From publicity machine to storytellers

SID Roundtable (2)

You may not recognize their names.

Tom Starr, Butch Henry, Kirk Hendrix, Dave Starr and Tom Kroeschell.

If you are a Cyclone athletics fan, however, you would recognize the individuals they worked behind the scenes for.

Earle Bruce, Jeff Hornacek, Johnny Orr, Dan McCarney, Jeff Grayer, Troy Davis, Dr. Harold Nichols, Dwayne Crutchfield, Danny Harris, Max Urick and many, many others.

Starr, Henry, Hendrix, Starr and Kroeschell were Directors of Sports Information at Iowa State in the last 30-plus years. That quintet – along with current director Mike Green – have filled the key department role since the retirement of the legendary Harry Burrell, the school’s SID for 41 years.

At ISU, these men’s duties centered on keeping stats, maintaining records, writing releases, staging news conferences and setting up interviews. They led the publicity arm for athletics.

In recent years – with the emergence of shows like ESPN’s 30:30 series – these SIDs are taking on a new role. Today, they are storytellers for documentary features like those on 30:30 or Cyclones.tv.

After all, who better knew the people like Barry Stevens, Dan Gable, Pete Taylor or George Amundson than their PR guys?

The Cyclones’ five SIDs were on campus last week to renew friendships, see the campus again, attend the Toledo game and tell stories.

Cyclones.tv had the cameras running for more than two hours as host John Walters threw out topic after topic to the group. The conversation was pure gold.

It was an honor to have these men back at ISU for a weekend.

The beneficiary of their visit will be you.

In the coming weeks, the stories they told will be coming your way, via Cyclones.tv. Stay tuned. It will be worth your time.

“Pollspeak”: coaches & media agree the Big 12 is strong

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It is a rare day when college football coaches and the news media covering them are in full agreement.

That was nearly the case this week when the Associated Press (media) and USA Today (coaches) released their college football polls.

The Top 15 schools in each poll mirror one another at every slot but two. The media says Auburn is No. 6 and Michigan State eighth. The coaches flip-flopped those schools. That is the only difference.

What that also means is that the news media and coaches agree that the Big 12 is very strong.

Half of the 10 schools in the Big 12 are included in the To 15 of both national polls. The Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC have a combined four schools in the Top 15. Like the Big 12, the SEC checks in with five (36% of its membership) schools in the Top 15 and each of them is in the Top 10.

“Every game in this league (the Big 12) is on a national stage and a great opportunity,” Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads said. “You’re talking about a league that has half of its football teams in the Top 15 in the country. That’s a pretty impressive number.”

The College Football Playoff committee, however, has repeatedly stated that it would rank teams according to performance against their own schedules.

Overall conference strength isn’t a major factor since every conference (except for the Big 12 and its round-robin schedule) has unbalanced scheduling. Some of the elite teams don’t face one another.

When everybody plays everybody (the Big 12’s tagline) and the quality of the conference is good (the Big 12’s reality this season), it’s very likely that whoever emerges from the league as its champion will have a strong case for playoff inclusion.

Who knows, a couple of Big 12 teams may get a serious look?

“Competitive” Cyclones just keep battling

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Coach Paul Rhoads said Monday that he continues to discover things about his 2014 team.

When asked to share the biggest things he has learned – without hesitation – Rhoads said “They’re competitive.”

They keep working at it. There is a “we-can-get-it-done” mentality.

Indicative of that attitude is that three of the Cyclones’ best offensive drives this fall came after significant adversity.

  • Against 20th-ranked Kansas State, the Cyclones fell behind 13-0 early. What followed was a nine-play, 85-yard scoring drive that got ISU back in the game. Sam Richardson hit 5-5 passes and the run game averaged nearly seven yards per attempt on the drive.
  • At 21st-ranked Oklahoma State, the Cowboys opened the second half with a kickoff return for a TD, widening their lead to 14 points. Iowa State responded with an 11-play, 71-yard scoring march to make it a seven-point game.
  • Against No. 7 Baylor, the Bears built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. ISU’s response was an 11-play, 92-yard scoring drive that cut the lead in half. It was the first time BU had allowed points in the opening quarter all season.

Rhoads also noted this team’s desire to be coached and the fact they’ve continued to improve each week. He said the credit goes to the players.

“I told them that ‘coaches yell and scream and do all that to motivate you, but it rarely works,’” Rhoads explained. “It has to come from the players.”

Saturday vs. Toledo, the Cyclones showed a resiliency in the second half and this time it was rewarded with a win.

“It was a lot of fun to watch them in the second half (vs. Toledo) as they drew a line in the sand,” Rhoads said.

