Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The B1G Football Championship Trophy

2011 marks the first official Championship game for the Big Ten Conference, and the trophy that goes to the winner was on display today in Chicago. Here it is pictured with a couple of employees of the conference. In the middle is Jay Reid, the Video Coordinator for the conference office and his assistant on the left, Omar Ahmed.

Monday, August 29, 2011

College Football Week 1

If you haven't heard, it is finally "Game Week." If you are a fan of college football, you've had to have heard that many times over the last few days. College football fans have been anxiously waiting for the start of the 2011 season. Every year there is anticipation for the upcoming season, but all fans want to the news to come from the field and not be the headline story of the nightly news. But at some time during the year we should expect more stories to headline the news and not the sports. Perhaps not news to other programs, but the NCAA discussing how it will handle the existing troublesome schools. Miami is sure to face severe penalties, LSU continues to learn more about the legal troubles their starting quarterback has gotten into, and Ohio State will most likely learn of its future before the possibility of appearing in an inaugural Big Ten Championship Game.

But I'm looking forward to a few different story lines:
  • How different will Wisconsin's offense be with Russell Wilson leading it.
  • Will Michigan exceed national expectations in Brady Hoke's first season
  • Will Nebraska live up to its fans' expectations as they enter their first season in the Big Ten
  • When will the Big 12 look to add teams to their conference before having to react to a current member leaving.
  • What will be that one BCS conference that doesn't live up to its BCS bowl birth.
  • And who will be the one team ranked low at the beginning of the season, but will be there at the end to vie for the National Championship birth.
The Big Ten starts it off on Thursday and Friday. Two "should be" wins for the conference against programs that have had all Summer to prepare for their spot to knock off a top-dog.

Night Out on the Town

A new season, and the Night Out on the Town feature returns. Tonight's takes us back to one final look at Iowa's bowl site of 2010. Tempe is not only home to the Insight Bowl, but also to Arizona State University and its entertainment district, Mill Ave. Mill Ave is very close to Sun Devil Stadium, the home to the Insight Bowl as well as the Arizona State football team and past Super Bowls. Having the stadium this close to the main street on campus creates a very festive atmosphere on game days and nights. I'm sure one of those popular spots on a football weekend is Canteen Modern Tequila Bar.

While tequila isn't the only beverage served at Canteen, it is the drink of choice. But for a Midwesterner two aspects of the establishment stand out - 1. is the bar that sits inside and out, and 2. being around a clientele that is made up of mostly natives and southern Californians.

In such a warm climate indoor / outdoor bars are popular in the Valley. However what I liked about Canteen was the bar lined the outdoor wall of the building. Citizens could "belly" up to the bar while seated on the sidewalk, a sidewalk that was also gated off to keep just anyone to walk up.

In the Phoenix Metro area, many Iowans have transplanted to one of the many suburbs. There are many bars and restaurants that are either run by Iowans or are the home to Iowa Football watch parties. Canteen was one of the few places we attended that was frequented by those originally from the area. Not that I didn't want to be around friends and family, but it is refreshing to meet different people with different backgrounds creating interesting conversations. Canteen provided a different atmosphere than what this Iowan was used to.
Of course when you go it is necessary to try a shot of tequila. Earlier in the 2010 season the schedule found us further south in Tucson. At our hotel bar a few of my staff tried the house tequila which was drier and smoother. And at a time when Avion became popular from the popular HBO series, Entourage, we found ours to be very similar to what was described on the show. The same could be said for the tequila being poured at Canteen. Of course when you call yourself a tequila bar, the best is expected.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Week Away

One week from today the Iowa Hawkeyes will enter Kinnick Stadium to begin the 2011 season. Over 70,000 fans will enter to see what the new version of the football team has to offer, and if their expectations will be met. It is the first year of the new expanded Big Ten Conference which includes divisional play as well as the addition of Nebraska. But fans of the Hawkeyes will see a few new additions to the home of Iowa Football. Banners have appeared on the exterior of the stadium since early August. Pictures of Fry, Keading, Banks, Gallery and Kinnick greet the black and gold upon entering the gates. And if you look closely you will see each corner of the stadium is designated differently ranging from bowls to all-Americans, to champions and the popular saying founded by Coach Hayden Fry, America Needs Farmers.
Those corners are also represented once inside Kinnick. Displays signifying these different distinctions are found around the different corresponding areas. The south end zone consists of both all-Americans and championships.
And along the top of the north end zone, each bowl the Hawkeyes have played in is displayed alongside the popular ANF logos. Not seen are the retired numbers and the players for who they were retired for. Those can be found in the NE corner, just off the playing surface.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Cy-Hawk Trophy

It isn't what it looks like, it is what it represents.

