What will it look like in another quarter century?

The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) claims to be the oldest collegiate athletics conference in the nation. It began play in 1888.

Today, the NCAA Division III league features nine schools today, including seven from Michigan. The non-Michigan schools are St. Mary’s and Trine, which joined the conference more than 100 years after its founding. It was definitely Michigan-centric at the start.

But, it’s a new day with conference affiliations as memberships cross state borders more than ever before. The days of seven schools in Michigan joining hands are long gone.

There are positives (“bigger geographical foot print” touted by some) and negatives (loss of “traditional” rivalries and/or forced creation of “new” rivalries) as conference borders expand.

The point of this blog isn’t to suggest that one model is better than the other, but rather it’s a refresher on what “was” and what “is” from a conference alignment standpoint.

Twenty-five years ago (1989), there were nine leagues playing big-school college football. Geography was a key factor in aligning the schools.

Most interestingly, 25 schools were football independents in ‘89. That list included Miami, Florida State, Penn State, Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Rutgers and Boston College among others. This fall, there will be six independents in Division 1A.

The number of states represented in each league has mushroomed in the last quarter century.


Atlantic Coast Conference: schools from 5 different states

Big 8 / Southwest Conferences: schools from 8 different states (6 in the Big 8 and 2 in the SWC)

Big Ten Conference: schools from 7 different states

Pac-10 Conference: schools from 4 different states

Southeastern Conference: schools from 7 different states

This fall

ACC: 9 states represented; Big 12: 5 states; Big Ten: 11 states; Pac-12: 6 states; and SEC: 11 states

The ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC have all added representation from new states in the last 25 years. The Big 12 today has fewer states in its membership than what the Big 8 / SWC had a quarter century ago.

Is bigger (as in “footprint”) better? It is a personal preference. The real question is, what will things look like 25 years from now?

Several linemen distinguishing themselves in the engineering lab


Iowa State boasts one of the nation’s best engineering colleges. It offers 12 different majors and five minors to more than 7,000 undergraduate engineering students at ISU.

The Cyclones’ undergraduate engineering program ranked 20th–best among public universities according to the 2013 U.S. News & World Report “America’s Best Colleges” rankings. The program’s job placement rate (six months after graduation) is a staggering 95%.

 A number of current and recent Cyclone football players decided to take advantage of that academic discipline’s significant reputation.

Three offensive linemen headline a pack of aspiring engineers, who double as Cyclone football players.

  • Daniel Burton (who started 8 games as a freshman) is majoring in mechanical engineering and earned Academic All-Big 12 distinction last fall;
  • Jake Campos (a highly touted freshman redshirt) is majoring in biological systems engineering; and
  • Kyle Lichtenberg (a 19-game starter as a Cyclone) is finishing up his degree in electrical engineering after earning Academic All-Big 12 honors three times.

Current Cyclones Ben Boesen (TE, construction), Robby Garcia (DL, civil), Ryan Glenn (OL, construction), Mitchell Harger (OL, aero), Brandon Harbach (RB, civil), Josh Jahlas (DB, civil) and Jared Weaver (LB, aero) are also engineering students.

There is a good partnership brewing between the football players and the engineers. In multiple cases, they are one in the same.

Cyclone programs surpassing old standards


Breaking norms is challenging. It’s easy to become complacent and accept your position.

A number of Iowa State coaches have not accepted the norm and are successfully writing new scripts for their programs.

Take a bow, Andrea Grove-McDonough, Andrew Tank, Christy Johnson-Lynch, Christie Martens, Fred Hoiberg, Tony Minatta, Martin Smith and Duane Sorenson.

Those Iowa State coaches helped their programs to finishes in the league standings this year that were at least two spots higher than what the school averaged in the prior 17 years as a Big 12 member.

Grove-McDonough’s women’s cross country team won the Big 12 championship last fall. That program has an average league finish of 6.7 during its tenure in the Big 12. So, the first-place finish in ‘13 was a 5.7-spot improvement over the program’s long-term norm.

