Author suggests athletics must be part of core mission

Many people refer to intercollegiate athletics as the “front porch” of an institution. Others call it a “window” through which people observe the school.

It seems that school pride is measured each Monday at office water coolers across the nation. That is when alums from different schools congregate to brag about their alma mater’s weekend performances on the field.

Recently, Charles T. Clotfelter – a professor of public policy, economics and law at Duke University – authored an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education called “Is Sports in Your Mission Statement?”

In the piece, he suggests that schools should consider intercollegiate athletics competition as a “core function” of the institution.

Iowa State University’s support of the academic and athletics pursuits of its student-athletes is an important priority. Led by President Gregory Geoffroy, the Cyclones receive tremendous positive leadership from the institution. It is an important goal on this campus to provide the support for athletes to succeed academically, athletically and as people.

Clotfelter’s opinions will be applauded by some and criticized by others. But, it’s an interesting read nonetheless. Click here for the article.

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Rhoads believes there is a trust factor in play

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In 21 games as Iowa State’s coach, Paul Rhoads has already led the Cyclones to road wins against two of college football’s historic programs.

Last week, the Cyclones won at Texas and last year Iowa State defeated Nebraska. The Longhorns and Cornhuskers rank second and third in all-time college football wins.

At Monday’s news conference, Rhoads was asked why his team was confident enough to win in Austin after two lopsided losses. In one word, Rhoads explained that trust is the key factor.

“There is a huge trust factor in our locker room,” Rhoads said. “When you have that trust, you work together arm-in-arm and you’ll eventually become accountable to each other.”

He went on to explain that his club believes in what the coaches are teaching. There is a sense of confidence in the schemes, training program and all facets of the program.

“There is a trust factor that exists between our players and coaches and the coaches and players,” Rhoads said.

Another school that has exceeded expectations this season and climbed to fifth in the national polls is Michigan State. Here’s how Spartan coach Mark Dantonio explains his team’s success thus far.

“You go 8-0 with players that believe,” Dantonio said. “There is a ripple effect top down throughout our whole program that people believe in what’s going in.”

The trust factor that Rhoads referred to can quickly turn into the belief that Dantonio knows has been a catalyst for MSU. The X’s and O’s and the quality of personnel are certainly important, but the intangible of trust is a factor that can’t be overlooked.

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Forty years ago, the Cyclones played in the CWS

On a day when Major League Baseball’s biggest showcase – the World Series – starts, it is appropriate that Iowa State Athletics is finalizing preparations to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its last College World Series team.

The 1970 Cyclones, coached by L.C. “Cap” Timm, will have a team reunion this weekend and 13 players, one coach and four support staff will be recognized at halftime of Saturday’s homecoming football game.

Iowa State registered a 19-11 record (13-5 in the Big 8) that season and defeated Tulsa All-America pitcher Steve Rogers (later an All-Star with the Expos) to advance to the CWS. The Cyclones lost to Dartmouth (6-7), beat Arizona (7-1) and lost to Ohio (6-9) in the World Series.

Pitcher Larry Corrigan posted an 8-1 record and Don Powers registered a school-record 0.76 ERA. Corrigan, Bob Case and Ed Tadelman were named to the All-District team.

The team members who will be in Ames for the reunion include: Clair Rierson (assistant coach), Al Bolty (OF), Corrigan (P/C), Steve Crandell (INF), Larry Dietrich (OF), Dave Erusha (P), Mike Gillespie (P), Jerry Lundin (INF), Steve Mohr (INF), Don Powers (P), Glenn Reynolds (P), Tadelman (OF/INF), Ray Wood (OF), Mike Zuk (OF), Curt Anderson (MGR), Jan Westerman-Beatty (Diamond Darling), Ann McCarthy (Diamond Darling) and Marsha Grandick (Diamond Darling).

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Honors roll in for past and present Cyclones

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Several Cyclones from the past and present received various awards recently.

The Iowa State University Alumni Association is having its annual awards banquet Friday and several names familiar to fans will be honored.

* Volleyball coach Christy Johnson-Lynch, who has led one of her sport’s most amazing rebuilding jobs, will receive an Impact Award. The honor recognizes individuals, whose accomplishments brought broad recognition to the university.

* Former men’s basketball player Marc Urquhart is the recipient of an Alumni Merit Award for outstanding contributions to human welfare. A starter on ISU’s 1989 NCAA Tournament team, Urquhart is an orthopedic surgeon in New Jersey.

