A Special Saturday at Kinnick Stadium

I put in about a 17-hour day on Saturday and I’m feeling it a day later, but I suspect there are a number of staff members within the University of Iowa Athletics Department who are every bit as worn down today as I am after putting on one of the most unique (and successful) days of Hawkeye sporting events at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

At 11:00 a.m. Saturday, Iowa’s wrestlers, ranked fourth in the country, hosted top-ranked Oklahoma State – outdoors at Kinnick Stadium – in November. The Hawkeyes topped the Cowboys 18-16, with each side claiming five of the ten matches, but the result is not what people will remember about the event.

My son and I were among 42,287 that paid our $10 per ticket to be on hand to watch “Grapple on the Gridiron”, matching two wrestling programs that, between them, account for 57 national championships. Iowa organized the event with the intention of smashing the meet attendance record set by Penn State two years ago. Mission accomplished and then some. Penn State’s record was “only” 15,996.

Back in late summer, when Iowa announced plans for this event, I thought Athletic Director Gary Barta had finally gone off the deep end. I probably could have thought the same of wrestling coach Tom Brands, but I think we all know he’s been more than a little crazy his whole life, so nothing he does comes as a surprise. But Barta had to sign off on the nutso idea of holding a wrestling meet outdoors at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa in the middle of November.

Can you imagine what that would have been like if there was ANY kind of typical November weather issues? Wind, rain, sleet, snow or just plain really cold temperatures all had at least even odds of showing up. Sure, they had Carver-Hawkeye Arena to move the meet (and 15,000 of the ticket buyers) to, if necessary, but you don’t recover costs of staging by moving indoors.

No matter, though, because the weather was absolutely ideal. Calm winds, sunny and 60 degrees, and a perfect day for big walk-up ticket sales from fans showing up for a bit of early tailgating before the headline event of the day. That, of course, would be Iowa’s undefeated and 5th ranked football team Iowa hosting Minnesota in the battle for Floyd of Rosedale.

We did not tailgate for the 4+ hours we had to kill between wrestling meet and football game. Instead, a quick drive up to Red’s Ale House in North Liberty allowed us to kill the time watching afternoon football games, eating some really good food and enjoying a craft beer or four. (Red’s was featuring pours from Surly and Toppling Goliath. I won’t go in to my reviews of those beers here. That’s what the “Untappd” app is for, right?)

At 5:15 or so, it was time to head back to Kinnick Stadium. We caught the Hawkeye Express Train in Coralville and were in our 25-30 yard line seats a half-hour before kickoff.

The Hawkeyes came away with a 40-35 win over the Golden Gophers, to raise their record to 10-0 for the first time in Iowa football history, but it was a frustrating game from an Iowa fan’s perspective. Iowa never trailed and I thought it was pretty evident Iowa was the better team, but the damn Gophers just would not go away.

I’m not going to lie. Iowa needs big wins as they try to impress the folks who put together the College Football Playoff rankings, so I wanted the Hawks to just bury Minnesota and bury them deep. That didn’t happen at all, obviously.

My phone battery pretty much died by the time the football game started, so those of you who follow me on Twitter were spared having to put up with my frustration. Then again, the cell phone service in Kinnick (at least for Spring customers like me) is atrocious, so I probably wouldn’t have gotten anything out during the game anyway.

The other result of not having a working phone is that I didn’t see the final scores of all of the other night games across the country until I got home somewhere around 12:30 in the morning…

… which is my segue into discussion of the College Football Playoff rankings and Iowa’s place within that conversation.

You’re probably thinking I’m going to argue that Iowa should be ranked in the top four of the CFP rankings, in position to make the NCAA football playoffs. I’m not. Yet. But the results of some of the games yesterday are getting me closer to believing they should be.

One of the games I watched at Red’s yesterday was Clemson-Syracuse. I haven’t watched a lot of their games, but I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be. Still, they’re the team you have to rank at the top, despite an unimpressive win.

Ohio State is the defending National Champion, has almost everyone back from among the key contributors to that team, and hasn’t lost a game. They have to be in your top four right now. But I’ve watched them quite a bit and, honestly, it might be the same guys in the same uniforms, but they just haven’t looked all that terrific to me.

Through last week, I’d have had Oklahoma State in the top four. But another of the games I watched at Red’s Saturday was the Cowboys and Iowa State. We left before the game was over, so I didn’t see how Okie State won that game, but during every bit of that game I did watch, the Cowboys looked pretty bad. Still, they are undefeated and they beat TCU a week ago, so maybe you allow a little hangover. I’d have them in top four right now, too, but barely. I don’t think they’ll stay there.

I would reluctantly have Alabama filling out my top four. They’re playing very well now and you credit them for that. I don’t think that totally makes up for the fact that they do have a loss and that loss is to Mississippi, a team that hasn’t turned out to be anything all that special.

I would have Iowa somewhere in that next group of five teams. Where, exactly, isn’t all that important because it’s going to sort itself out over the next three weeks, anyway.