This isn't a post defending the new Cy-Hawk Trophy - a trophy given out to the winner of the Iowa Iowa State football game - introduced last week by Iowa Corn. It depicts a family that makes a living from the farm they maintain. The Dad has his crop of corn while the Mom, Son and Child look on. This trophy has created quite a stir among fans of both universities which has led to a press conference by Iowa Corn tomorrow afternoon.

I've heard many say it has nothing to do with football. I've also heard it isn't a complete representation of the State of Iowa.

In 2004 Iowans were posed with a question of what they wanted on the back of their US Commissioned quarter which went into circulation later that year. The above artwork won out promoting the value of education in the state. Discussions ranged from education to farming to big business to honoring the Sullivan Brothers, a collective family all lost during the war. All great ideas which went to the vote of the citizens of Iowa.

The difference between the quarter and the Cy-Hawk Trophy? People of Iowa had a say in what the quarter would be. The trophy was ridiculed shortly after it was unveiled by those same citizens. This could've been avoided had Iowa Corn solicited input from the fans.

I think Iowa Corn could've done better with the design.  The idea was innocent, trying to be representative of the work ethic of Iowans. But it has been compared with statues found at a Hallmark Store and not something a winning football team would be proud to carry across the field.

Does it have anything to do with football? No. But had we not inherited a tradition of teams carrying an axe, pig or telephone across the field, what would those have to do with football?

Tomorrow Iowa Corn has scheduled a press conference. We're guessing it is to announce changes to its current trophy design. One social media site suggested placing Nile Kinnick and Jack Trice on top of a block with all of the scores. But what does that have to do with Iowa Corn, the company sponsoring the trophy and giving each institution money to benefit their athletic departments. I'm sure many would be willing to get a tattoo of Iowa Corn on their arm if it meant much money in return to them.

We all have ideas on what the new trophy should look like. Mine is to place an outline of the state of Iowa on top of square base. The corners would have an ear of corn, book (representing education), and a building (representing business). The 4th corner could be reserved for the corporate sponsor. And instead of placing scores over the year on the base, I'd place the words "Hawkeye State" or "Cyclone State" with the final score for each year. Something a little different than other trophies. But I'm sure they would be those who would disagree with this design as well.

But at the end of the day what matters is who wins the in-state rivalry. Over the years many fans didn't completely know what the old trophy looked like (and I'm not sure what was wrong with the old one), but took pride it was their team that won the game. No matter what the new trophy looks like, it will still come down to who wins and the final score. As it doesn't matter what the trophy looks like, it is what it represents.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Kid's Day at Iowa

Three weeks shy of the first game on the Iowa Football schedule, Hawkeye fans were treated to an open scrimmage and autographs afterwards for fans of all ages. A beautiful day in Iowa City brought out many of the Hawkeye faithful to get their first look at what the 2011 team can do. The Spring Game in April was played on a miserable Iowa weather day, and without the incoming freshman class. But today was a picture perfect day on the Iowa Campus as most of this year's team was in pads for the annual scrimmage.

Iowa Broadcaster Adds to Responsibilities

Iowa has been very fortunate to have had great announcing teams broadcasts their sports teams. Prior to 1997 fans were able to choose between a number of different personalities. Names like Jim Zabel, Bob Brooks, Gene Claussen, Frosty Mitchell, Ron Gonder were found in various places around the dial and Hawkeye fans found that one voice to bring Hawkeye athletics into their homes, cars and corn fields. And in both basketball and football the analysts describing the action have been among the best in the Big Ten, if not the nation. Fans enjoy hearing their teams broken down by former Iowa athletes in Ed Podolak and Bobby Hanson.

