Seven ISU sports have grad rates in top two of Big 12

First-semester final exams were held at Iowa State last week. Hopefully, it was a productive week for all students.

Last month, the NCAA released federal government graduation rate figures for student-athletes and overall student bodies.

Once again, ISU posted solid numbers in comparison to its Big 12 peers.

The Cyclones tied (with Kansas) for the fourth-best graduation rate for all student-athletes (64%) . Undergraduates at Iowa State graduated at a 69% rate, third-best in the league.

Data for specific teams showed that Iowa State placed in the top half of the conference in 10 of 14 sports. The Cyclones led or were tied for the conference best grad rate mark in men’s golf, wrestling, women’s golf, gymnastics and swimming, while men’s track and volleyball were second.

Iowa State football tied for fourth, women’s basketball tied for sixth and men’s basketball was eighth.

This data was based upon the academic performance for 2009-10 (also known as the 2003 Freshman Cohort rate in NCAA jargon).

Congratulations to the Cyclones for another good year in the classroom.

P.S. We’ll take a break from this blog for a short time and wish everyone a Happy Holidays!

Reader feedback is welcome at You can also follow me on Twitter at:


Rhoads and staff have a keen eye for talent


Two years ago today, Paul Rhoads was introduced as Iowa State’s football coach. There was a great deal of excitement because most folks felt Rhoads knew the formula for success at ISU.

Like all programs, the key is recruiting. At Iowa State, part of the plan is finding some overlooked prospects and developing them.

The Associated Press recently announced its All-Big 12 team and three Cyclones – TE Collin Franklin, LB Jake Knott and P Kirby VanDerKamp – were named to the second team.

Two of the honorees (Knott and VanDerKamp) were recruited by Rhoads and his staff.

Rhoads is on record as wondering how Knott hadn’t been snatched up by another school once he hit the road recruiting after his hire.

"I kept watching the film and wondering what I was missing," Rhoads said.

VanDerKamp was offered a scholarship before his senior year at Valley High School in West Des Moines. He hadn’t even been his school’s starter at that point.

Skeptics, I suppose, wondered if Rhoads was taking some risks in offering these "overlooked" state prospects.

As a sophomore, Knott led the Big 12 and finished 11th nationally in tackles, while intercepting four passes and forcing four fumbles.

VanDerKamp averaged 45.7 yards per punt (best nationally among freshmen) and 19 of his kicks went 50 yards or more. He made three frosh All-America teams.

Early returns would suggest that Rhoads and his staff have a keen eye for evaluating talent. Knott and VanDerKamp are two players, who have quickly made an impact with the Cyclones.

Reader feedback is welcome at You can also follow me on Twitter at:


Eight foes in bowl action; here are some ISU angles


Bowl season starts this weekend and eight of Iowa State’s 2010 football opponents will participate. Here is a look at each of the bowl games that a Cyclone foe is playing in (with an ISU angle to consider):


Kansas State vs. Syracuse (Pinstripe): Iowa State and Kansas State opened the Big 12 season in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium. The inaugural Pinstripe Bowl will be the Wildcats’ second game in a professional team stadium this season. The bowl game, however, will be in a pro baseball (Yankee) stadium.


Missouri vs. Iowa (Insight): The Cyclones held Mizzou to season lows of 14 points and 306 total yards in the regular-season finale. Will Iowa’s highly talked about defense (seventh nationally in scoring) limit the Tigers as well as ISU did?


Nebraska vs. Washington (Holiday): Will it come down to a two-point PAT? Washington beat Oregon State this year 35-34 when the Beavers’ two-point PAT in the second OT failed. Iowa State nearly pulled off an upset of the Huskers in Jack Trice Stadium when its two-point PAT try in overtime just missed.


Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State (Humanitarian): The Huskies are hard to gauge since both their coach and QB are different from the meeting with Iowa State. If NIU wins, they will become only the second-ever 11-win team that Iowa State has defeated.


Oklahoma vs. Connecticut (Fiesta): The Sooners will represent the Big 12 in the Fiesta Bowl in what experts feel is the most one-sided BCS game. Both the Sooners and Huskies are on next season’s Iowa State schedule. UConn will become the first non-Big 12 school (other than Iowa) to face ISU after a BCS bowl season.


Texas Tech vs. Northwestern (TicketCity): Three opponents scored more than 45 points against Texas Tech this fall (Oklahoma & Texas A&M each tallied 45). The only team to score more than 45 against Tech was Iowa State (52). It’s doubtful that NU will match that prowess without QB Dan Persa, who is injured.


Utah vs. Boise State (MAACO): Boise State’s worst team stat is punt return defense (91st nationally). Utah will counter with national punt return leader Shaky Smithson (19.7 per return). The Cyclones watched Smithson return five punts for 145 yards, including a 78 yarder.

Let the bowl parade begin!


