College sports more like WWE all the time

Histrionics, feuds -- and that's just here in Iowa

Mike Hlas
Published: February 6 2014 | 10:06 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:16 am in
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It doesn't take much to tick people off in these touchy times. That's not a great thing for society, but it's probably a good thing for sportswriters. (It's not, actually. None of the following involves anything resembling a global crisis, so let's all just try to be amused.)

Anyhow, here are a few items of the week:

1. Mike Tirico Says Coaches Act Goofy: During the ESPN telecast of Tuesday night's Ohio State-Iowa men's basketball game, play-by-play man Mike Tirico did some editorializing.

“Calls have gone both ways against both coaches,” Tirico began. “And I understand their anger, (but) something’s got to be done about decorum in college basketball coaches. If these guys want their players to play with poise, their actions on the sidelines — and that’s all coaches in this league — needs to be better.

“Candidly, it’s childish and embarrassing.”

"That is not kicking on Fran (McCaffery), who’s been suspended for a game.

“You’re asking kids to play with poise. You’ve got to do it as well.”

It probably was kicking on McCaffery, but Iowa's coach isn't the only one in the Big Ten or the college game who rages from time to time.

It's a high-pressure situation, when your reputation hangs on those two-hour snippets. Added to the nature of basketball, played in a virtual cage with the audience so close to you, and emotions would overwhelm most of us.

But at the same time ... in what other walk of life could you act like these coaches do and not get fired on the spot? Besides professional wrestling, that is.

Picture one of your co-workers screaming and stomping at an authority figure at your workplace. Then picture that co-worker getting marched to the Human Resources department or out of the building altogether.

But here's the deal: When it's someone else's coach, he's a maniac. When it's your team's coach, he's passionate. It's like poor people who act crazy being called lunatics, while rich people who do the same are eccentric.

2. Paul Rhoads Rants About Recruiting: Here is the transcript of what Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads said Wednesday about the recruitment of wide receiver Allen Lazard of Urbandale:

Let me talk about Allen Lazard a little bit before I get to the rest of the class. Mature, high character, integrity, accountable, trustworthy, true to his word of 14-months. Fourteen months. Allen Lazard sent in his official letter of intent today. He’s not going to a school in northern Indiana. Boy, they wasted a lot of time and money. He’s not going to another school in this state, who feverishly called him about a half a dozen times in the past week. Much to the dismay of people in this room who have wasted a lot of space and time challenging his word of commitment. He is going right here to Iowa State University. And true to his word, he will become the second top-rated player in the state, two years in a row, to become a Cyclone, and I’m very thrilled with Allen Lazard joining this program. As a bonus to Allen, I’m going to keep him off limits to the media for his freshman year. I think he’s earned that after what he’s been through the last 14 months.

Some people of a Hawkeye bent mocked Rhoads about this. People of a Cyclone bent probably found it enjoyable.

The story of how seriously Iowa pursued Lazard in the last week is a "He Said, He Said" deal, and I don't care if it was light and harmless or a full-court press to try to persuade him to change his mind about Iowa State. Recruiting high school kids is an unseemly game that's always bound to lead to hard feelings between staffs and programs.

It happens every year. A war of words flared between Bret Bielema and Urban Meyer when Bielema was Wisconsin's coach. There supposedly was hard feelings by Iowa coaches because of things allegedly said by Michigan State coaches on the recruiting trail shortly after Iowa had 13 players hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis. Recruiting dust-ups are as old as recruiting. If you think there's a coaching staff in big-time football that has never said a critical word about another coaching staff or school, I've got some beachfront property in Cedar Rapids I'd like to sell you.

I love it. I don't want millionaire coaches to have gentlemen's agreements and slap each other on the back laughing. I want the mirage that they're all quietly or not-so-quietly seething at opposing coaches. I want it to be, yes, professional wrestling.

When Rhoads stands in a press conference and makes the kind of statement he makes Wednesday, he's getting his fans fired up. The 2013 season was all Hawkeyes when it came to football in this state. Iowa State, which was the one of the state's two FBS teams that went to a bowl in 2012, fell off the map last season while Iowa bounced back. Rhoads is trying to collect some heat.

Were his words of  Wednesday gracious? Not really. Were they necessary? Not at all. Did they get aired on Wednesday's 10 p.m. KCRG-TV (Cedar Rapids) sportscast and get featured in this story at TheGazette.com?  Oh yeah.

I'm hoping and trusting that was Rhoads' motivation. Because if he had genuinely been ticked off at Iowa (and Notre Dame), just what racket does he think he's in?

3. Big Ten/Big 12: Which is better at basketball? Answer: I couldn't tell you.

They're both deep with good teams. KenPom.com says the Big Ten is the strongest. Wednesday night, it also had Iowa ranked higher than any other Big Ten team.  But hey, Iowa is ranked ahead of Michigan in the USA Today coaches' poll. Rankings are fun.

Associated Press' Top 25 has five Big 12 teams to just three in the Big Ten. But would you take No. 19 Oklahoma State over unranked Ohio State on a neutral court? Maybe.

Which league has the best single team? Answer: I couldn't tell you. Is Kansas better than Michigan State or vice versa? I don't know.

What I could have done is emphatically declared one of the two is superior and given a stack of so-called reasons. That would have riled up a lot of you. It also would have been like, well, professional wrestling.

Besides, Wichita State can beat anyone from either league, anywhere, anytime.

(I don't mean that part about anywhere, anytime, but it's as WWE-ish as I can get.)

 
 

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