Earlier this week, the Iowa athletic department announced plans to "recognize" Roy Marble, Iowa's all-time leading scorer, before Saturday's regular season finale against Northwestern. On one hand, it's a perfectly reasonable and commendable decision -- Marble is Iowa's all-time leading scorer and one of its best-ever players, full stop. Any recognition they want to bestow on him is well-deserved. Marble was also diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer last year, so opportunities to honor him while he's still alive and able to appreciate it are likely to be limited.
On the other hand, this is yet another sign of the Iowa athletic department's ham-handedness and inability to get out of their own way. Even when they do the right thing, they manage to screw it up. Again, Marble had a brilliant career at Iowa and is deserving of every bit of honor and recognition that Iowa wants to give him. The why of honoring Marble is not in dispute; the when and the how, on the other hand...
Why is Marble being honored on Senior Day, a day when the spotlight should deservedly fall on Aaron White, Gabe Olaseni, and Josh Oglesby, three players who committed to Iowa on the heels of a miserable 11-20 season, were instrumental in bringing Hawkeye basketball back from the abyss, and led Iowa to four straight winning seasons, three straight (soon to be four straight) postseason appearances, and three straight 20-win seasons? White has been one of the most productive players in Iowa history. Olaseni's development from his freshman year to now has been nothing short of astonishing. And while Oglesby has had his ups and downs over his Iowa career, he's hit some big shots for the Hawkeyes over the years. They comprise a senior class (along with walk-on Kyle Denning, who didn't contribute as much on the court as the other seniors, but was still a valuable teammate for the last four years) that absolutely deserves to be honored for their achievements and to get their own moment in the spotlight -- so why are they sharing it with Marble? If Iowa was going to recognize Marble this season (again, something they absolutely they should do) why couldn't he have been "recognized" at one of several other home games this season?
EDIT: Apparently, Iowa's decision to recognize Marble on Senior Day may have been done because Marble no longer lives in the area and that was the only day that lined up well with his cancer treatments. If that's the case, fair play to Iowa. It's still awkward timing, but there's not much to be done about it.
While piggybacking Marble's recognition on the back of Iowa's Senior Day is annoying (and unnecessary), the more irksome aspect of this situation is the honor itself: "recognition." Iowa's not retiring Marble's number. They're not retiring his jersey (a point that Iowa athletic director Gary Barta made abundantly -- and awkwardly -- clear in the press release announcing the decision to "recognize" Marble). They're "recognizing" him. We'll have to wait until Saturday to see exactly what form that "recognition" takes; apparently the athletic department is also planning to establisha "display area" in the concourse at Carver-Hawkeye Arena "to recognize former student-athletes in a number of sports."
Perhaps the athletic department will come up with something memorable and respectful and impressive in this yet-to-be-completed display. Pardon us if we don't hold our breath, given the athletic department's track record with things like the Wall of Honor at Kinnick Stadium (adequate) and rivalry trophies like the new Cy-Hawk Trophy and the Heroes Game Trophy (testaments to blandly homogeneous corporate groupthink). It's particularly frustrating in this situation because there already is a very good, very respected, and very meaningful way of honoring players like Marble: retiring their jerseys. This isn't rocket science. For basketball players, seeing their jersey retired is one of the most significant honors they can receive.
We're not alone in wanting to see Marble's jersey retired by Iowa -- far from it. Scott Dochterman and Mike Hlas carried this particular torch earlier in the season. Jon Miller took it up earlier this week. Nor is it just media types who want to see Iowa retire Marble's jersey, either -- current and former Iowa greats have taken up the cause, too.
How are we "recognizing" and not retiring the jersey of the all time leading scorer in program history? #Retire23— Matt Gatens (@mattga7ens) March 3, 2015
Nice candid interview with Iowa's @Aaron_White30. Among White's thoughts, he thinks Iowa should retire Roy Marble's jersey Saturday.— Murph & Andy Show (@Murph_Andy) March 4, 2015
Again: this is not rocket science. There's no need to reinvent the wheel here and invent some new form of "recognition" to honor Marble. Retire his jersey. That's the best way to honor Marble for his significant contributions to Iowa basketball and to pay homage to Iowa's hoops history. That would be a truly fitting way to "recognize" Roy Marble.