Reader feedback is welcome at You can also follow me on Twitter at:

Update on some former ISU hoops players

Here is a short update (as of Tuesday) on several former Cyclone men’s basketball players now on rosters of other colleges:

Marcus Brister, SE Missouri (1-10 record) – averaging 6.0 ppg in eight starts. SEMO played at Iowa State on Dec. 6 and Brister scored 11.
Chris Colvin, Palm Beach CC (10-1) – 20 points in loss to fifth-ranked NW Florida State, his team’s only defeat of the season.
Alex Dorr, University of Mary (5-3) – 3.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Dodie Dunson, Bradley (4-5) – second-leading scorer (11.0 ppg).
Wes Eikmeier, Colorado State (4-3) – scoring 7.7 ppg and shooting 81.3% from the line.
Cory Johnson, Valparaiso (5-4) – leading scorer (15.0 ppg).
Cameron Lee, University of Mary (5-3) – scoring 7.3 ppg and shooting 52.3% from field.
Clint Mann, Davidson (5-4) – 7.1 ppg and 5.4 rpg.
Clayton Vette, Winona State (6-1) – scoring 15.1 points (second on team) on 59.7% FG.

Additionally, Dominique Buckley (Toledo), LaRon Dendy (Middle Tennessee State) and Justin Hamilton (LSU) are redshirting.

Iowa State’s current team (9-2) will try to equal its best start since 2003-04 when its hosts Dartmouth Sunday at 1 p.m.

Reader feedback is welcome at You can also follow me on Twitter at:

A 10-team league has inherent strengths

There have been some recent ripples in the conference re-alignment waters. TCU’s announcement earlier this month that it was moving to the Big East Conference created more gossip.


Thankfully, the Big Ten followed shortly with a public announcement that its expansion study was finished and Nebraska would be its lone addition.


As Mike DeCourcy wrote on, "there is a certain point beyond which a conference ceases to operate as a group of institutions with similar goals and potential in which the competition is both familiar and fierce. That boundary already is being pushed by conferences with 12 members."


Bigger is not always better. The folks, who feel that four 16-team mega-conferences is inevitable, never seem to explain why it’s preferred (other than a college football playoff would mean huge payoff for participants).


The other side of the argument is that mega-conferences would also create … higher travel costs, non-sensical, non-regional rivalries or a championship football game that actually could eliminate a school from BCS Championship Game consideration.

Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe said recently: "A (league) championship game in our conference has been controversial and really been an impediment in (several) years."


I wonder about the benefits of expansion. Beebe admits that someday there will likely be debate about the Big 12’s decision to stand pat after departures of Nebraska and Colorado.


But, he added, "right now, 10 is a great number for us." I couldn’t agree more.

The Big 12 going forward can tout regional rivalries that make sense, round-robin scheduling, like institutions partnering their resources and shared agendas. Those are elements which truly make for a strong league.


Reader feedback is welcome at You can also follow me on Twitter at:

Christopherson’s confidence soaring


Sometimes, it’s merely confidence. Fred Hoiberg, the 2005 NBA three-point shooting leader, has personal experience with shot making success.

And, Hoiberg, feels that Scott Christopherson "is playing with so much confidence that he thinks every shot he takes is going in. And, I feel the same (way)."

Christopherson is playing with decent health and a heavy dose of freedom in Hoiberg’s open-court offense. The result is that he’s making 54.9% from three-point range.

A year ago, Christopherson made 42.9% on three pointers while battling mono for much of the conference season. In his freshman year at Marquette, he played in only 18 games (40% on 3’s) after early season knee woes.

This season, he was slowed briefly by a bum ankle but his success along with Hoiberg’s encouragement to shoot often has sparked his game and taken the attention away from his sore ankle.

He has already posted huge scoring games against Iowa (30 points, 7-12 three pointers), Cal (25, 7-13) and Drake (29, 5-5).

His confidence is high because he puts in the work (hoisting about 300 shots a day) and has a coach pushing him to keep shooting because "he is taking real good shots."

It’s a good bet that more explosive shooting days are ahead.


Reader feedback is welcome at You can also follow me on Twitter at:


Chizik has company among ex-ISU coaches


During the college football awards show last week, it was a parade of outstanding achievers.

Among the Big 12 honorees were Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State (Biletnikoff Award), Von Miller of Texas A&M (Butkus Award) and Dan Bailey of Oklahoma State (Groza Award).

The 2010 Home Depot College Football Coach of the Year was a familiar name, too. Auburn’s Gene Chizik.

In two years, Chizik has brought national relevance back to Auburn football largely on the back of do-everything quarterback Cam Newton.

Although Iowa State may be in Chizik’s rearview mirror as he prepares for the BCS National Championship Game, his term in Ames will always be a part of his resume. He’s not, however, the first coach with ISU connections to go on and earn national COY honors.

Here’s a list of six former ISU head or assistant coaches (in addition to Chizik), who went on to earn seven national coach of the year honors:

Johnny Majors (Pitt) – 1973 FWAA and Walter Camp Coach-of-the-Year
Majors (Pitt) – again in 1976 – FWAA, AFCA and The Sporting News Coach-of-the-Year
Earle Bruce (Ohio State) – 1979 FWAA and AFCA Coach-of-the-Year
Jackie Sherrill (Pitt) – 1981 Walter Camp Coach-of-the-Year
Jimmy Johnson (Miami) – 1986 Walter Camp Coach-of-the-Year
Pete Carroll (USC) – 2003 Home Depot and AFCA Coach-of-the-Year
Mack Brown (Texas) – 2008 Bobby Dodd Coach-of-the-Year

There probably aren’t a lot of schools nationally that can brag of such a coaching history.