In 1997 the multiple networks were down to one, and Gary Dolphin was brought in to describe the action to all of Iowa. The deal with Learfield Communications was common at the time as Iowa was one of the last schools who didn't have exclusive rights with one network. And while some fans were disappointed their favorite guy was no longer calling the games, it did provide more teams at Iowa the opportunity to find their way into the airwaves of the state of Iowa, as well as many of the surrounding states.

Forgotten by many was the duo elevated from one of Learfield's Flagship stations to call women's basketball. Iowa natives Mike Grimm and Karen Schulte were the voices of Lisa Bluder's first season at Iowa, and an historic one that found the Iowa ladies win the Big Ten Tournament title and become a four seed in the NCAA tournament. Grimm and Schulte didn't broadcast the most popular sport, but may have been the best announcing team of the entire Iowa network.

The Manchester native, Grimm has moved on since the 2001 season. In 2006 he was named the play by play person of Minneosta Golden Gopher Men's Basketball team. And as of yesterday he has now added the football duties as well. Quite a journey for a young man who was calling eastern Iowa high school football as recently as ten years ago.

Below is a quick video of him and Schulte calling pieces of the 2001 first round game versus Oregon. The game was broadcast back to Oregon with their local announcers. But we were able to tap into that broadcast with the radio call of Grimm and Schulte. It was a rough trip for Mike as he was battling a bad cold, so bad that he did every little trick to keep his voice ready to go for a three hour game. (The video is the tv broadcast with the Learfield Network Radio feed over it).

Friday, August 12, 2011

Big Ten Network Fall Tour

The Big Ten Network is conducting their Fall tour of Big Ten schools as they prepare for the upcoming season. Iowa was the fourth stop of the tour and the finishing spot to Leg 1. BTN started out in Madison, Wisconsin then travelled to Minneapolis, Minnesota, Lincoln, Nebraska and ended up in Iowa City. This has become an annual tradition for the BTN crew consisting of host Dave Revsine, former coach Gerry DiNardo and former player, Howard Griffith. The show was shot today and will be post-produced before going to air sometime next week.
 The BTN crew arrived early Friday morning from Lincoln, Nebraska. The 1am arrival time made for a short night as the Hawkeyes began practice at 8:40. Crew arrived to the Jacobson Athletic Complex earlier than 6am. Once leaving Iowa City they will return to Chicago. The technical staff will change, but the talent remains the same.
James Vandenberg represented the offense for the Hawkeyes while Shaun Prater talked about the Hawkeye Defense.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Big Ten Officiating

This is the heart of every Saturday in the Big Ten. This is central control for the conference office and its officials. Located in the Big Ten office the head of the officiating which oversees the Big Ten, Mid-American Conference and Missouri Valley sit in this room keeping a close watch on every game it has officials working.

Jay Reid is the video coordinator is ensures every game is captured and recorded looking at every play. Every week he takes video from the tv copy as well as coaches video of every team in the conference. On a weekly basis he'll put together a training video of some of the more questionable calls.
This year there are three major differences to fans. One is the enforcement of excessive celebration. Now it is a spot foul and points may be taken off the board if it occurs prior to a ball handler enters the end zone. Another rule change is the ten second run off at the end of a half. If the offensive team commits a foul inside :10 of a half the clock will run ten seconds off the clock. And finally the blocking below the waist is another change. Rules have been constantly altered throughout the summer and it will be interesting to see how confusing it will be for fans and commentators  to understand the call as well as coaches and players.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Big Ten Memories - Wisconsin

The last installment of the Summer series through the Big Ten ends up in Madison, Wisconsin. The border rival annual series is suspended with the advent of divisions within the Big Ten, and it will be a temporary end to a favorite series of mine.

Whether the game is played in the Badger State or the Hawkeye State, the atmosphere is one of the best for either side. And of late the outcome is much different than what it was from 1977 - 1996 when the Hawkeyes won 18 in a row. And on that November Saturday in 1997 I felt the years of frustration come to an end.

Barry Alvarez had the Badgers playing at a championship level, but the victory of his former boss and school, Hayden Fry was the one thing that eluded him. In 1991 the Badgers lead until under a minute to go when Iowa connected on fourth down from Matt Rodgers to Mike Saunders for a touchdown giving Iowa the 10-6 win. In 1992 it took a late Iowa touchdown with a two-point conversion and a blocked Wisconsin field goal, all in the last 90 seconds to secure the win for Iowa. The two teams took a hiatus for two years, a period that found the Badgers in the Rose Bowl, and when they came back onto the schedule, the Hawkeyes continued their winning ways.

