Harty: It’s not just about pleasing the media
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Most of what we get in life, we earn over time.
We prove ourselves on a daily basis, and with that comes a level of respect, sometimes, even a reward for all the hard work and sacrifices.
Iowa football players Drew Ott, Austin Blythe and Jordan Lomax will be rewarded this week as their team’s three representatives at the annual Big Ten football meetings in Chicago.
Iowa will have its day under the spotlight on Thursday at the McCormick Place, which is the largest convention center in the United States, with four interconnected buildings that are located about four kilometers south of downtown Chicago and near the shore of Lake Michigan.
You could’ve asked almost anybody who has covered Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz for an extended period and they probably would’ve predicted that Ott, Blythe and Lomax would be Ferentz’s choices to accompany him to Chicago.
They were obvious choices as seniors who have proven themselves on and off the field.
Not everybody seems to agree, though.
The Big Ten is being criticized for not being more media savvy in regard to picking which players should attend the annual event.
Each of the 14 Big Ten teams get to bring three players to the Big Ten meetings.
Teddy Greenstein, who writes for the Chicago Tribune, criticized the process of selecting those players in a column that was published Tuesday.
Greenstein wrote that marketing/media people should choose the players instead of having the head coaches do it, as is the case now.
Greenstein believes that the Big Ten is missing a key opportunity to promote itself by not having some of the conference’s marquee players at this year’s kickoff event, which comes on the heels of Ohio State winning the 2014 national title. He included Iowa junior quarterback C.J. Beathard among those who were mistakenly passed over in Greenstein’s opinion despite being an intriguing story.
Greenstein also questioned Ohio State’s decision to not bring any of its three standout quarterbacks or junior star running back Ezekiel Elliott or junior all-America defensive end Joey Bosa.
Instead, Ohio State will be represented by senior offensive lineman Taylor Decker, senior defensive lineman Adolphus Washington and senior linebacker Joshua Perry.
From a news standpoint, I understand Greenstein’s frustration because the list of no-shows is long and impressive.
But I don’t agree that the head coaches should hand over the responsibility of picking the players to media/marketing representatives.
It might fix what Greenstein considers a problem with not having access to the best stories. But a head coach shouldn’t have to cater to the media when choosing players in this situation.
The Big Ten apparently feels the same way because Greenstein wrote in his column that league officials have no interest in changing the current selection process and would prefer that each school select its own players.
For as long as I can remember, which dates back to Hayden Fry in the early 1990s, Iowa always has been represented by seniors at the Big Ten meetings.
And that’s how it should be.
I’m not saying other schools are wrong for bringing players who aren’t seniors – Nebraska will be represented by three juniors. I just prefer Iowa’s approach because it rewards consistency over time.
The best story doesn’t always make the best player representative when you take everything into account.
Beathard’s story might be more appealing to the national media, but he’s only started one game for Iowa and will be a junior this season.
Blythe and Ott, on the other hand, have started 35 and 25 games, respectively, for the Hawkeyes. They both also made second-team all-Big Ten last season and have been solid students and good citizens by all accounts.
Lomax started 12 games last season at free safety, earning honorable mention all-Big Ten recognition. The Maryland native also excels in the classroom, a perfect blend of sports and academics. Lomax was recently named to the 2015 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which recognizes players from across the country who exemplify a superior commitment to community service and volunteerism.
In addition to being an honor student, Lomax also has been involved in a number of community service projects, including the Hawkeye Readers Program, Hawkeye Pride Mentoring Program, Ladies Football Academy, Football Leadership Retreat, Camp Courageous, Dance Marathon and Spring Dance for Children’s Center of Therapy.
I’m sure that if you dug deep enough, the three players representing Iowa would provide sufficient copy.
Take Ott for example. He grew up in tiny Trumball, Neb., and has risen to all-Big Ten status despite not being offered a scholarship by the Cornhuskers. He also once drove from his hometown in Nebraska to Iowa City on a moped.
Blythe also has a story to tell as Iowa’s most experienced offensive lineman. It’s hard enough playing one position on the offensive line. But Blythe makes playing two – guard and center – look easy at times.
And did you ever consider that Ferentz doesn’t want Beathard to attend the event, partly for Beathard’s sake and for the sake of the team?
Reporters would’ve hounded Beathard about his controversial quarterback competition with Jake Rudock, who has since transferred to Michigan after losing the starting job to Beathard shortly after last season.
Beathard’s family background, which includes his country music-songwriting father and a grandfather who used to be an NFL executive, would’ve been reduced to a sideshow.
Coaches work year-round to build team chemistry. Deciding which players will attend the Big Ten meetings is part of that delicate process.