  • Tank’s men’s golf team was fourth this spring (9.3 avg.); thus a 5.3-spot gain;
  • Johnson-Lynch’s volleyball team was third last fall (7.0 avg.); thus a 4.0-spot gain;
  • Marten’s women’s golf team was fourth this spring (7.9 avg.); thus a 3.9-spot gain;
  • Hoiberg’s men’s basketball team was third last winter (6.8 avg.); thus a 3.8-spot gain;
  • Minatta’s (assistant in ‘13) soccer team was fourth last fall (7.8 avg.); thus a 3.8-spot gain;
  • Smith’s men’s cross country team was second last fall (5.5 avg.); thus a 3.5-spot gain;
  • Smith’s women’s indoor track team was fourth last winter (7.4 avg.); thus a 3.4-spot gain;
  • Smith’s men’s indoor track team was sixth last winter (9.2 avg.); thus a 3.2-spot gain; and
  • Sorenson’s swimming & diving team was third last winter (5.3 avg.); thus a 2.3-spot gain.

 Several other Iowa State sports also surpassed their historic averages, but the group above improved at least two spots.

It is quite rewarding to see the steady improvements that are taking place in many programs at ISU.

Another benchmark barrier surpassed by Cyclones


Iowa State Athletics has broken through another barrier.

The Cyclones reached the first division of the Big 12 All-Sports rankings for the first time in program history.

ISU was fifth in the 2013-14 standings, trailing Texas, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma. The Cyclone women’s cross country team was league champion for the third season in a row.

The fifth-place overall finish marked the third year in a row that Iowa State jumped two spots in the cumulative all-sport standings. Thirteen of ISU’s 18 sports finished in the upper division of the team standings.

In the 18-year history of the Big 12, the Cyclones average finish in the conference all-sports ranking has been 10th. ISU finished last in the standings seven times in an eight-year period (2002-09) before registering marks of 8th, 9th, 9th, 7th and 5th the last five years.

It’s been a steady climb for Iowa State and the accolades should be given to the hundreds of student-athletes and staff, who have made it all happen.

“I’m travelling well, mate.” — Sam Daley, ISU golfer


Sights and sounds from a remarkable weekend of walking 54 holes with the Iowa State men’s golf team at the NCAA Regional Championship in Columbia, Mo.

The Cyclones entered the tournament seeded 9th (of 14 teams) in the region. Only 5 schools would advance to the NCAA Championship. Iowa State had not participated in the national meet since ’53.

Three days before departure, ISU learned that freshman Nick Voke (who led the team with 8 rounds in the 60s this year) had broken his collarbone. Coach Andrew Tank had to steady his team and reshuffle the line-up. At that point, the No. 9 seed seemed high.

STEPPING UP   That would be sophomore Collin Foster. The Waukee native – who played as the No. 5 man much of the season – was both steady (75-73 in the opening rounds) and spectacular (68, with a holed wedge for eagle, on Saturday). Foster’s tie for 26th was critical and impressive.

BEST ROOKIE   That would be true freshman Ruben Sondjaja. In his first season of college golf, Sondjaja fired rounds of 72-70-70 in the NCAA Regional Championship and his three-round total of 4-under par was good for a tie for 17th. His finish was the best of any true freshman in the field.

CONTRIBUTING IN MULTIPLE WAYS   When Voke was injured, Tank called freshman Jack Carter to take his place. Carter had already gone home for the summer. Knowing his score in the final round could be a tie-breaker, Carter shot a season-low 73. Additionally, Carter’s uncle (a Columbia resident) hosted a team dinner Friday night and that rib-fest hit the spot for all.

QUOTE OF THE TOURNAMENT   When I asked junior Sam Daley how his round was going one day, the sweet-swinging Aussie said, “I’m traveling well, mate.” After laughing at the description of his play, I agreed that he was definitely traveling well. His rounds of 74-72-66 showed a steady progression and the 66 included 4 birdies in the last 7 holes. That was, indeed, traveling well!

QUOTE II Coach Andrew Tank: “I have been hoping for a round like this all year where it really clicks. For it to actually happen on the most important day of the season is so rewarding.” To put it into perspective, Iowa State’s 18-under par score in the final round was a school record and came in arguably the most-important day (with an NCAA Championship berth on the line) in program history.

EAGLE HUNTER   You might have needed to see it to believe it. In the final round, Scott Fernandez blistered a 6-hole stretch in 5-under par. Remarkably, he putted for eagle on three straight holes. Fernandez drove the green (with a 3-wood) on the 334-yard (card yardage) 8th hole and then reached both the 575-yard 9th and 530-yard 10th holes in 2 shots.


All in all, it was 54 holes of drama and excitement for ISU golf. The NCAA Championship starts Friday in Hutchinson, KS. For the first time in 61 years Iowa State is in the field.

Time for some interior decorating at the Golf Performance Center


The Iowa State men’s and women’s golf teams moved into a fabulous state-of-the-art practice facility last spring.

