This column goes all over the place, so hang on.
Offensive left tackle Brandon Scherff is the most hyped Iowa football player heading into his senior season since whom?
You probably have to go all the way back to quarterback Chuck Long’s much-anticipated senior season in 1985 for that answer. Long was widely regarded as the top returning quarterback in college football heading into the 1985 season. He gained momentum by shredding Texas for 461 passing yards and six touchdown passes during a 55-17 victory in the 1984 Freedom Bowl.
Long also had a veteran and star-studded supporting cast surrounding him, making Iowa one of the preseason favorites to win the Big Ten.
Scherff has an advantage over Long and all the other previous Hawkeye stars, including 2003 Outland Trophy winner Roberty Gallery, in that he is playing at a time when social media is helping to fuel the preseason hype machine like never before. And, of course, it helps that Iowa doubled its win total last season from the 2012 season by winning eight games.
• SAY WHAT: Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery was correct in saying this week that he doesn’t have any thugs on his roster.
However, the question is whoever thought he did?
It’s unsettling that sophomore shooting guard Peter Jok has had two scrapes with police since late April, including pleading guilty to drunken driving, and that senior shooting guard Josh Oglesby recently was charged with public intoxication. But their transgressions hardly make them thugs.
Immature and irresponsible are better words to describe their behavior, especially in the case of Oglesby, who as a senior should know better.
The criticism most commonly directed at McCaffery’s players is that they don’t shoot well from the perimeter and that some struggle with playing man-to-man defense.
But thugs? That’s news to me.
• TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY: The decision to fire Tracey Griesbaum as the Iowa field hockey coach has undoubtedly created an awkward situation within the UI Athletic Department.
On one side are Griesbaum’s supporters, including the current players, who are adamant that she didn’t deserve to be fired. They also strongly deny accusations that Griesbaum bullied her players and that she operated with fear and intimidation during her 14-year coaching reign.
I talked to several former players, who defended Griesbaum on the record as a coach and as a person. One even became emotional as she talked about the herculean effort that Griesbaum made in order to attend the former player’s wedding a few years ago.
But I also spoke with one former player who insisted that the accusations were true, but she wouldn’t speak on the record for fear of being ostracized by the UI field hockey community.
The truth is out there somewhere, perhaps in the middle, as the old saying goes.
You just can’t ignore the fact that so many of Griesbaum’s players, past and present, have come to her defense, along with numerous colleagues, nationwide. You also can’t ignore Griesbaum’s record as a coach because she ranked among the best at UI in terms of winning.
But it’s also hard to believe that Iowa athletics director Gary Barta would fire a coach without thinking he was justified in doing so and without having some sort of proof to support his decision.
Barta certainly didn’t help his cause by announcing Griesbaum’s termination after 5 p.m. on Aug. 4, because that was the same day the Iowa football team held its annual media day event. Griesbaum’s supporters accused Barta of trying to bury her firing on a busy news day.
What can’t be disputed is the unrest in the once-stable UI field hockey program. Former assistant coach Lisa Cellucci faces a daunting task in trying to hold the program together after being promoted to interim head coach in the wake of Griesbaum’s dismissal.
• IT’S NOT MILLER TIME: Few college football programs recruit or stockpile talent as well as Ohio State does.
That’s why it would be foolish to assume the Buckeyes are headed for a fall without star quarterback Braxton Miller. If there is one team in the Big Ten that can withstand losing arguably the most valuable player in the conference, it’s Ohio State.
A national title is probably out of Ohio State’s reach without Miller directing the offense, but a 10-win season isn’t. Feel sorry for Miller, but not for the Buckeyes.
• PREDICTION UPDATE: A while ago, I predicted that the 2014 Iowa football team would finish 9-3 overall, including 6-2 in the Big Ten. I had the Hawkeyes losing at Pittsburgh, at Maryland and at home against Wisconsin.
I still feel the same way, but probably could be talked into switching my prediction to 8-4 easier than 10-2. However, before you accuse me of being a Hawkeye hater, my worst-case scenario still has Iowa winning two-thirds of its games.
Reach Pat Harty at 339-7370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.