Northwestern and Iowa have a history of football animosity for each other, and this week just aggravated it.
Maybe the rivalry began in earnest in 1995 when Northwestern center Rob Johnson said “I don’t want to just beat that team, I want to hurt Iowa.”
That wasn’t nice. It also was just before the Hawkeyes’ 21-game win streak over the Wildcats ended, so you could see how some of the purple guys may have had their fill of all things Iowa.
Gary Barnett supposedly chose Iowa as his model when he took over the Northwestern program in 1992. His guys beat the Hawkeyes in 1995 and went on to the Rose Bowl that season.
While the Wildcats have had just four winning records since that 1995 season, they’ve won seven of their last 12 games against the Hawkeyes.
Harsh feelings cropped up again last December when Iowa got the Big Ten’s Outback Bowl slot instead of Northwestern even though the Hawkeyes were 8-4, the Wildcats were 9-3, and Northwestern beat Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa fans laughed, Northwestern fans griped, and snarky Internet wars of words between the two weren’t hard to locate.
Why bring this up in March? Because there’s a fresh diss to discuss, one that came from the Hawkeyes’ camp.
Iowa announced its football ticket prices for 2009. Season tickets, wisely, are being held at $339. Single-game tickets for the Oct. 10 Michigan game will go for $70. Single-game seats for the Sept. 9 Arizona game will go for $65. All others will be $52. The Nov. 7 Northwestern contest is among the others.
Is that such an insult? Absolutely.
Michigan went 3-9 last season. Northwestern was 9-4. But the Iowa organization deemed Hawkeye fans’ interest in seeing a rebuilding Wolverines program is higher than watching a Wildcats team that beat Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2008!
You would think Iowa might at least consider jacking up the price of the Northwestern game instead of the Sept. 19 meeting with Arizona.
Arizona? Iowa and Arizona don’t have a rivalry. The don’t share a climate, let alone a conference. They haven’t met in 11 years. It’s just a game.
Other than the fact the Arizona game is a lot more likely to be played in nicer weather than the Northwestern clash two months later, what’s the hook?
With Northwestern, it’s a ready-made sale. Those smarty-pants from Evanston got us here last year, the promotions could say. But this time it’s personal.
OK, it’s not an original line. Still, it will be personal. For both sides.
Those Iowa hicks took our Outback Bowl spot, Northwestern can say. Those Wildcats didn’t beat us, we beat ourselves with turnovers, the Iowa side can say.
Run a reverse, Iowa ticket office. Sell $70 tickets for the Northwestern game, and $52 seats for Michigan.
Seventy bucks for Michigan is overpriced nostalgia, like charging $70 to see the remnants of ‘70s rock bands. People may pay it, but that doesn’t make it right.
Is this not a premium logo?
Folks, Michigan lost to Toledo last season. It got flattened by Notre Dame and Illinois. It got outscored by 104 points over the season.
Some year, the Wolverines may be powerful once more. That year isn’t likely to be this year.
Michigan is Iowa’s “premium” game? It’s more like unleaded.
If the Northwestern men’s basketball team wins at Ohio State Sunday and other games this weekend break the right way, Northwestern could have the seventh seed in next week’s Big Ten tourney and meet 10th-seed Iowa in Thursday’s first round.
With is “premium game” snub in football, the Wildcats basketballers may carry the water for their insulted football brothers, and take it out against the Hawkeyes in Indianapolis.
See what you’ve done, Iowa ticket office. It’s like a pebble in a lake. Even the fish feel it.
With the confirmation Wednesday that Illinois will close its season with a game at Cincinnati, all the Big Ten football schedules are set for 2009.
First off, while Illini fans sound irritated that their team will play Fresno State at home and Cincinnati on the road — both capable squads – after the Big Ten season is over, at least they’re real opponents.
Good for the Illini. It may mean another 5-7 season or, worse, a trip to the Motor City Bowl at 6-6. But it at least shows some willingness to play competition.
Either that, or Illinois Athletic Director Ron Guenther failed miserably at finding a patsy to squeeze into his schedule. I hope it’s that deal about wanting to play someone.
If only every Big Ten AD and coach had the same attitude. Hey, the Big Ten isn’t winning BCS titles anyhow and flops miserably every time it sends Ohio State to slaughter in the championship game. So why not make the regular-season more meaningful with actual ballgames?
Only 14 of the 44 nonconference games in ’09 are against BCS conference teams or Notre Dame. That’s ridiculous.
Are you the Big Ten or just the Ten? Actually, you’re the Eleven, but that horse has been beaten to death.
Only three league teams — Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota — are playing two BCS conference teams among their four non-league games. Wisconsin isn’t playing any.
Before noting the cupcakes, let’s give some kudos to the proud and the few who are at least playing interesting games.
Ohio State gets the return date on its home-and-home series with USC.
Purdue heads to Oregon after hosting the Ducks last fall.
Indiana filled out its schedule by taking a game at Virginia, thus becoming the only Big Ten team to play two of its nonconference games on the road.
Cal is playing at Minnesota and Arizona is at Iowa, so those are 2008 bowl teams from the Pac-10 coming into Big Ten lairs.
But by and large, Big Ten non-league slates are another big pile of bleccccch.
Nine games are against FCS (I-AA) opposition. Purdue and Ohio State are the only Big Ten teams not devouring FCS prey. A few are among the cream of the FCS crop, like Northern Iowa and Wofford. But …
Delaware State (5-6 last year) at Michigan?
Towson (3-9) at Northwestern?