Oklahoma is coming on really strong, as their win over Baylor showed. Notre Dame has only lost to Clemson, so they certainly are in position to be considered to make the field if they win out.

By the way, is there a fan base more defensive than Notre Dame’s? I Tweeted out an observation that Notre Dame doesn’t play as tough a schedule as they used to before they became partially-affiliated with the ACC, yet still get residual credit in many corners for playing a difficult schedule. As a result, I got a bunch of irate responses from, I imagine, Irish fans. I didn’t say they have an “easy” schedule. But you don’t take Michigan and Northwestern off your schedule and replace them with teams like Virginia, Wake Forest and even Temple (which has been overrated all year, as we’re now seeing) and still get credit for an extremely difficult schedule. Not with me, anyway. I also don’t buy the, “we have the best loss,” argument that Mike Golic of ESPN keeps harping about. It’s a LOSS. You don’t get credit for playing somebody you lost to. You have to win the game for it to be a positive factor.

I think that’s basically it, now. The group of current legitimate contenders for the playoffs got whittled down this week. Stanford lost, essentially ending any chance that a Pac-12 team will be considered. Baylor lost to the Sooners, which is no disgrace, but the brilliant minds of the Big 12 decided to backload their schedule, assuring that any loss by their top teams will be “late losses,” and pretty much eliminate those teams from contention. Well done, Bob Bowlsby & company (I’m really glad he’s screwing up the Big 12 now and not still as Athletic Director at Iowa).

Could Michigan State run the table, beating Ohio State and then Iowa in the B1G Championship game, to work their way back into the playoff picture? Yes. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did exactly that.

Florida should get some appreciation, I suppose. But they lead the SEC-East, which is just as questionable, in terms of top to bottom strength, as the B1G-West and you have to ask yourself: how much consideration would a 1-loss Iowa be getting? The answer is, “none,” and that’s exactly the amount I would give Florida.

Finally, Wisconsin puzzles me, in that I’m puzzled why they aren’t given a lot more respect than they’re getting. Like half a dozen teams ranked above them in this week’s AP Coaches’ Poll, they have two losses. Unlike any of the teams ranked above them, their two losses are to two teams with combined 19-1 records and both ranked in the top six teams in the country. Sure, their best win is over Nebraska, but it’s almost like Badger fans gave up on the season after the Iowa loss and the rest of the country decided, “hey if you think your team sucks, we’ll just agree with you and ignore them, too.”

If Bucky wins out against Northwestern and Minnesota, they’ll end up in a pretty nice bowl game. I wonder if anyone in Wisconsin will even notice, much less attend the game.

Enough words. Here are a few not-really-very-good photos from my day at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday:


What does it look like to watch a wrestling meet in a football stadium? Something like this.
What does it look like to watch a wrestling meet in a football stadium? Something like this.
For perspective on the crowd. Attendance was officially 42,287
For perspective on the crowd. Attendance was officially 42,287
On the double-decker train, the Hawkeye Express, heading back to Kinnick for football.
On the double-decker train, the Hawkeye Express, heading back to Kinnick for football.
"Blackout" crowd watches the first play from scrimmage of Iowa vs Minnesota (technically, the Gophers got called for a procedure penalty before the snap, so this play never happened)
“Blackout” crowd watches the first play from scrimmage of Iowa vs Minnesota (technically, the Gophers got called for a procedure penalty before the snap, so this play never happened)

The Hawkeyes went to get Floyd of Rosedale from the Minnesota sideline in a calm, unified approach  – for a while, anyway.

Floyd of Rosedale is in there somewhere.
Floyd of Rosedale is in there somewhere.


Hawkeyes & Gophers Battle for a Pig

It’s been a few days since I really had much to write about concerning the Twins. I still don’t have much to write about concerning the Twins.

So let’s talk football.

As I’ve written here often, I’m a season ticket holder for Iowa Hawkeyes football. I realize that most of the time almost none of the people reading this blog care about the Hawks, but it’s my blog (partially, anyway), so I’ll write about them when I feel like it, regardless.

This week, however, there’s an off-chance some of our Minnesota-based readers might actually care about Iowa football, since Iowa City is about to be invaded by the golden rodents from the University of Minnesota.

It hasn’t really been this long since Floyd of Rosedale resided in Iowa… it just seems like it. (Photo: The Gazette)

It does seem odd that this game is being played so early in the year. Usually, our respective teams have battled through a number of ups and downs over the course of the entire season before facing off to see who gets to keep Floyd of Rosedale for the next year.

But things change. Iowa now has a Thanksgiving-weekend season finale scheduled against the new kids on the Big Ten block, the Cornhuskers, so Iowa/Minnesota has become the first conference game for both schools.

I understand folks up north are pleased with this year’s Gophers. They’re 4-0, so one would hope their fans are pleased.

Fans in Iowa are less pleased, to say the least, with our Hawkeyes, who sit at 2-2 through the non-conference part of the schedule. The Hawks pretty much sleepwalked through the season opener against Northern Illinois in Soldier Field, but escaped with a win. They failed to wake up for at least another week and lost their intra-state game with Iowa State. The Hawks did manage to avoid losing to traditional FCS powerhouse Northern Iowa. They weren’t so fortunate last week, botching an on-side kick attempt by Central Michigan and losing the game on a CMU last-second field goal.