 It is an incredible complex for golfers. For prospective recruits, it’s impressive eye candy. For current Cyclones, it’s a combination training facility, study hall and team hang out.

During the interior decorating phase for the facility, Iowa State coaches Christie Martens and Andrew Tank considered lots of options and brought many ideas to the table.

There was one conversation with Tank in which he talked about having a wall to showcase team accomplishments. It sounded like a good idea.

And, in the last 2 weeks that “wall” is primed to come to life with a couple of very significant additions.

You see, Martens’ team tied for 6th at the 2014 NCAA West Regional to advance to the NCAA Championship for the first time in program history. They start play in the national championship event Tuesday in Tulsa.

Tank’s squad tied for 4th at the NCAA Columbia Regional Saturday to make the NCAA Championship field for the first time since 1953. The Iowa State men begin competition Friday in Hutchinson, Kan.

The Cyclones are one of 11 schools nationally (Alabama, Cal, USC, UCLA, Oklahoma, Stanford, Washington, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt are the others) to advance both of their golf teams to the pinnacle event of the year.

Both teams earned a souvenir flag after advancing through their respective regionals.

When they get home in a couple of weeks, I suspect those framed flags will be prominently displayed on the “wall”.

“What was” versus “What is.” Both leave you smiling.


After a spectacular March run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, I find myself contemplating “what was” and “what is.”

The wonderful part is that both bring a huge smile to my face.

The “was” includes observing a team gel, win big (to the tune of 28 games), show a resiliency that bordered on the unbelievable, bring home a championship trophy and play the most exciting brand of basketball in the college game today.

The season was a showcase for Hilton Magic complete with a celebration of the Johnny Orr era. Fred Hoiberg made sure of that. It also included a school-record 14-game win streak to open the season and 9 wins vs. ranked schools.

Melvin Ejim amazed all season. He leaves ISU as one of the best student-athletes in program history. Ejim brought special significance to the number 48, as in a Big 12 record for points in a game.

DeAndre Kane made a “16-7-8″ line seem routine and blasé. That doesn’t seem possible. The 1-year Cyclone was that good.

The “was” was great. The “is” is an indicator of what’s ahead and it may be better.

Georges Niang made it cool to wear a band-aid and a foot boot, too. But, it will be awesome when he tosses both to the sidelines and returns to shooting, passing, spinning to the bucket, converting and celebrating.

Dustin Hogue had a showcase performance in his home state (34 points in the Garden) after contributing a season’s worth of grit, toughness and all of the things that lead to winning.

Monte Morris set an NCAA record as a freshman, but I can’t get his sticky defense against UConn’s All-American out of my mind. He was terrific Friday night.

Naz Long etched himself into the personal memory banks for ISU fans on multiple occasions this winter. And, there are others.

“What was” or “what is”?

It doesn’t matter. The past was great and the future may be better.

It was that kind of year for Cyclone men’s basketball.

Sifting through the class of ’11 and Hoiberg is at the top


Forty-six schools in Division 1A hired men’s basketball coaches prior to the 2011 season.

Here are their backgrounds.

Twelve of those men had never served as a head coach previously. Fred Hoiberg was among them.

Two of the coaches took the reins at their alma maters: Hoiberg and Penn’s Jerome Allen.

Four of the coaches hired that season had NBA playing experience. Hoiberg, as well as, Allen (Penn), Jeff Lebo (East Carolina), Jason Capel (Appalachian State) and Corliss Williamson (Central Arkansas).

Here are their successes.

Eleven coaches in the hiring class of ‘11 have taken programs to the NCAA Tournament. Hoiberg is one.

Five of them have won at least one NCAA Tournament game. Hoiberg is on that list. So, too, are Dana Altman (Oregon), Greg McDermott (Creighton), Brad Brownell (Clemson) and Tad Boyle (Colorado).

Three coaches have won multiple NCAA Tournament games. Hoiberg has. So, too, have Altman and McDermott have as well.

Only 1 coach has four victories in the NCAA Tournament since his hiring. You guessed it… Hoiberg.

As the 2014 NCAA Tournament moves into its second weekend, Hoiberg is the only coach among the 46 hired 4 years ago who has the chance to add to his NCAA Tournament win total in the coming weeks.