Eastern Illinois (5-7) at Penn State?
Penn State is playing all four of its nonconference games at home, against Akron, Syracuse, Temple and mighty Eastern Illinois. That’s absurd. Are you a football power or not? If you are, act like one and schedule somebody.
Playing two Mid-American Conference teams, an FCS squad and Syracuse, the Least of the Big East, is great for wins. It won’t work too well in those BCS computers, though.
Ranking the non-league schedules by toughness is difficult, because most are lousy. But here goes:
1. Illinois: Vs. Missouri in St. Louis, Illinois State, Fresno State, at Cincinnati (The series with Mizzou is a good one, and Cincinnati is fresh off an Orange Bowl appearance.)
2. Minnesota: at Syracuse, Air Force, California, South Dakota State (Air Force and Cal went to bowls, Syracuse is on the road, and S.D. State is one of the better FCS teams a Big Ten team is playing.)
3. Purdue: Toledo, at Oregon, Northern Illinois, Notre Dame. (Toledo was lousy in ’08, but the other three went to bowls and Oregon won 10 games.)
4. Wisconsin: Northern Illinois, Fresno State, Wofford, at Hawaii (The three FBS teams went to bowls, and Wofford won nine games and played South Carolina to a 10-point game.)
5. Ohio State: Navy, USC, vs. Toledo in Cleveland, New Mexico State (The USC game goes a long way here, obviously.)
6. Michigan State: Montana State, Central Michigan, at Notre Dame, Western Michigan. (Doesn’t look like much, but the three FBS teams went to bowls, the two MAC teams are in-state clubs that will be motivated, going to South Bend is no picnic, and Montana State was 7-5)
7. Iowa: Northern Iowa, at Iowa State, Arizona, Arkansas State. (UNI’s a terrific FCS team, and Arizona’s legit. If Iowa State were just a little stronger …)
Now it gets bad.
8. Indiana: Eastern Kentucky, Western Michigan, at Akron, at Virginia. (Western Michigan is a good program. Playing on the road twice should count for something, though all it really means is Indiana is a Big Ten football program without much clout.)
9. Michigan: Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Delaware State. (Four home games. Not a Top 25 team in the bunch. This isn’t the Michigan scheduling we’ve known for the last half-century. Bo Schembechler would never have scheduled Delaware State.)
10. Northwestern: Miami (Ohio), Towson, at Syracuse, Eastern Michigan. (Not a good opponent in the foursome. Only playing Syracuse on the road keeps the ‘Cats from being ranked below … )
11. Penn State: Akron, Syracuse, Temple, Eastern Illinois. (What, Slippery Rock, Swarthmore, Susquehanna, and Scranton/Dundler-Miffin weren’t available?)
Television and radio stations in Des Moines are reporting multiple sources are saying Arizona head football coach Mike Stoops is a serious candidate to become Iowa State’s next coach.
Stoops’ team plays BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl, the Wildcats’ first bowl under his direction.
It snowed in Vegas Wednesday, so Stoops could make the adjustment to Ames fairly easily.
Who is Mike Stoops? Well, he played football at Iowa, like his brothers Bob and Mark. Bob Stoops, you may have heard, has been a fairly prominent head coach at Oklahoma. Mark Stoops is Mike’s defensive coordinator at Arizona.
But what about Mike?
His five-year record at Arizona, down-and-out when he got there, is 23-33. He was an assistant coach at Iowa from 1986 to 1991, at Kansas State from 1992 to 1998, and at Oklahoma from 1999 to 2003.
His Arizona teams have gone 3-8, 3-8, 6-6, 5-7 and 7-5. His Pac-10 record is 16-25. This year’s 5-4 conference mark was his best.
He turns 47 on New Year’s Eve.
“Each program is different and I think each one has unique challenges within itself,” Stoops said after Wednesday’s practice in Las Vegas. “I think it’s always up to the administrators to look at their team, to see if they’re headed in a positive direction. And I think that’s evident by the way (we) play; by the way the kids present themselves; the way they compete. And then it becomes an individual choice. Coaches, we just try to do the best we can.”
“… some programs take longer than others, let’s face it,” Stoops said this week. “There’s only so many Oklahomas, Texases and USCs. The rest of us have to work very hard. … but until you get over the hump there’s always going to be pressure.”
Stoops’ offensive coordinator the last two years has been Sonny Dykes, who was co-offensive coordinator at Texas Tech before moving to Tucson.
The Wildcats averaged 37.1 points and 401.2 yards per game this season, up from 28 and 385.2 last year.
“That’s what any good coach does; you’ve got to manipulate your offense to get the ball to the players who can make plays,” Stoops said Wednesday. ”This has been a little bit of an adjustment for us finding an identity. It’s taken a little bit of time, but I feel like we understand our personnel very well.”
Now the multi-year, multi-million dollar question: Why would Stoops leave a program he has worked hard to build to semi-respectability to start all over at Iowa State?
You got me.
Many coaches (and their agents) don’t mind having their names in these discussions. Any kind of leverage is good leverage, and who wouldn’t want to be regarded as a desirable commodity?
Then again, how warm is Arizona Athletic Director Jim Livengood to keeping Stoops aboard? It isn’t as if Tucson is ga-ga for Wildcat football at this moment, Las Vegas Bowl or not.
In a side note, David Hasselhoff will sing the national anthem at the Las Vegas Bowl. That is one hard-and-fast truth amid all the rumor-mongering, scuttlebutt and he-said-she-said stuff.