Most Hawk fans weren’t really expecting much more than a .500 season this year, but even those projections didn’t include entering B1G play at 2-2. It could be a long year down here. That said, people here do get fired up for the border wars, so the environment should be pretty well charged up.

With things being what they are in the respective camps, however, I would imagine we’ll be seeing a bit more maroon in Kinnick Stadium this Saturday than has been the case over the past decade or so. Minnesota hasn’t played here since 2009 and the Gophers have won both of the two most recent games up at TCF Stadium. Ticket prices on StubHub have been dropping all week, so there should be no shortage of opportunities for the Minnesota faithful to attend the game.

So, in the interest of sportsmanship, I thought I would share a few inside tips for my Minnesota friends that might be considering a trip to Iowa City for the game.

Parking: Unless you’ve managed to get a hold of a premium parking permit from one of the big-givers, don’t even think about trying to park near Kinnick Stadium. You’ll just get frustrated by being told, “you can’t park here.” We aren’t picking on you because you’re from Minnesota, honest (though I’d be fine with that if it were the case). Most of the rest of us can’t park there, either.

Here’s what I tell virtually everyone who asks me about parking for an Iowa Game: “I take the train and you should, too.” It’s called the Hawkeye Express and it runs every half hour (top and bottom of the hour) from the Clarion Suites/IHOP location toward the west end of Coralville. There’s a lot of free parking room there and even more up in the south parking lot of Coral Ridge Mall, just 2 blocks away. It’s about a 10 minute train ride that drops you off near the Southwest corner of Kinnick Stadium. Trips to the stadium start at 8:00 am and return trips start at the beginning of the 4th quarter, with the last train leaving 90 minutes after the final gun. 

The Hawkeye Express unloading passengers near Kinnick Stadium

The price is $12 per person round trip (children 12 and under ride free, but DO need a ticket). There’s a ticket booth beside the IHOP restaurant, but the lines can get pretty long there and, for those parking in the Coral Ridge Mall parking lot, you’ll walk right by a “Black and Gold Shop” which I believe will sell you train tickets, as well. Of course, you’ll have to go inside and be surrounded by black and gold for a few minutes, but you should probably get used to that anyway.

If you feel you really must park and walk, I suggest the Finkbine Golf Course Lots. Plan on about a 20 minute walk.

Tailgating: You can actually tailgate in the parking lots used by the Hawkeye Express, but there’s plenty of food and drink to be had once you get up to the stadium, too. Check out Melrose Avenue (along the south end zone of Kinnick, to the right of where the train drops you off) for food stands set up in the front yards of the houses along Melrose facing the stadium.

One word of warning: while having a beer is allowed within the space of your own tailgating area, wandering the parking lots and streets of the area with open containers is prohibited. They’ve clamped down on enforcing this a bit in recent years.

Trash talking: I think it’s pretty juvenile to wander around the tailgating lots before a game and talk trash to the fans of the home team. I do understand, however, that some people take some pleasure in that kind of thing. If you’re one of those people, here’s my advice: Be creative. Think outside the box.

If the best you can do is taunt Iowa fans with, “your team/quarterback/coach sucks!” you’ll probably get nothing more than a shrug from a lot of Iowa fans right now. In fact, there’s a good number who would probably respond by offering you a beer and inviting you to sit down while they tell you just how much they agree with you. Not the response you were hoping for, but you may get a beer out of it anyway.

Speed Limits: On your way down to Iowa City, you’re probably going to be driving through Cedar Rapids in I-380. If so, you will see speed limit signs alerting you to the fact that the limit is 55 mph through most of the city, especially the S-curve through downtown. You may also note that the signs alert you to the fact that speeds are “photo-enforced.” They aren’t kidding.

Traffic Camera along I-380 in Cedar Rapids (Photo: Jim Slosiarek, The Gazette)

There are cameras installed at several points along I-380 in Cedar Rapids. If you’re going 5 mph over the posted speed limit, you’ll probably be fine. If you’re going 10 mph over the speed limit, you’re going to GET fined. You will get a nice letter in the mail in a few days advising you how to pay your fine. The process has withstood court challenges and there are reciprocity agreements supposedly in place with most other states, so ignoring the issue is likely to just make things more expensive for you in the long run. Maybe you can figure out a way to avoid paying the tickets, but seriously, it’s just easier to ease up on the gas as you go through Cedar Rapids. By the way, the Iowa Highway Patrol is out in full force along all of I-380 on game days, as well.

Yanno what? On second thought… forget what I just said about the speeding thing. Our local economy can use all the help it can get.

Game time Saturday is 11:00 am. See you there!

– JC

Butterflies With Hiccups – Iowa Style

I’m taking advantage of a bit of extra free time I have this afternoon to do another post of random news items (if you use a very generous definition of the word “news”), most of it with an Iowa connection today.

