It's the Creepin' Weekend, Baby, We Bout to Have Us Some Fun
With just ten days left before Signing Day, Iowa football had a whopping 22 recruits on campus this weekend on official visits. Eighteen of the 22 are already committed, but the news could come from the other four: Offensive tackle prospects Matt Farniok and Alaric Jackson had visits good enough for 247's Steve Wiltfong to declare Iowa the frontrunner for both (paywall'd). That opinion could be partially confirmed by Michigan State's staff, which has been in play for Jackson but went down their list and offered tackle Luke Campbell last week. It's been years since Iowa has been in position for one highly-rated offensive tackle heading into Signing Day, let alone two. But Iowa's recruiting theory -- stay in it long enough to get them on campus and let the new building do the work from there -- seems to be working.
The other news from the weekend's recruiting festivities: Iowa got a perfect storm on an under-the-radar recruit. Pella safety Noah Clayberg accepted a grayshirt offer from Iowa over a handful of FCS scholarship possibilities.
A grayshirt usually doesn't even register, but Clayberg checks all the boxes for a Reese Morgan special: Under-recruited in-state athlete from a small-ish school whose size (he's 5'11 and 200 pounds) contradicts his production (3,541 yards and 51 touchdowns as quarterback at Pella this year) who can move to safety in college. This is how Iowa got Nate Meier and Matt VandeBerg, among others.
"After a weekend of being there, it was very clear to me that my decision was made and that was my dream that I wanted to chase," he said. "After sitting down with the coaches and talking to them one-on-one, that really cleared a lot of things up. They have confidence in me and it's such a great opportunity, they have such great facilities, such a great fan base, amazing coaches and I'm going to be surrounded by players who are like myself and they're going to push me to do my best, so I don't know why I wouldn't jump on that opportunity."
As a grayshirt, Clayberg will pay his way through his first semester of school next fall and redshirt as a walk-on, then receive a scholarship beginning in 2017. It's a sign that Iowa's class is close to full, which we've sort of known for weeks. But it's also a sign that Iowa expects to fill its last 2-3 open spots before Signing Day. He talked about going to UCLA and Arizona State for visits, as well. Iowa responded by offering and landing tight end Shaun Beyer.
One other commit in attendance this weekend: Noah Fant, the Omaha South tight end whose recruitment has turned into one of the most high-drama affairs in recent Iowa football history. Fant surprisingly committed to Iowa in a radio interview in late August, turning down Nebraska on Omaha sports talk radio, pretty much the most obvious way of kicking a local coaching staff in the groin.
Fant showed his commitment to Iowa by popping up on the sidelines of other teams all fall. He went to Notre Dame in October, basically begging for an offer. He played footsie with Mike Riley at Nebraska through the entire season.
The Notre Dame offer never came, though, and Fant called off a Nebraska visit last week because Lincoln was too far away from Omaha. Nevertheless, the question of whether Fant would even show up for his official visit this weekend remained up in the air until the last second.
Omaha TE Noah Fant let me know he & his family are en route to Iowa City now for #Hawkeyes official visit.— Rob Howe (@RobHoweHN) January 22, 2016
And then Fant left Iowa City and promptly informed the recruitniks that he was taking a visit to Minnesota next week.
Iowa sends a letter to every football commit, making its offer contingent on the player stopping visits to other schools and other recruiting drama. Fant has so obviously and publicly flaunted this demand all fall and winter -- and apparently continues to do so -- that I'm stunned Iowa hasn't yanked his offer. By not doing so, they admit that the rules from that letter don't apply to commits who they really need, and put any future enforcement into serious question.
The 500-Pound Gorilla in the Corner of the Room
You've got to hand it to Gary Barta. This time last year, his job was being called into question by many (no one more so than me). Since then, Iowa has just gone essentially undefeated in the Big Ten in its three most high-profile sports. Enthusiasm is strong, and Iowa athletics is riding high.
The only problem remaining: Those pesky lawsuits surrounding the Tracey Griesbaum firing, which are starting to gain traction. In the most recent development from this week, an Iowa Civil Rights Commission investigator determined that "a reasonable person could infer" that Griesbaum was the victim of gender or sexual orientation discrimination. With that finding, Griesbaum has the right to pursue her lawsuit against the University.
For those not following the case, Griesbaum was fired in August 2014 for allegedly mistreating players. Griesbaum denied the claims, and has said that her behavior (and the effects on players) pales in comparison to actions by Kirk Ferentz and Fran McCaffery. The biggest hole in the University's defense, as it has been all along, is that Barta's investigation cleared Griesbaum of wrongdoing before her firing took place and cited the now-head coach as a primary offender:
The university says Griesbaum was fired over ongoing concerns about the way she treated some players, four of whom had filed complaints between 2010 and 2014. But Flickinger noted that the university's investigative report didn't substantiate any policy violations by Griesbaum and that the one incident singled out as unprofessional also involved the assistant coach hired to replace her.
Either something happened in the week between when Barta notified Griesbaum that the report found no policy violations and her firing, or Barta did not base his decision on the allegations of mistreatment. And at this point, more than a year removed from the firing, any subsequent event almost certainly has to have been disclosed. This remains problematic, and it's now just entering discovery. It's going to get worse before it gets better.
Get out the bingo cards.
Thursday ESPN announce crew: Adam Amin, Dan Dakich, Kaylee Hartung.— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) January 25, 2016
Fran McCaffery talked with Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg on ESPN Radio late last week. He breaks into uncontrollable laughter in the last minute when Greenberg calls out Katz for not paying sufficient attention. It's amazing.
Congratulations are in order for Friend of the Pants Chad Leistikow, who was named as the new Hawkeyes columnist at the Des Moines Register and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Chad has been on the beat for the last few years. He replaces Rick Brown, who left the Gannett newspapers in December.
The Big 12 has at least one school lamenting its lack of academic standards and possibly looking for a life raft to the Big Ten or Pac-12. Bob Bowlsby's response: Let's get rid of NCAA eligibility rules altogether!
Speaking of really stupid decisions by athletic departments, Illinois gave its interim coach a slightly longer interim contract because it was too scared of hiring a football coach. That coach responded by giving his son, who helped that interim coach run the nation's 98th-ranked offense last year, a promotion and 396 percent raise over last season. Cash in while you can, Cubits.
Michigan offensive line recruit Erik Swenson told the world that Jim Harbaugh had pulled his scholarship offer on the eve of Signing Day, one of those things that drives mainstream football writers insane. Teddy Greenstein, who we like a lot, was one of those writers. Only it turns out that Michigan actually pulled the offer months ago but can't say anything about recruits, and Greenstein didn't back down. Greenstein isn't necessarily wrong -- pulling an offer to a guy committed for more than a year in November is barely better than pulling one in January -- but it still doesn't look good, because bad facts are bad facts.
YOU ARE LOOKING LIVE at that guy from Dishwalla hearing your thoughts on God! Brent has the over at 6.5 blue cars.
So happy to be finished with the best album of all time pic.twitter.com/JBWa8OWvqw— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 25, 2016