Bouncing back has been a season-long storyline and it’s one worth savoring.

Tempo turns tables on Toledo

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Iowa State beat Toledo Saturday because of its speed.

Not physical speed, but rather quick execution of its offensive game play.

The Cyclones quickened the tempo in the second half and ISU took control of the game with that proactive approach.

“We were getting in places where we were waiting for them to set up on defense,” record-setting QB Sam Richardson said. “I told the coaches we needed to go and not let them set up. (I am) very proud that we put the game in our own hands.”

The Cyclones scored 28 points in the second half after tallying nine in the opening 30 minutes. Inside those numbers are more telling tid-bits.

In one fewer minute of offensive possession, the Cyclones…

  • Ran eight more plays (51-43) in the second half
  • Gained in excess of 100 extra yards (296-195) in the second half
  • Converted on 49% more of its third-down plays (89% to 50%) in the second half

“We were allowing them to control things with their defense,” Head Coach Paul Rhoads said.

Richardson, as everyone noted, broke a school record for completions (37).

His biggest contribution, however, was suggesting the offense use its speed (execution-wise).

Fifth? Ok, let’s get to work.

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Big 12 men’s basketball coaches Tubby Smith, Bruce Weber, Scott Drew, Bob Huggins, Trent Johnson, Bill Self, Travis Ford, Lon Kruger, Fred Hoiberg and Rick Barnes have combined to win 3,926 games as college coaches.

That’s a whole lot of hoops wisdom.

Those 10 men – through independent projections – picked Hoiberg’s 2014-15 Cyclones to finish fifth in the upcoming Big 12 standings.

The collective wisdom of those coaches and their assessment that ISU will barely make the first division of this winter’s league race underlines the challenge the challenge that Hoiberg faces in replacing Melvin Ejim (17.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and DeAndre Kane (17.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.9 apg).

For those choosing to question Hoiberg’s ability to rebuild on the fly, consider the senior departures he has dealt with in prior seasons:

  • 2011: Diante Garrett (17.3 ppg), Jake Anderson (12.8) and Jamie Vanderbeken (11.1)
  • 2012: Royce White (13.4 ppg), Scott Christopherson (12.6) and Chris Allen (12.2)
  • 2013: Will Clyburn (14.9), Tyrus McGee (13.1) and Korey Lucious (10.1)

Hoiberg rebuilt each time with returnees assuming bigger roles or transfer players getting their shots.

To some, the fifth-place guess seems to be cause for anger.

Rather than be upset, I’ll rely on the competitive nature and skill set of the players that ISU will have on its roster this season.

And, of course, the steady hand of Hoiberg directing the action.

Watch the play again and note #5

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Thousands of people have watched the replay of last Saturday’s goal line play at the end of the first half in Iowa State’s game at Oklahoma State.

What many folks seem to have missed was the sensational hit by Cyclone freshman safety Kamari Cotton-Moya. The 6-1, 194 pounder crashed from the outside to slow the Cowboys’ running back before Big 12 tackle leader Jevohn Miller finished the tackle.

“What a play by Jevohn Miller,” Joey Harrington, the TV analyst yelled in real time.

“As you watch here, Miller slides around (and) gets back in the play for a last-ditch effort to keep him out of the end zone,” Harrington said during replay. “Cotton-Moya with the initial stop.”

Miller has had a great season and leads the Big 12 in tackles. Cotton-Moya is only tied for 42nd in the league in stops. He is, however, No. 1 in league tackles among freshmen.

Cotton-Moya first burst on the scene a couple of weeks back. Kansas State had just scored a fourth-quarter TD and was lining up for a two-point conversion to tie the game.

The Wildcats’ Jake Waters kept the ball and tried to reach the goal line.

“He gets stuffed,” FOX play-by-play man Justin Kutcher hollered. “Kamari Cotton-Moya with a big play. Cotton-Moya meets him head on. How big was that play?”

It was big. And, those big plays are starting to add up for this emerging Cyclone rookie.

It’s time to start watching #5 when the chips are on the table. He has a knack for being around the ball in big situations.

Rhoads hoping tough slate toughened team

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Among the Power Five conferences, five football teams have faced opponents with cumulative winning percentages above 70%.

Two are from the ACC (Syracuse, .750 and Clemson, .703) and there is one each from the SEC (Tennessee, .708), the Pac-12 (Washington State, .710) and the Big 12 (Iowa State, .880). No school from the Big Ten has faced a schedule with a cumulative winning rate above 70%.

The Orange, Tigers, Volunteers, Cougars and Cyclones have combined to win 10 of 26 games against their formidable competition. That isn’t surprising.