In 1997 the Badgers smelled blood in Camp Randall. The Hawkeyes had only one road win and earlier in the year Iowa's starting quarterback, Matt Sherman, was lost for the season. It was a low scoring game and the Badgers were victorious, 13-10. It was a night to party in Madison. My end zone location was in the north end of the stadium, adjacent to the student section. It was a small booth, small enough that it didn't allow me to store my camera cases inside.

Once the game ended, and fifth quarter began, I started to tear down my equipment. The typical amount of people that stay to listen to the Wisconsin's band post-game concert was smaller as many were anxious to celebrate on Madison' State Street. But there were a few in my area, and they made sure I knew the outcome of the game. From about twenty feet away I hear a Badger fan shout, "Hey! Don't Let the Door Hit you in the A$$ when you leave the State!" What am I going to say to that? So I ignored him and continued to break down my equipment. The fan came closer and said, "Hey! I said, Don't Let the Door Hit You in the A$$ on the way out of the State!" Again, I ignored him.

By this time he was becoming frustrated. So he comes closer. "HEY! I said, Don't Let the Door Hit you in the A$$ on the way out of the State!" This time it was slower and more deliberate. But again, I ignore him. Now he's upset and gets within five feet of me. "I SAID, DON"T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU IN THE A$$ ON THE WAY OUT OF THE STATE!" I ignore it, he waves his hand at me and says, "Awww, forget about it!"

The bus ride home wasn't much fun as the citizens of Dickeyville, Wisconsin were waiting for us at the town center with signs directed at the nearby Hawkeyes. The small Wisconsin town is within seven miles of Dubuque, and I'm sure there was a bit of frustration built up over those twenty years. Of course the town also has a three way stop in the center where the townspeople were waiting with the signs and banners.

The series will start up again in 2013, but it will feel like a long two years until the Badgers and Hawkeyes face off.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Opening Day of Practice at Iowa Football

Receivers working with Coach Erik Campbell
Today marked the first practice for the Iowa Football team. After fifteen workouts in the spring as well as the off-season conditioning, the 2011 season got off to a start today.

The first day of practice can be a long one. Its an early morning for players, coaches and staff starting with meetings. Then the team took to the practice field for the first time as an entire group. Recruited student-athletes finally take the field and try to make their niche into Hawkeye history.

It was also the first practice for the football team to be shot in HD as the nation begins to progress to the better quality for coaches and players.
After practice the players are subjected to many different media opportunities. Some people refer to today as picture day and that is very true. Above players take their turn to take their button photo.
 And after that they are escorted to another room where their head shot is recorded for use by ESPN and other national television markets.
And it doesn't stop there, players meet the media. This is typically the opportunity for members of the player's home team media organizations to get that quick interview. And the major media outlets around the state also get their chance to talk to anyone on the team.
It is close to another month before the kick off against Tennessee Tech and the Hawkeye fans are eager for information on the team. Today is one of very few times they have access to members of the Hawkeye Football family.
 The day ends with the team photo. It is usually tough to keep from squinting during the team photo. The sun glares off the Kinnick Stadium metal bleachers and is tough to look forward while taking the picture. However this year we had overcast skies and a light drizzle making it easier to take the picture.
 And it ended with group photos of the different positions, recruiting areas, and staff members. Above is the video staff for 2011.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Preparing for the season

A month away from the kick-off to the 2011 season when Tennessee Tech enters Kinnick Stadium to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes. Much work is needed before that day, and the Iowa Football team begins its practice on Friday. But aside from the football team and staff work is going on around the athletic department grounds to ensure the fans have the best possible experience this season. Starting this week banners have been posted on Kinnick's exterior walls. Along with the Hayden Fry banner, other notable Hawkeyes can be found around the historic stadium. Nate Kaeding, Nile Kinnick, Adrian Clayborn and Brad Banks are among some of the stars promoted.
The video department is also in the midst of their preparation. Above they are finishing up lift safety certification. The five plus hour class was important to ensure the staff knew their way around the aerial devices.
And the move to HD is underway. Projectors, displays and cameras are showing up all around 930 Evashevski Drive. These devices are being installed in the team meeting room.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Big Ten Memories - Michigan State

East Lansing has become one of my favorites places to travel to. The stadium is set close to campus and on the banks of the Red Cedar. And most often Hawkeye fans are guaranteed a good game when going there. Not always is Iowa on the winning end, but typically the game goes down to the final minutes.