Here is the complete list of coaches hired in 2011 and their NCAA Tournament record at the school:
Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State: 4-2
Dana Altman, Oregon: 3-2
Greg McDermott, Creighton: 3-3
Brad Brownell, Clemson: 1-1
Tad Boyle, Colorado: 1-3
B.J. Hill, Northern Colorado: 0-1
Steve Lavin, St. John’s: 0-1
Fran McCaffery, Iowa: 0-1
Bob Marlin, La.-Lafayette: 0-1
Leon Rice, Boise State: 0-1
Tim Cluess, Iona: 0-2
Jerome Allen, Penn: 0-0
Gib Arnold, Hawaii: 0-0
*Tony Barbee, Auburn: 0-0
Glenn Braico, St. Francis: 0-0
Milan Brown, Holy Cross: 0-0
*Mitch Buonaguro, Siena: 0-0
*Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest: 0-0
*Jason Capel, Appalachian State: 0-0
Ed Conroy, Tulane: 0-0
Paul Cormier, Dartmouth: 0-0
Bill Courtney, Cornell: 0-0
*James Dickey, Houston: 0-0
*Steve Donahue, Boston College: 0-0
Billy Donlon, Wright State: 0-0
Chuck Driesell, Citadel: 0-0
Tim Floyd, UTEP: 0-0
John Gallagher, Hartford: 0-0
*Tom Herrion, Marshall: 0-0
*Chris Holtmann, Gardner Webb: 0-0
Jason Hooten, Sam Houston: 0-0
*Dan Hurley, Wagner: 0-0
Donnie Jones, UCF: 0-0
Tod Kowalczk, Toledo: 0-0
Jeff Lebo, East Carolina: 0-0
Alan Major, Charlotte: 0-0
Kevin Nickelberry, Howard: 0-0
Tom Pecora, Fordham: 0-0
*Buzz Peterson, UNC-Wilmington: 0-0
Oliver Purnell, DePaul: 0-0
Keith Richard, La.-Monroe: 0-0
Russell Turner, UC-Irvine: 0-0
Brian Wardle, Green Bay: 0-0
*Tim Welsh, Hofstra: 0-0
Kevin Willard, Seton Hall: 0-0
*Corliss Williamson, Central Arkansas: 0-0

*No longer at the school


Any idea why Nov. 9, 1995, was a big day for Hoiberg?


When Fred Hoiberg walks onto the floor at Madison Square Garden Friday night, it will be his 10th appearance on the sidelines of the world’s most famous basketball arena.

Hoiberg played 9 professional games against the Knicks in MSG and logged 155 minutes. His best performance in the facility was a 13-point outing in 1997.

But, his real personal history was made on Nov. 9, 1995.

The Pacers were visiting Madison Square Garden to play the Knicks. According to NBA.com, It was Hoiberg’s second game as a 23-year-old NBA professional and his first outing on the road.

He played 6 minutes in front of 19,763 fans.

Most memorable is that the 6-4 guard made his first-ever professional basket. Hoiberg added 3 free throws in a 103-95 loss to a Knicks’ team that included Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley.

Hopefully, Hoiberg can add some new MSG memories this week in the NCAA Tournament’s East Regional. And, if he does, I suspect they will be even more precious than his first NBA bucket.

Hoiberg re-works his play card and the results earn a trip to NYC


It’s not like Iowa State hadn’t faced 1-day preparations previously.

The Cyclones, in fact, were 7-2 this year in games with only 1 day (or less) of practice.

“We played three Big Monday games after Saturdays,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said.

Additionally, two contests in the Diamond Head Classic and a couple outings in the Big 12 Tournament came with short prep time.

But, Sunday’s match-up with North Carolina was different, much different. There was a lot more at stake – advancement in the NCAA Tournament – and Hoiberg was dealing with the loss of Georges Niang to an injury.

It was especially challenging because of the role Niang has as one of the team’s primary facilitators. He frequently runs the offense and accounts for more than 25 points per game as a scorer and passer.

“I’ve got a card with the actions I pull from our pool (of plays) that I think will be successful in each game,” Hoiberg said. “Usually, I’ve got 1 side of my card with plays for DeAndre (Kane) and the other side of the card with plays for Georges. That whole back side of my play sheet, obviously, was thrown out the window.”

Hoiberg reshuffled his deck, re-worked his card and re-focused his game plan.

“Our guys really pick up new actions pretty quickly,” Hoiberg said.

The UNC game certainly wasn’t the typical 1-day prep. Then again, Hoiberg isn’t the typical college head coach.

His adaptability and creativeness was on full display in San Antonio. Now, he’ll have a few extra days to get set for an appearance in Madison Square Garden against UConn.

It will be fun to see what he comes up with next.