For comparison, the teams in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 have a cumulative opponent winning percentage of 51%.

By season’s end, schedule strength will balance out for most schools. And, that just emphasizes you can’t make too many concrete judgments on teams at this juncture. There is too much football yet to be played.

Cyclone opponents have won 22 games this fall (tied with Washington State, whose foes have lost nine times), the most in the nation. The losses were to the top two rated teams – Florida State and Auburn– as well as Iowa State (which beat Iowa).

In Iowa State’s case, Coach Paul Rhoads believes the early season challenges have built resolve.

“We’re hoping that it’s toughened us up and thickened our skin,” Rhoads said. “I’m very hopeful that (for) the next seven games it is going to pay off.”

Rhoads believes his team has kept its focus so far.

“We have played good people and hung in there,” Rhoads said. “And, we have to continue that fight.”

After further reflection…

The indisputable statistical evidence suggests that Iowa State’s football team continues to takes positive strides even though it has not been rewarded on the won-loss ledger.

Three teams – Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State – currently sit atop the Big 12 standings with 2-0 records. The Cyclones have played all three to open their league season.

No excuses. You play who is on the schedule and do your best.

On a weekly basis, gains are being made. The indisputable statistical evidence …

  • is that Iowa State rushed for a season-best 137 yards Saturday. Not good enough, but an improvement. Three of Iowa State’s six longest runs of the season came vs. Okie State.
  • is that the Cyclones intercepted two passes in the opening half in Stillwater – and have picked off at least one throw in four straight games – and also recorded three sacks in the first half vs. the Cowboys, before the game’s tone shifted at halftime.
  • is that ISU won the turnover (for the second time in ’14) and time of possession (first time this fall) comparisons against Oklahoma State.

Granted, there is disappointment in the Cyclone football camp from both fans and the team. That is the hard reality.

But, after further review, progress is being made and there are good opportunities ahead as the mid-point of the season is Saturday.

Time to move forward.

In the market for “makers”

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Iowa State women’s basketball has made post-season play 17 times with Bill Fennelly as the coach. That remarkable run has been rooted in doing things the “Iowa State Way”.

On the court, the Iowa State Way includes shooting and making three pointers.

All but one (1997) of Fennelly’s tourney teams attempted at least 600 three-pointers for the season.

His five most accomplished teams (Elite Eights in 1999 and 2009 and Sweet 16s in 2000, 2001 and 2010) combined to make 38% from long range. His other 12 post-season squads connected on less than 35% from the three-point arc.

That’s the backdrop for what Fennelly shared at media day leading into his 20th season at ISU.

“We shoot a lot of 3’s,” Fennelly suggested. “We’ve got a lot of shooters on this this team. We need more makers. Our three-point percentage has got to go up. We made a lot of them (last year), but we shot a lot of them.”

The Cyclones have made 32.6% of their three-point shots in the last three years combined. That number has to climb according to the coach.

“We might have the least amount of experience and productivity in the post (than anyone),” Fennelly said. “(But), our guards should be pretty good.”

Fennelly welcomes back three guards with double figure scoring averages (Nikki Moody, Jadda Buckley and Seanna Johnson) from last year. He’s never had that luxury previously.

Good guard play for Fennelly normally translates to good distance shooting. His sparkling resume is built on that reputation.

Hoiberg looks to match remarkable team chemistry of a year ago

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Fred Hoiberg started his media day news conference talking about last year’s Cyclone team. His focus was on that club’s camaraderie.

The thing about that team … was how they came together,” Hoiberg said. “The chemistry that developed for that team was as good as any team I’ve played on and as good as all the teams I’ve coached.”

After those brief comments about last year, Hoiberg quickly shifted gears to the coming season.

He began by sharing early impressions of his new players:  Bryce Dejean-Jones, Jameel McKay, Abdel Nader, Georgios Tsalmpouris and Clayton Custer.

Like he has in his four prior years, Hoiberg is adding a lot of new faces to the roster. Developing roles and instilling a selfless mindset is at the top of his to-do list.

“That’s what I’m looking for with this group,” Hoiberg said in reference to how the ‘13-14 team quickly integrated the new players with the returnees.

This year’s returnees – Georges Niang, Dustin Hogue, Monte Morris, Naz Long, Matt Thomas, Sherron Dorsey-Walker and Daniel Edozie – are talented and seasoned.

The coach likes his roster pieces – both the new and the old – and he’s anxious to start fitting them together.

Based on his track record, Hoiberg does some of his best work this time of the year as he builds that team camaraderie.