My first trip to Michigan State was in 1990. It would be the first of two road wins in the state of Michigan, an accomplishment that is rare. It was a defensive struggle and the Hawkeyes prevailed. On my way out of the stadium that day I heard a few fans disappointed with head coach George Perles and lauding the job done by Iowa's Hayden Fry. One fan walked aside me on the way to the field afterwards from my perch in the end zone. He wasn't happy with the loss but wanted me to tell Hawkeye fans how fortunate they were to have a coach like Fry.

Our first trip with Head Coach Kirk Ferentz came after his first win as Hawkeye head coach. We felt good with the win but knew we were facing one of the Big Ten's best in the Spartans. Not only were they the best that day, but we helped make them look like national champs. It didn't matter which phase of the game, Michigan State was 100% better than us that day as we lost 49-3. The highlight came when Tim Dodge returned the opening kick off of the second half deep into Michigan State territory. I don't remember getting a first down and we settled for the field goal. The highlight of the day was that we finished in less than three hours and were able to quickly return to Iowa City.

The last two trips had some of the more memorable games in the series. In 2008 Shonn Greene was stopped on 4th down and Michigan State ran the clock out attaining one first down. The next year it was a cold damp night game, one of the few in the history of Spartan Stadium. Many will remember the final play of Stanzi to McNutt for the touchdown setting a school record of consecutive wins to start a season at 8. Prior to the game we showed our motivational video to the team. It was my week to create it and Ricky Stanzi suggested the song. We like to take requests and use them the best we can, but for this game, with what was riding on it, I was skeptical to use the suggestion. But it was very appropriate.

Early in the week Stanzi dropped by with his suggestion. My response was that I'm a big fan of the song, but didn't know if the team would like it. He strongly encouraged me to use it as the team would find it very motivational. I'm an 80s guy and get motivated by the music of the era, but didn't know how it would relate to players born at the end of the decade. Well, it worked and Stanzi found me in the locker room afterwards telling me that it was because of the song that the team was able to get it done at the end. I laughed inside knowing it didn't have anything to do with it. The video found its way again later in the season, re-edited again for the public. It was played on Hawk Vision, amended with highlights later in the year, and the motivational part taken out. The song of that video and hit film was Journey's "Don't Stop Believin.'"

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bicycles and the Packers

Below is a video that describes a long-time event that is one more link between the Green Bay Packers, their community and the beloved fan base - players riding children's bikes to practice.

My son got to experience it first hand as camp opened last Saturday night. I spent a couple of training camps at Green Bay as a little boy, but didn't bring my bike and just looked for autographs. But this time I encouraged my son to bring his and the opportunity was there with former Iowa Hawkeye, Bryan Bulaga.
 We took advantage of knowing some of the Packer personnel as well as Bryan. They made it happen for my son to offer the the bike to the second year offensive lineman. But the bike was too small for Bulaga and he walked along and talked to us as my son rode his bike in front. But the tradition for the little Packer fans grows stronger every year. Lined up inside a series of cattle gates, the players emerge from their locker room in Lambeau Field. Little boys and girls shout each player, respectfully by name. "Mr. Bulaga. Mr. Matthews!" And the players would look for a bike that would best fit their frame. Whether the player rides the bike with the owner on the back, or the owner walking along side carrying their helmet, each find much pleasure in the experience.
 But Bulaga walked along with my son leading the way. As I walked along I could hear many fans respectfully ask for autographs or pictures. But since Bryan was walking he couldn't afford to stop and sign or he would never reach the practice facility. I also could hear a few shout to Bryan, "Go Hawks," as one woman from Cedar Falls walked with us for a few steps hoping Bulaga would sign the football she brought with her. "Meet me at the gate and I'll get it signed," said Bryan.
But this is very organized. Packer security is very respectful to the young boys and girls while making sure the Packers get into the practice facility to start their session on time. Those same boys and girls park their bikes at the entrance of the fields waiting for the night to end and the Packers to ride back to the stadium.