I played hooky this afternoon and watched the Twins and White Sox. True, I had to deal with the Comcast broadcast out of Chicago due to the MLB blackout rules and that means listening to Hawk Harrelson, but that’s what the mute button is for, right? I hear he left the broadcast booth in the 7th inning of the Twins 18-9 blowout of the Sox on Tuesday night and I have to admit I wish I had witnessed that.

As this MLB season winds down, I’m rooting for two things: First, as many of you know, I’m a bit of an Orioles fan, so I still have a team in contention. I still think the Birds are doing it with smoke and mirrors, but I really don’t care how they get the job done, I just want them to beat the Yankees over in the AL East and get in to the playoffs. (Admit it, you wouldn’t mind seeing JJ Hardy and Lew Ford in the playoffs, either.) Second, I’m hoping that the White Sox end up on the outside of the playoffs looking in AND that they finish just close enough that their losses to the Twins this year account for their failure to qualify.


Miguel Sano

Speaking of playoffs, I’m driving over to Clinton IA this evening to catch game one of the best-of-three playoff series between the Twins’ Midwest League (Class A) affiliate Beloit Snappers and the Clinton LumberKings (Seattle’s affiliate). Clinton finished the MWL regular season on a 10-game winning streak (the last three of which came against my Cedar Rapids Kernels). I saw all three of the Clinton-CR games this past weekend and I think Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and their Beloit teammates have their work cut out for them. Either way, at least I’ll get to check off another MWL ballpark with my visit to Beloit tonight.


There’s nothing really new on the Twins’ affiliation front for 2013. Now that the minor league regular season is over, teams that are interested in exploring new affiliation options (both MLB teams and minor league teams) can notify the MLB Commissioner’s Office or the president of minor league baseball of such. The teams are not allowed to state publicly that they’ve submitted that notification, however.

The powers-that-be will provide a list of potential affiliates to those teams by September 15. Then, and only then, are the various MLB and MiLB clubs able to start negotiating possible new partnerships with one another.

There was a new article posted online at the website of one of the local CR TV stations (KCRG) this week, but it really didn’t tell us much we didn’t already know. KCRG is owned by the same company (SourceMedia) as the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the report was written by the Gazette writer, Jeff Johnson, that covers the Kernels beat. Johnson has written about the affiliation issue a couple of times already this season and I think he has a pretty solid sense of what’s about to happen.

I’m optimistic, at this point, that I’ll be watching future Twins play baseball at Perfect Game Field here in Cedar Rapids for the next few summers, but the Kernels Directors (essentially, the team’s “owners”) still have a few questions they should be asking the Twins (such as, “Are you planning on buying a MWL team and moving it to St. Paul in a couple of years?”) before anyone is going to sign a deal. As soon as I hear more, I’ll post something, but I don’t expect to hear a lot before the end of September.


Since this is an Iowa-centered post on a baseball-centered blog, I thought I would mention this little piece of news, as well.

How many of you have seen the movie “Field of Dreams”? Everyone? I thought so.

How many of you have visited the site near Dyersville, in Eastern Iowa, where the movie was filmed? Did you even know the site has been a mini-tourist attraction, complete with cornfield-bordered baseball field, pretty much ever since the movie was released? No? Well now there’s going to be even more of a reason for you to visit, especially if you have kids who play baseball or softball.

Go the Distance Baseball LLC plans to build a $38 million youth baseball/softball complex at the Field of Dreams site. The complex will include 24 ballfields of varying sizes (over and above the original field, which apparently won’t be altered).  The company received approval of a $16.5 million sales tax rebate from the Iowa Legislature & Governor last spring and now have a $5.1 million property tax rebate from the Dyersville City Council, as well.

New Field of Dreams complex (from their Facebook page)

Here’s the artist’s rendering of the site:

Sounds like Ray Kinsella is hearing more voices, doesn’t it? He and his tractor are going to be kept awfully busy plowing under all those other fields. Almost makes me want to get back in to coaching youth baseball. Almost.


This is rivalry week down here in Iowa. It’s the week of the annual Iowa – Iowa State football game, which I know is of very little interest to much of anyone outside our state’s borders. But it’s a big deal here. It’s in Iowa City this year, which means that’s where I’ll be spending most of my Saturday.

I’m a Hawkeye season ticket holder, but I’m not “anti-ISU” like a lot of people are. I went to high school over in central Iowa, about 40 miles from Iowa State’s campus in Ames. My parents were even ISU season ticket holders for a few years (back in the days when Johnny Majors coached the Cyclones), so I saw a game or two back then. I enjoy taking jabs at my ISU-fan friends and co-workers, but I really don’t mind them having some success on the football field from time to time.

But not this Saturday.

The trophy case in the Iowa football complex that is built to hold the various traveling trophies that the Hawkeyes play for is empty at the moment, with all three of them currently in the possession of various rivals. It’s time the Cy-Hawk Trophy resumes its rightful place in Iowa City.

It may feel a bit lonely for a while, but come September 29, after the Gophers have been sent packing, Floyd of Rosedale will be there to keep it company.

