, OT and LB, as well as JUCO additions at DE and DT. The Hawkeyes are rumored to be looking at adding another CB from the portal yet this spring with Rhode Island corner Antonio Carter expected to visit this week. He’s already visited Wisconsin and Ole Miss with plans to sneak in a trip to Notre Dame this week as well as a trip to Kentucky on May 13-15 before he graduates on the 20th.

For those keeping track, here’s an updated look at the potential starting lineup post-portal season.

QB - Cade McNamara, Michigan, 3rd Team All-Big Ten
RB - Kaleb Johnson, Honorable Mention All-Big Ten
WR - Kaleb Brown, Ohio State
WR - Nico Ragaini
TE - Luke Lachey, Honorable Mention All-Big Ten
TE - Erick All, Michigan, Honorable Mention All-Big Ten
OT - Mason Richman, Honorable Mention All-Big Ten
OG - Rusty Feth, Miami (OH), 2nd Team All-MAC
C - Logan Jones
OG - Connor Colby, Freshman All-American
OT - Daijon Parker, Saginaw Valley State

That’s just the offense, where improvements were sorely needed. The Hawkeyes also snagged some big time help on defense (notably All-ACC LB Nick Jackson and a pair of Iowa Western DL in Anterio Thompson and Jackson Filer), but nobody is here to question the depth being built by Phil Parker. Iowa appears to be well positioned, on paper, to improve in 2023.

You Can Bet On It

Wait, wasn’t that the headline with a negative connotation above? Yeah, well, whatever.

If you think the Hawkeyes will be better on the gridiron in 2023, you can now bet on it. DraftKings Sportsbook posted their over/unders for win totals last week so you can now bet on the Hawkeyes to win more or less than 7.5 total games this season (some of us smashed the over because we are eternal optimists), to with the national title (+15000, which is fourth in the Big Ten behind Ohio State at +650, Michigan at +900, Penn State at +2500 and Wisconsin at +6000) and for the new QB1 to win the Heisman at +25000.

That is, unless you’re an Iowa athlete currently. Then you can certainly not bet on it.

Roundball Recruiting

And finally, a tiny bit of Iowa hoops recruiting. On the men’s side, top 2024 target Donnie Freeman, a 6’8” forward from Washington, DC, is set to announce his commitment this week. He’s choosing between the Hawkeyes, Alabama, Syracuse, Texas and Georgia Tech. While Iowa is reportedly firmly in this thing, he hasn’t visited Iowa City since last fall and recently made trips to Alabama and Syracuse.

If you’re into predictions, the most recent call from 247 Sports was to Syracuse. But if Freeman ends up elsewhere, it won’t be for lack of trying from Coach McCaffery. Here’s what Freeman had to say about the Hawkeyes to On3:

“Being that it’s in Iowa, I was hesitant about the area until I got down there and was blown away by the campus and people. It’s the true definition of a college town. The support they have for basketball is really, really attractive Coach (Fran) McCaffrey has been the most active out of all the head coaches recruiting me.”

On the women’s side of things, the rich continue to get richer. While there was early momentum for the Hawkeyes after Bluder’s bunch made it all the way to the national title game and had the country in the palm of their hand watching what Caitlin Clark would do next, Iowa has yet to build any real traction in the transfer portal.

Iowa was linked to big names such as Stanford’s Lauren Betts and DePaul’s Aneesah Morrow, but has not hosted any visitors or landed any commits. Meanwhile, in Baton Rouge, the Tigers that took down Clark and the Hawkeyes have added Louisville star guard Hailey Van Lith and over the weekend, picked up a commitment from the aforementioned Morrow.

LSU was ahead of the game in terms of lining up major corporate partnerships for its athletes to score big NIL deals, but since Angel Reese stalked Caitlin Clark all over the American Airlines Arena floor, her social media value has skyrocketed and the NIL dollars and portal transfers have followed. LSU is now firmly in the super team camp and appear to be the clear front runners for the championship in 2023-2024.