* Four-year football letterman and 30-game starter Ben Bruns is receiving an Outstanding Young Alumni Award. It is presented to an alum under the age of 40 who has excelled in their chosen field. Bruns is a project manager for The Weitz Company, and he has overseen numerous projects on campus, including the renovations to Jack Trice Stadium.

The Big 12 also recognized two current Cyclone student-athletes this week.

Defensive end Jacob Lattimer was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week in football for his two-sack performance at Texas. The former linebacker-turned-end started his first college game against the 22nd-ranked Longhorns. Volleyball libero Ashley Mass earned her second Big 12 Defensive POW honor for her play in two wins last week. Earlier this season, she became the conference career leader in digs.

Congratulations go out to these past and present Cyclones.

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These seniors have bounced back before

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In the football team’s win at Texas Saturday, there were a lot of “first time since … “ accomplishments. Those have been well documented.

The win was important in countless ways. What might be as inspiring, however, to fans and the coaching staff is the resiliency demonstrated by the players in the locker room. History would show that this resiliency has been a common theme for these seniors.

In each of the last four years, Iowa State has dropped consecutive games by at least 21 points. Each time, the Cyclones came out the third week more determined than ever and gave a strong account of themselves.

Gene Chizik’s first team dropped decisions to Texas Tech (17-42) and Texas (3-56) before putting a scare into fourth-ranked Oklahoma (falling 7-17).

The 2008 club lost to Baylor (10-38) and Nebraska (7-35) prior to losing to Texas A&M 35-49 in a game the Cyclones outgained their opponent 574-509.

Paul Rhoads’ eventual Insight Bowl club was beaten by Texas A&M (10-35) and Oklahoma State (8-34) but then bounced back to beat Colorado, 17-10.

This year’s team had humbling losses to Utah (27-68) and Oklahoma (0-52) prior to Saturday’s historic triumph in Austin, TX.

Cyclones should be, and are, enjoying the school’s first-ever win over the Longhorns. But, in the long run, the legacy of perseverance demonstrated by the senior leadership of this squad might be as important.

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Unsettled rosters a challenge for hoops coaches

The waiting game continues in a number of college basketball gyms across the nation.

Full-team practices started last week and the real games begin soon.

Yet, several schools are waiting to get eligibility issues resolved for key players. The NCAA has an extremely challenging job in evaluating eligibility in some cases and they work tirelessly to make decisions fairly and timely.

The status of three players listed among Rivals Top 12 recruits from last year – Kansas guard Josh Selby (#1 player), Kentucky center Enes Kanter (#3) and Missouri forward Tony Mitchell (#12) – are all waiting to learn of their status. Interestingly, Selby was selected Thursday as the Big 12 Pre-season Freshman of the Year.

Iowa State is in a similar circumstance with Royce White, a transfer from Minnesota. His eligibility status is under review and a decision is likely coming soon. But, there are certainly challenges for coaches whose final rosters are unsettled as practice begins.

“A lot of what we do offensively (will be dependent upon) if he is eligible or not,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said.

The NCAA has a hard job to do. The coaches do, too, in trying to build their teams with unsettled rosters. The most important thing is for the correct decisions to be made in the timeliest manner possible. Fair decisions, however, outweigh fast decisions.

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Cyclones on target to open Hilton in November

The Iowa State Athletics Department is hopeful that its sports teams – most immediately women’s and men’s basketball, volleyball (what will remain of its schedule) and wrestling – will return to Hilton Coliseum in November.

Some restoration work needs to be completed, but it is our hope and expectation that most of amenities fans have come to expect will be available when the doors open.

There are inspections, tests and reviews scheduled for nearly every day from now until the women’s basketball team takes the court – a new one at that – on Nov. 4 against Minnesota State-Mankato. The department expects all of those test runs and evaluations to render good results, but these are mileposts that have to be passed.

When fans and the teams do return to Hilton, they will notice the game-day ticket office has moved to the southwest corner of the building (it will stay there permanently), the lower rows of the facility will have temporary folding chairs (permanent replacement seats won’t be installed until January) and some scoreboard and videoboard functions may be limited.

The basement level of the building, which includes locker rooms, training rooms etc., will remain under construction throughout the academic year. Pending any setbacks, we will be excited to welcome you back to Hilton early next month.

As you look around, please understand that countless staff and construction workers have spent considerable time and effort to get the building ready for game day. We look forward to seeing you at Hilton in the near future.

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Wishing more voters used their expertise for polls

The weekly complaints about the college football polls – chosen by computers, coaches or the media – tire me out. Instead of debating the order of the teams, I’d like to inspect how the polls are formulated.