And, don’t forget that Pop Warner (who introduced the screen pass, shoulder and thigh pads and many other innovations to the game of football while winning four national championships) coached the Cyclones from 1895-99.

Chizik, indeed, has some pretty select company.

Reader feedback is welcome at You can also follow me on Twitter at:


Hoiberg hopes to relive a 1994 memory in Iowa City


Iowa State and Iowa have faced each other in men’s basketball every season since 1970.

When the two state rivals line up on the hardwood, the emotions run a notch higher than a normal non-conference game. It’s probably somewhat challenging for a first-year coach to teach his team about the intensity of the rivalry prior to participating it at least once.

That is part of the intrigue tonight as Fred Hoiberg and Fran McCaffery meet as coaches . Neither has coached in the annual battle yet, but the Cyclones have an edge in that Hoiberg played in the game multiple times.

Only six coaches since 1970 — Wayne Morgan, Tim Floyd and Maury John of the Cyclones and Tom Davis, Lute Olson and Dick Schultz of the Hawkeyes – won their debuts in the series.


Here is the interesting part. The only coach, who won his series debut on the road was Floyd. The Cyclones’ 76-63 win on Dec. 10, 1994 was keyed by 60.9% shooting in the second half. A forward named Hoiberg scored 15 points, added five rebounds and dished out four assists for the winners.

That same Hoiberg will enter Carver-Hawkeye Arena tonight with the goal of doing what his college coach did more than a decade-and-a-half ago.

It will likely be buzzing tonight in Iowa City. But, it’s an environment that only one of the coaches has experience – and a positive one at that – with.

Reader feedback is welcome at You can also follow me on Twitter at:


Key week in Cy-Hawk Series starts tonight


The seventh annual Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk Series is well underway and this week’s action could go a long way in determining the winner.

Iowa State and Iowa have alternated wins in the series since it started and that is largely due to the slanted number of home events from year-to-year. This season, the Hawkeyes will/have played host in football, volleyball, wrestling, women’s basketball, men’s basketball, women’s swimming and softball.

The Hawkeyes currently hold a 7-6 edge. Three events this week (both basketball games and swimming) will likely determine the winner. If the Cyclones have a chance to reverse the trend and become the first school to win the event in consecutive years, it will need multiple wins this week.

Bill Fennelly’s nationally ranked team will play tonight. The UI is also nationally rated. Six buses of Cyclone fans will be boarding this afternoon for the trek to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Fred Hoiberg and Fran McCaffery, the two first-year coaches, will lock horns Friday. The swimming dual will also be contested Friday.

This early December schedule has become somewhat standard in the series. So, it’s time to see if the Cyclones can alter history and put some pressure on the “home” school.

Reader feedback is welcome at You can also follow me on Twitter at:

Rhoads’ teams exceeding the predictions


Oklahoma won the final Big 12 championship game Saturday night for a league, which had operated with two football divisions since its inception.

In the 15-year history of the Big 12 using that alignment, league media members have made preseason divisional predictions each fall. During that timeframe, the Cyclones were chosen to finish last by the news media in the north division more than half (eight) of the time.

Iowa State was picked for sixth in the North Division in both of Paul Rhoads’ seasons as coach. The Cyclones, however, blew past those expectations both years.

The 2010 team tied for third (with Kansas State) in the north division, meaning it placed three slots higher than predicted. The only time Iowa State “overachieved” more was Dan McCarney’s 2004 team, when a prediction of sixth turned out to be a tie for first (with Colorado at 4-4).

Rhoads’ 2009 team was chosen for last and finished fourth, a two-game improvement. That plus-2 mark has been equaled only one other time (2000) at ISU since the league formed.

Here is a year-by-year look at the Cyclones’ projected North Division finish vs. its actual finish:

Year       Coach                Prediction      Actual       Difference
1996       McCarney          5th                          6th                  (-1)
1997       McCarney          6th                          6th              same
1998       McCarney          6th                          T-5th          +1
1999       McCarney          6th                          T-5th          +1
2000       McCarney          5th                          3rd              +2
2001       McCarney          4th                          3rd              +1
2002       McCarney          4th                          3rd              +1
2003       McCarney          5th                          6th              (-1)
2004       McCarney          6th                          T-1st           +5
2005       McCarney          2nd                         T-2nd          same
2006       McCarney          2nd                         6th              -4
2007       Chizik                 6th                          T-5th          +1
2008       Chizik                 6th                          6th              same
2009       Rhoads               6th                          4th              +2
2010       Rhoads               6th                          T-3rd          +3

Maybe, the experts haven’t historically expected much from the Cyclones. Rhoads seems intent on changing long-held perceptions quickly by outperforming expectations.

Reader feedback is welcome at You can also follow me on Twitter at: