We understand the point, but also understand that this is likely an economic decision based on projected supply and demand. Michigan might have had its worst record in its history, but it still has more fans than Northwestern. The game is also homecoming, which always counts for something.
Rovell is, of course, right. More people want to see a Michigan team coming off a 3-9 season than a Northwestern club coming off a 9-4 year.
But that doesn’t mean the Hlog can’t stir the already-turbulent water between Northwestern and Iowa fans by manufacturing a tempest in a teapot.
And, just because more people would rather see Michigan than Northwestern doesn’t make it right. Ozzie Davis’ character Da Mayor said it best for all of us many years ago in Spike Lee’s movie “Do The Right Thing.”:
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?)
IOWA CITY — It was a most peculiar game in many aspects, yet it felt so right for Iowa.
“A win is a win,” said a pleased fan leaving Carver-Hawkeye Arena Saturday evening. But some wins are better than others, and this was one of the better ones.
It wasn’t a great achievement in terms of importance, and it certainly wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing victory in Hawkeyes men’s basketball annals. Beating Northwestern at home has almost always met expectatons, not produced joy.
But Iowa’s 56-51 triumph over the Wildcats felt so good to the victors and their 12,555 fans here. It was needed, and it was earned.
“I can’t imagine if you’re a Hawkeye fan walking out of here disappointed with this group,” said Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter.
In fact, the vibe was surprisingly good from before tip-off until Jarryd Cole’s last-second shot block to punctuate the win with a crowd-delighting exclamation point.
Maybe it was the pleasing weekend weather that established the good feelings. Maybe it was the accommodating 5 p.m. starting time. Maybe it was reduced ticket prices.
Whatever the case, this wasn’t a Carver with wide swathes of empty seats, or of fans looking for any excuse to climb up the steps early for a head-start on beating traffic. The mood was good, and the Hawkeyes added to it with 40 minutes of effort.
“This crowd showed up to support a group of guys that have been playing hard and haven’t been rewarded,” Lickliter said. “I think that was instrumental in us playing with the kind of spirit we needed to complete this game.
Todd Lickliter: Victory
This wasn’t a woeful Wildcats roster. This was a team that had done the unthinkable two weeks earlier and won at Michigan State. This was a team that had won four of its previous five Big Ten games, and had the NCAA tournament in at least some corner of its mind.
“They’re very capable,” Lickliter said. “Very capable.”
But the Hawkeyes played defense.
Northwestern’s 37.5 percent shooting from the field was better than Iowa’s, but it certainly wasn’t good enough to offset the Hawkeyes’ aggressiveness. Each time it seemed the Wildcats were wresting momentum away, it got wrested right back.
Usually, a 3-pointer did the trick. The “peculiar” aspects of this game mentioned earlier? Those would be topped by Iowa making 12 threes, and just two 2-point baskets. Thirty of the Hawkeyes’ 40 shot-attempts were 3-pointers.
Playing a 1-3-1 defense that clogs the arteries to the hoop, Northwestern virtually begs you to keep chucking threes. Iowa kept chucking them.
It wasn’t as if the Wildcats’ offense looked much more well-rounded. They shot more threes than twos, too. Craig Moore put up 18 shots for NU. All were from beyond the arc. Only six went in.
Guard Devan Bawinkel got his first start for Iowa. He shoots threes. In fact, all but four of his 90 shots this season have been threes.
He made a 3-pointer 33 seconds into this game. He made a trey with 1:05 left in the game for a 48-46 lead that Iowa didn’t surrender.
Bawinkel had missed his previous seven shots before that big basket — and one was even a 2-pointer! But when he was open and the game was up for grabs, he didn’t hesitate to try another. The swish helped make those 12,555 fans and his teammates feel good. It made Bawinkel feel good, too. How do we know this?
“It just feels good to win,” Bawinkel said. “It feels really good to win. To beat a Big Ten team just feels really good nowadays.”