– JC

Glass Houses of the Big Ten

This isn’t really the appropriate place for me to publish this article. It’s not about the Twins or baseball at all. But it’s the best outlet I have available to me to utilize to get my opinions out there and on the record, so this is the outlet I’ve chosen. If you’re only interested in what may or may not happen with the Twins and their roster, please scroll down… I’ve written plenty on that subject lately… or you can check out any of the other fine Twins blogs we list over to the right hand column .

But here, today, I’m going to write about the mess at Penn State University.

Workers remove Joe Paterno statue Sunday morning (Photo: AP/Centre Daily Times, Christopher Weddle)

I’m not going to pile on to Penn State. The NCAA’s sanctions, announced Monday morning, are unprecedented and stand as testament enough to the egregiousness of the situation. I’m certainly not going to make excuses for Joe Paterno or anyone else connected with the University. I really have no opinion whatsoever concerning whether Paterno’s statue should have remained standing outside the PSU football stadium.

If, like me, you happen to be a big fan of another Big Ten or other major college football program, I humbly suggest that you consider whether you really want to get too high and mighty on this topic either. I’m afraid many of our houses contain far too much glass for us to be casting stones.

Instead, I’m simply going to suggest that every college president and, for that matter, every college football fan, review the recommendations that were part of the report issued by former FBI director Louis Freeh and his firm concerning their investigation of PSU’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky matter.

I read through the entire Freeh report and I couldn’t help but wonder if the environment at Penn State is really all that different than what exists in many, if not most, colleges and universities with high visibility athletic programs.  This was an environment which allowed for Sandusky to continue preying on boys for more than a decade after initial allegations of his perversions were raised, largely because the values placed on sports… in this case major college football. The power placed in to the hands of a revered coach skewed an entire community’s sense of right and wrong.

The men who allowed Sandusky’s evil to go unreported for so long were not, as far as I can tell, bad men. I’m certain they all knew right from wrong. Strictly from an NCAA rules standpoint, all indications are that Penn State’s President, Athletics Director and Head Football Coach ran clean programs. The assistant coaches performed their jobs well and within the NCAA rules, from all appearances. I believe that if any of these people witnessed or even had knowledge of similar atrocities going on at their local YMCA, they’d have called authorities immediately. But sometimes otherwise good people make really bad decisions and often it’s because the subculture that they’re wrapped up in has been allowed to evolve to the point where the mores within that environment are inconsistent with (if not outright contrary to) the rest of society.

That seems clearly to have been the case at Penn State. Everyone… from the janitors to the President of the University to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees…  believed that the PSU football subculture, and the man leading it, were subject to different rules than everyone else. In fact, that dynamic was so ingrained in the fiber of the entire community that there’s almost no indication whatsoever that anyone even considered for a moment that the decision path they embarked upon was “wrong.”

As I read the report, though, I couldn’t help but wonder if the people at PSU handled this situation so much differently than their peers at other campuses would have.

I’d like to hope the people running the University of Iowa would have immediately stepped up and put an end to anything remotely approaching the crimes Sandusky is guilty of. But don’t ask me to bet a year’s pay on it. I’m just not that sure how the U of I and the Hawkeye faithful would have reacted in similar circumstances to those at Penn State. I wish I was more certain. And the fact that I believe the Hawkeyes, today, run as clean a program as anyone in big-time college sports should tell you about how certain I am that most other schools would have done the right thing.

How can we know? How can we be comfortable trusting the people that run our big-time colleges and universities to prevent anything similar to the mess at Penn State from happening on our favorite campuses?

It’s times like these that I bemoan the state of journalism in this country. There was a time, not all that long ago, when the publication of something like the Freeh Report would be met with a mad scramble of investigative journalists anxious to look in to whether the local big-time college has an environment similar to that which Freeh blamed Penn State for tolerating.

Is the Cedar Rapids Gazette investigating Iowa? Are the Star-Tribune and Pioneer-Press going to battle over who can do the best job of looking in to Goldie Gopher’s closets? What about the Detroit Free Press or the Chicago Tribune or the Columbus Dispatch? In fairness, it’s probably too soon to criticize any of those fine publications for not bothering to ask questions of the local U leaders, but I’m not holding my breath until I read something, either.

Maybe bloggers should take up the challenge. It’s not likely, since most of us exist primarily because we’re among the most rabid fans of whatever sports team(s) we focus on with our blogging. But if we’re collectively at least somewhat responsible for the sorry state of the newspaper industry and investigative journalism, in particular, then maybe we should at least try.

It wouldn’t be too difficult to come up with the questions to ask. The Freeh Report did the research for us. All we have to do is look at Freeh’s recommendations and ask every other college with a big-time athletics program if they’ve already implemented something resembling those recommendations.

Given the state of investigative journalism today, however, I’m not sure it will happen. That said, an investigative journalist in Pennsylvania played a significant role in shining a bright light on Penn State. As you can imagine, the Penn State community did not react positively to that writer’s efforts. Likewise, any journalist with the courage to take on any other major football program can expect to be similarly criticized, if not ostracized.