The computers look only at hard data, already completed game results. There are factors weighed more heavily in the different algorithms, but the computers are basically a real-time assessment of what has happened to date.

The human polls, sadly, seem to be largely a listing of teams in descending order of fewest losses. There’s not much thought in that. Watch what happens this week to the loser of the Auburn-LSU game, the loser of the Oklahoma-Missouri game or the loser of the Wisconsin-Iowa game. They’ll likely fall 5-10 spots after one loss against a currently ranked foe.

Surely, there are one-loss teams better than undefeated teams. Certainly, there are two-loss teams better than one-loss teams. In the current AP Top 15, the schools are ranked in order of fewest losses except for Alabama. That’s one exception It must be easier to keep the undefeated teams ahead until they lose. Poor excuse.

How many of you believe Alabama (with one loss and three wins against Top 20 teams by a combined 50 points) is worse than LSU (undefeated with three wins against Top 20 teams by a combined 16 points)? The common foe is Florida. The Tide beat them by 25 and LSU won by four. So, why again (based upon what has happened to date), is LSU ahead in the polls? It all could change when the schools meet in several weeks, but for the time being, I’ve got questions.

On Sunday night’s BCS breakdown show, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit listed Iowa sixth on his Top Ten list because he simply feels they are of that quality. He knows UI has already lost a game, but he is making a personal judgment. Kirk may be wrong, but I salute him for trying to use his expertise to determine his ranking and not simply ordering schools by W-L record.

In a previous job, I was football SID for Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez. He always asked, “who’s the best team?” as he completed his ballot. Barry didn’t cave in solely to the team’s record, but instead tried to objectively use his expertise in assessing who was better. What a novel concept.

Certainly, opinions from experts can and will be wrong. However, at least the experts who combine their knowledge and the available data are doing more than looking only at past data (like the computers) or simply keeping the undefeated teams at the top because they’re undefeated (like many voters do).

The debate keeps raging and I guess that is publicity for the sport we all enjoy.

 

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Going “home” will be pitched to future recruits

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There are 21 natives of Texas on the 2010 Iowa State football roster and there could be more in the future.

“It (playing in the state of Texas) is a key role in recruiting those kids and it will be even stronger in the future,” Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads said Monday. Future Big 12 football schedules guarantee the Cyclones will visit the Lone Star state at least twice annually. On alternating years, Iowa State will travel to either Texas Tech and Baylor or Texas and Texas A&M.

Rhoads said trips back home make recruiting players from this talent-rich region much easier as student-athletes enjoy playing in from of friends and families. The guarantee of two Texas trips annually in future years will be part of the Cyclones’ recruiting pitch.

Among the Cyclones likely to return to Texas this weekend for the game against the Longhorns are: Alex Alvarez (League City), Ter’Ran Benton (Arlington), Jerrod Black (Houston), Keith Blanton (Garland), Darius Darks (Austin), Sedrick Johnson (Troup), Aaron Moore (Frisco), Matt Morton (Henderson), Kelechi Osemele (Houston), Jeremy Reeves (Allen), Jerome Tiller (San Antonio) and James White (Dallas). A couple of redshirted players may be added to the travel roster.

Darks, especially, is excited to be returning to his hometown this week.

 

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They are who we thought they were

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Five years ago, the Arizona Cardinals lost to the undefeated Chicago Bears. Coach Dennis Green yelled “they are who we thought they were” into the microphones during his post-game news conference.

Many people poked fun at the passion and emotion of Green, but his message was spot on. Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads might agree with Green’s assessment as it relates to his current Cyclones.

Rhoads’ club has lost four games this season, but three of them were to teams ranked in the Associated Press Top Ten at the time of the encounter. That trio of opponents has combined for a 17-1 record.

Three others schools nationally – Wyoming (who has played Texas, Boise State and TCU), Oregon State (TCU, Boise State and Arizona) and Kentucky (Florida, Auburn and South Carolina) – have played three Top Ten schools to this point.

Each week, Rhoads has shared with the news media his respect and admiration for those opponents.

In advance of the Iowa game, he stated that he saw no weaknesses in its club.

The week of the Utah game, Rhoads said the Utes “understand everything they’re supposed to do in all three phases and play lights out.”

Last week after the Oklahoma contest, the second-year coach said “they are great players and play extremely fast with a lot of confidence.”

The road doesn’t get any easier as Texas, a club ranked fifth in the pre-season poll, hosts the Cyclones.

“We’ve got to go back to work and prepare,” Rhoads said. “Just keep working is the only way I know.”


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