There’s much excitement around these parts about the University of Northern Iowa Panthers making it to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. Our friends from up the road in Cedar Falls have really been on a roll in basketball of late. Knocking off a #1 seed in Kansas was a victory for the ages.
UNI stands in an interesting position vis a vis the University of Iowa and IowaStateUniversity. It seems like most people who are alums, or just fans, of one or the other of the UI or ISU loathe their counterparts at the other school, but UNI is sort of everyone’s little brother. Most of us seem able to get behind the Panthers, and I have to say, that’s awfully fun. I wouldn’t actually mind, as a UI grad, rooting for ISU were they to find themselves in the Sweet 16, though I will admit that it’s somehow easier pulling for the Panthers.
Iowa basketball—that is, University of Iowa basketball—has fallen on rather hard times of late. Much of the blame for this can be laid at our doorstep, yours and mine as fans, although there is plenty to dish out to others, too. Far too many of us (I was not one of them, but that doesn’t really matter now) complained about the state of Iowa Basketball when we had a coach who regularly got our team into the tourney, and every now and again made some noise there. Iowa played an up-tempo, exciting brand of basketball, employing a full-court-press defense that was fun to watch. But Tom Davis needed to go, I guess, so it was adios.
In came the Ego underneath the Haircut, a guy who really wanted to coach at Indiana, and never missed an opportunity to hold us all hostage when the Hoosier job was open. Frankly, I wish he’d gotten that job and gotten the heck out of Iowa City. By the time he was done, the program was in tatters.
It wasn’t all his fault. While he was foolishly supporting a thug athlete who was accused of sexually assaulting women, the idiots at the Big Ten decided that their league was so vital to all Midwesterners’ lives that they could move their games off of free local TV (or at worst, ESPN, which if you have cable you’re almost certain to have) to their brand new Big Ten cable network. Well, I don’t think I’ve seen a Hawkeye basketball game since—except for maybe if they were playing the Panthers and as such were on, ahem, free local television—and Hawkeye basketball used to be Must See TV for me.
So now I can’t name half the players on the team, and I can’t see the games unless I subscribe to cable TV (no thanks, I’ll watch my TV for free), go to a bar, or spend a ridiculous amount of money on going to a game.
Now, it’s not all their fault, either. The Hawkeyes can’t control the Big Ten Network stupidity, and it’s not the current team’s fault that the last coach couldn’t dig them out of the hole that the guy before him left the program in. But the fact that it’s not their fault doesn’t make up for the fact that a guy who graduated from the school, and used to watch virtually every game every year pretty much no longer gives a rip. That’s just sad.
In closing this whole discussion, I’d like to throw this out there, just so it’s on the record for the new coach, and though I’m writing this about basketball, it applies to football, too, should Coach Ferentz somehow stumble upon this blog: I’d rather watch a good bunch of kids, kids who I can feel good about rooting for, fight hard and win five-eighths or two-thirds of their games than see a bunch of jerks win 9 out of 10. It may not be the popular attitude in this “win at all costs” day and age, but I bet I’m not all alone on this, either. They’re going to have to win to draw interest, no question, but please, please, please do it the right way.