Who will step up and ask those questions at Iowa… at Minnesota… at Michigan and Wisconsin?

The recommendations in the Freeh report are reasonable. They are, among other things, intended to assure that the kind of influence Joe Paterno had at Penn State is never again allowed to be bestowed on coach. The NCAA has mandated that Penn State accept and implement those recommendations. 

But why stop there?

Why shouldn’t EVERY university with a significant athletics program also be required by the NCAA to adopt the recommendations? If the purpose is to prevent the previous toxic environment at Penn State from ever being repeated there, shouldn’t we also want to prevent it from existing elsewhere? Do we REALLY think Penn State under Joe Paterno was so different than anywhere else?

I wish I believed that, but I don’t. Nor do I believe the NCAA has the backbone to tell Alabama and Ohio State they have to abide by the Freeh recommendations.

The Big Ten is getting a black eye in all of this, too, because PSU is a member of that organization. The conference has long crowed about how it’s more than just an athletic conference… it’s focus is also on higher education. It likes to talk about how its member institutions must meet higher standards than schools in other conferences.

Maybe it’s time to prove it.

Maybe the Big Ten should stand up and say, “Our member institutions will ALL be expected to comply with the recommendations in the Freeh report within two years or face penalties similar to those the NCAA imposed on Penn State.” Now that would get the attention of a few University presidents… and their football coaches.

God willing, we’ll never see another situation on a campus as vile as that which Jerry Sandusky and those who enabled him at Penn State are responsible for. But I’m as certain as I can be that the environment that allowed that situation to occur was not unique to Penn State and, unless someone stands up and demands that other campuses also be reviewed, Penn State will not be the last institution brought to its knees by such an environment.

The NCAA won’t do the right thing and impose Freeh’s recommendations on all programs, but the Big Ten should. And if they won’t, someone should ask Jim Delany and the member presidents to go on the record and explain why not.

– JC

UPDATE: As was predictable and likely appropriate, the Big Ten has added its own additional penalties upon Penn State. The penalties involve censure, lack of eligibility for the Conference Championship game (which was a no-brainer, since they aren’t eligible for bowl play) and loss of their share of bowl revenue for four years. I still believe the BIG presidents should turn their attention to their own glass houses, rather than simply pile on Penn State.

Talkin’ Big Ten Basketball

Yes, I know this is a Minnesota Twins blog first and foremost. But, as many of you know, my interests do extend beyond the Twins and even beyond baseball.

I’m also a fan of NCAA basketball and, in particular, Iowa Hawkeyes basketball.

Monday night, I joined the Phil Naessens’ podcast to talk about the Big Ten conference as they get ready to open the BIG tournament later this week.

We discussed each Big Ten team and Phil & I each made our Big Ten Tournament champion picks and I picked one of the teams that have to play four games to make a huge run (no… unfortunately… it’s not the Hawkeyes).

So, if you’re interested in listening to Phil and I talk Big Ten hoops for a half hour or so, click here and feel free to leave comments!

– JC

A View of Minnesota Sports From Below 43.30

You all know by now that I’m not a Minnesotan, right? I lived in Albert Lea for 10 years as a kid growing up, but that’s almost not even Minnesota. I just do this Twins blogging thing because I happen to be a Twins fan, not because I feel any particular affinity for the state.

It occurs to me that perhaps not having any particularly strong ties to the state, much less the Twin Cities area, gives me a somewhat different perspective on Minnesota sports. I feel that disconnect even stronger during these idle times when there’s pretty much nothing Twins-related going on.

I follow about 50 people on Twitter. A few of those are Hawkeye writers/fans and some I follow because I find their takes on political issues of some interest (or at least they’re entertaining). But most Tweeters I’m following are on the list because of a shared interest in the Twins. At least some of those people seem to be at least semi-regular readers of this blog (you know who you are).

The thing is, when there’s nothing to Tweet about the Twins, y’all Tweet about other Minnesota sports teams. I am a Vikings fan, so the discussions about them are of some interest.

But the Wild… the Gophers… the Lynx… the Timberwolves (OK, I don’t see so much about the T’pups, really)… I just have so little interest in those teams that I start to pretty much ignore Twitter. My high school teams were “Lynx”, so at least those Tweets about the WNBA team cause me to flash back to some memories of my teenage years and I confess that I enjoy making fun of the Gophers, but otherwise, I just don’t care about any of them.

I know, I could unfollow all of you. But that just seems rude. I don’t want to communicate to you that I don’t care about you any more. I just don’t care about what you care about this time of year. Besides, I’d just have to try to remember who all I unfollowed so I could re-follow you in a few months, anyway.

So instead of unfollowing you, I’m going to take this one opportunity… when there is absolutely not a damn thing worth stringing 1000 words together on related to the Twins… to tell you all exactly what I think of Minnesota sports. I’m sure you’ll give my opinions all the weight that you typically give to everything else you hear from an Iowan.