This is still a team that’s 3-8 in the Big Ten and may have to do well just to match its 5-13 league mark of last year. This is still a green club with deficiencies and voids. Rome isn’t being built in a day, or two years.
But when rolling over and playing dead might have been the easiest performance to give, at least these guys have chosen something far more dignified. Guard Jeff Peterson certainly has.
Peterson played 40 minutes. He lost the ball six times, but had four steals, five assists, and a team-high 16 points. He followed Bawinkel’s biggest 3-pointer of the year by stripping Northwestern’s Michael Thompson of the ball and sinking two free-throws after Thompson’s frustration foul.
Then, with 5.6 seconds remaining, Peterson secured the win with another pair of foul shots.
Peterson needed this win. Everyone in his locker room did, as well. There was a reason Lickliter was high-fiving fans on his way off the arena floor.
“Losing and learning is not as bad as losing and not learning,” said Lickliter, “but it sure isn’t much fun.”
A 4-game losing streak that began with a giveaway at Penn State and ended with something yucky at Indiana had ended.
It was a sunny Saturday here, outside and within the gymnasium. A lot of yucky stuff had melted away, if only for a day.
You’d think Northwestern people might hold a grudge against the Outback Bowl selecting Iowa over their alma mater.
OK, so the Wildcats are ranked and the Hawkeyes aren’t.
OK, so Northwestern beat Iowa in Iowa City.
OK, so the Cats are 9-3 and the Hawks are just 8-4.
But NU alums aren’t bitter. Nooooooo.
One of their graduates was kind enough to share his recent letter to Outback Bowl officials. He will remain anonymous. He is not from Iowa, as you may have guessed. He wrote:
OK, we get it. You’re never going to select Northwestern for your game. Whether it’s conference co-champion vs. 4th-place OSU team trying (successfully) to get its coach fired by sleepwalking through the end of its season (2000) or head-to-head victory on the road and better overall record (2008).
Clearly the vision of 30,000 combines rolling down I-75 was too much to resist this year and the proprietors of every Hooters Restaurant within a 25-mile radius of the stadium will be forever in your debt for that decision.
Welcome, Iowa fans
One request: the next time your contract with the Big 10 is up for renewal, please insist that it has a clause specifically excluding Northwestern from your game. We’d feel better having your policy in writing, and you’d be protected against a doomsday scenario of being stuck with us.
Finally, do yourselves a favor and remove the reference to “The No. 26 Hawkeyes” from your home page. Anyone with a passing knowledge of college football recognizes “No. 26” as a euphemism for “others receiving votes” or more specifically: unranked. You embarrass yourselves by trying to suggest otherwise. It’s just a shame there wasn’t a legitimately ranked Big 10 team available to you.
Old Mike has been pretty adamant this weekabout an Iowa-South Carolina Outback Bowl.
When will he learn?
You take nothing for granted with these crazy bowls. Here are scenarios that have fans, media, and perhaps even teams hopeful or nervous around the Big Ten and SEC:
1) The Capital One Bowl takes 8-4 Mississippi instead of 9-3 Georgia, dropping Georgia to the Outback Bowl. Ole Miss is a much-hotter team than Georgia right now and its fans would probably treat a trip to Orlando as the greatest thing to hit Ole Miss since Eli Manning signed on the dotted line to play there.
2) The Outback takes LSU instead of South Carolina. Why? Enthusiasm in South Carolina for the Gamecocks appears to be minimal given the woeful way Steve Spurrier’s team finished the season, with one-sided losses to Florida and state rival Clemson.
3) The Cap One takes 8-4 Iowa instead of 9-3 Michigan State. Why? Just because. Some MSU supporters are scared it could happen.
4) The Outback takes 9-3 Northwestern rather than Iowa. Why? Because it would be confident it could sell just as many tickets and fill just as many hotel rooms with the Wildcats as the Hawkeyes, given Northwestern’s track record as a team that brings lots of fans to its bowls.
All that said, the Hlog stands strong with Iowa-South Carolina in the Outback. And by “strong,” of course, that means like a tin shack in a hurricane.