I’ll try to be nice. After all, for most of you, the only reason you aren’t Iowans is that you happen to live in a part of the old Iowa Territory that nobody down here wanted to fight for as part of the statehood process a few generations ago. It is understandable that you’d still be somewhat bitter about being left behind back then, but at some point, you just have to get over that kind of thing. (Yes, I know, those of you whose forefathers lived on the wrong side of the Mississippi River were actually Wisconsinites, rather than Iowans, but that’s hardly something to brag about!)

Anyway… let’s talk Minnesota sports.

Since I do care a bit about the Vikings, let’s start there. There’s really only one Vikings-related topic worth discussing at this point and it has nothing to do with who the poor SOB that has to try to play quarterback behind that crappy excuse for an offensive line. It’s all about the stadium, folks.

I’m so tired of reading about this. Most Minnesotans apparently don’t think public money should be used to help the team build a stadium. I understand that. But that’s how it works, these days. To heck with the “referendum” bunk. You think the issue should be decided by voters because this is a democracy? You should have paid more attention during 7th grade government class. We don’t live in a democracy, we live in a republic. We elect people to make these decisions. It’s their job. If they don’t want to make tough decisions, they’re being cowards and have no business serving in a legislature, on a counsel or on a commission.

The model for the new NFL stadium in LA has purple seats. Coincidence?

So I hope your elected officials will just tell the Vikings right now whether they will or will not participate in building a new stadium. Then the Vikings can either get busy actually building it or go find a new city to play football in that will do what Minnesotans won’t. I honestly don’t care at this point. I’ll be a Vikings fan whether they play in Minneapolis, Arden Hills, Los Angeles or London, for that matter. If I owned that team, I’d have told Minnesota good-bye long before this. Then again, if I’d owned the Twins in the 1990s, I’d have done the same thing and they’d probably be the Raleigh-Durham Twins by now.

Now that I have that off my chest, let’s move on to something more pleasant. Let’s talk about the Lynx.

I know nothing about the Lynx, except that they’re a WNBA basketball team and they apparently won their league’s championship this season. I don’t particularly enjoy watching women play basketball, but when that’s the only decent team in town, you damn well better celebrate their accomplishments. Congratulations!

Speaking of basketball, you still have an NBA franchise, right? Then again, Minneapolis might be the only NBA city that won’t even notice if the NBA labor issues result in the entire season being cancelled. I care very, very little about the NBA, in general. I’ve been to two NBA games in my life. I saw the Spurs play in San Antonio in about 1984 when I was down there over the Holidays and went to a game. I also saw the Knicks and Lakers play at Staples Center a few years back. It was fun watching Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee on the video board, but don’t ask me who won the game… I have no idea. I don’t bother watching NBA games until at least the second round of the playoffs and, let’s be honest, that means I never watch Minnesota play.

And then there’s the Wild. I care even less about the NHL than I do the NBA. I’ve been to twice as many NBA games as NHL games and the city I went to that one NHL game at doesn’t even have a team any more (go Whalers!). That said, you would think the Wild would at least serve as some sort of example to the local populace concerning the Vikings situation. Most Minnesotans I know seem to think hockey was invented there and that it’s the only place where anyone plays really good hockey. Yet for years you had no NHL team! Why? Granted, there were a number of reasons, but it had a little bit to do with not being willing to help get a new arena built. So the North Stars became the Dallas Stars. Think about that… you lost your hockey team to TEXAS! Then years later, the state paid half the cost of a new arena to get a new NHL team. (Think about that in a few years when a new bunch of legislators are falling all over themselves to spend twice what’s currently being debated, just so you can lure the Jaguars to move north.)

Then again, most Minnesota hockey fans I’ve known have been much bigger fans of college hockey than the NHL version, anyway. If the Tweets I’ve seen are any indication, however, it doesn’t sound like all’s well with the rodents on skates, either. Still, I can understand a preference for the college game. I feel exactly the same way about college football and basketball.

Speaking of which… how about that Gopher football program? Yes, I’m quite aware that Floyd of Rosedale is having to endure a year of being stuck in Minnesota, but that will be remedied in less than two weeks. I really thought that, once they got an on-campus stadium, it wouldn’t take long to turn the Gopher program around. I can’t say I’m disappointed, though. I’ve got tickets for the Iowa-Minnesota game up there on the 29th and I really am anxious to get my first look at the the new stadium (which I hear is very nice). After the game, I doubt the Hawkeye players will even have to cross the field to get Floyd… the bronze pig will be so happy about returning to Iowa that he’ll run across the field to meet them halfway.

Maybe if the whole Big Ten football thing doesn’t work out up there, TCF Bank Stadium would be kind of a cool place to play outdoor hockey?

If my Minnesota friends think I’ve been a little rough on you and your sports teams here, I apologize. It’s all in good fun, right? It’s not like I flat out hate your other teams with the heat of the very fires of hell.

I save that level of distaste for Wisconsin teams… oh, and Chicago teams… and of course New York teams.

– JC

What Football Team Should I Root For?

Theyyyyyyyyyyyyyy’re Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

Yes, Interpretation By Design, the same people who damn near brought down the internet when they posted the flowchart “What Baseball Team Should I Root For?” (and, not coincidentally, also designed our own blog’s banner!) are back with their new “What Football Team Should I Root For?” flowchart!

Here it is…

And, because I know you may not be able to read the fine print here, you might want click here for a link that might be more legible.

I’m reading through it right now and it’s downright hilarious! I can’t believe… hey… wait one damn minute… who are you calling “dysfunctional”!?

Damn, I hate when the truth hurts.

– JC


A Slight Detour

Now that the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, there’s a little more time to stop and take a breath. I admit that I generally really enjoy the days and weeks leading up to the trade deadlines, both the one we just went through and the waiver-deal deadline that comes up at the end of August. That’s the date by which players have to be on a team’s roster in order to be eligible for post-season play with that team.

The Twins were particularly interesting to follow this month because of all the uncertainty concerning whether they were buyers or sellers or, as some of us have begun to suspect, have very little clue which they are or should be. But regardless of what any of us think about the Twins’ front office and their performance during this critical period, the fact remains that this particular trade deadline period is over… and I find myself a little burned out on writing about the Twins.

Partially as a result of that fact, my focus has begun to shift a bit to other areas and today I’m going to take a little detour off of the Twins highway.

As I’ve indicated before, I’m also a Vikings fan as well as a fan of Iowa Hawkeye athletics. The whole labor issue thing with the NFL has frankly soured me a bit on professional football, but I’m sure that by the time the Vikings play their first game, I’ll be taking a glance at their roster to see who’s still here and who isn’t.

But I’ve been really getting geared up for college football. I’m a Hawkeye season ticket holder, which means I can also put in for tickets to road games. I’ve received word I got a pair of tickets for the Hawks’ visit to TCF Stadium this fall, but, alas, I apparently don’t donate enough $ to the I-Club to have earned tickets to their game at Nebraska. I’m kind of bummed about that. The game is scheduled for the Friday after Thanksgiving and we’re kind of hoping that becomes a big traditional game. I’m going to try to get tickets through other avenues, because I hear Lincoln, Nebraska is a really nice place to spend a couple of days in late November. Besides, they’ve decided they’re going to play for a trophy or something… how cool is that? Yes, I know pretty much EVERY Big Ten contest involves a trophy these days, but this contest even has a NAME… “The HEROES GAME”. How can a guy not want to go see that?!

While I’m on the subject, I just want to mention how excited I am about Nebraska joining the Big Ten Conference. I thought it was a good fit when it was announced over a year ago and I think it’s an even better fit after several months of reflection.

I’m not always a big fan of the people who run college athletics at any level, whether it’s the NCAA or the people in charge of the Big Ten (or even the people in charge of the Iowa Hawkeyes, but I’ll spare you all that particular rant today). But I have to say I think they got this realignment thing pretty much right, with the addition of the Cornhuskers and the way they divided up the schools in to divisions. No, I’m not fond of the “Legends and Leaders” division names, but off hand I can’t say I’ve heard suggestions I liked any better.

I don’t mention it often here, but I’m also not generally a huge fan of most of what I read in my local home town Cedar Rapids Gazette sports section. Some of the writers there do an OK job covering local and college sports, but I don’t remember the last time I read something and thought, “Wow… that was really good. I’m glad I read the Gazette today!”

Until a week or two ago, that is.

A local writer for the Gazette, Scott Dochterman, wrote a 10-part series about what the Big Ten Conference went through as they tried to figure out how to divide up the twelve schools in to two divisions. He interviewed conference staff and almost every school’s Athletics Director and while he didn’t come out of those interviews with any juicy stories of ADs in fistfights, he did manage to give readers a good look at the process and challenges that the decision-makers had to work through. I came away with a lot of respect for the way people set aside some parochial interests in order to do what was right for the whole conference. When you compare the way these people conducted themselves with what was reported about how the Big 12 poobahs comported themselves in the past, you really feel good about being a Big Ten fan.

The series doesn’t focus on Iowa, despite being authored by a writer who covers the Hawkeyes, so if you have an interest in Big Ten football, I highly recommend checking the series out. You can click here to go to a “Postcript and Links” entry, which includes summaries and links to all ten chapters of the series.

As for the Twins, I’m planning on driving up to the Twin Cities this weekend to catch at least some of the White Sox series, so I’m sure I’ll post some pictures and thoughts about those games at some point. I was hoping to have a chance to catch Jim Thome’s 600th home run, but the way things are going, I may have to settle for seeing Joe Nathan’s record-breaking save (since he and the Twins seem bound and determined to screw up our DVD contest!). It may also be the last time I get to see Ozzie in action if rumors of him managing the Marlins next season turn out to be accurate.

If you’re going to be in the Twin Cities over the weekend and especially if you’re planning on going to any of those games, leave a comment or drop me an email and maybe we can find a way to get together for a beer or something. The season may not be going the way we all hoped it would, but there still aren’t many better ways to kill a few hours than going to a ballgame and I’m going to do a bit of that this weekend.

– JC