IOWA CITY, Iowa – As an award-winning country music songwriter, Casey Beathard has a gift for using words.
Whether they’re written on paper or spoken, the father of Iowa starting quarterback C.J. Beathard knows how to express himself.
But sometimes, even his words can be misinterpreted.
That’s what Casey Beathard said happened when he was interviewed for a newspaper article in December in which he was perceived as having issued an ultimatum to Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz about his son’s future at Iowa. The article was published just days before Iowa faced Tennessee in the 2014 TaxSlayer Bowl.
“They made it sound like there was an ultimatum; if he doesn’t play in this game then we’re gone,” Casey Beathard said of the article, which appeared in the Tennessean newspaper. “I never said that. Not only that, I’m not going to threaten anybody. That was not a threat.”
Casey Beathard spoke in great detail about the quarterback controversy on Monday as a guest on the allhawkeyes.com podcast.
Casey said the perception that he helped influence Ferentz’s decision to bench two-year starter Jake Rudock in favor of C.J. Beathard was unfair.
“I don’t dare talk about playing time or plays or come to practice,” Casey Beathard said. “C.J. would run away and disown us if we ever got in any kind of political situation. Even in high school, he did all the talking for himself.
“And so that’s what I thought was unfair about the whole thing.”
Casey Beathard said he mostly was responding to the circumstances surrounding the Iowa program when he did the interview in December.
Iowa was coming off back-to-back losses at home to Wisconsin and Nebraska. And as part of the fallout, the quarterback position was suddenly up for grabs, even though Beathard had played sparingly the past two seasons when Rudock was healthy.
“It was only because we lost to Wisconsin and Nebraska that it was ever up in the air and that maybe there might be some kind of change,” Casey Beathard said of the quarterback competition. “Honestly, my answer got twisted. But my answer was; I think that we’re just going to do what (C.J.) wants to do and he doesn’t want to think about it.
“I think after this game we’ll know a lot more.”
To make a long story short, Rudock started in the TaxSlayer Bowl, but Beathard took a majority of the snaps in the second half. Both quarterbacks had alternated series for most of the first half in what seemed almost like an audition.
Beathard then was named the starter shortly after the TaxSlayer Bowl. Rudock has since transferred to Michigan where he is competing for a starting position as a fifth-year graduate student.
“I thought it was unfair for both quarterbacks going into a game like that and getting a series at a time,” Casey Beathard said of the circumstances in the TaxSlayer Bowl. “That was tough for them. I felt bad for Jake and I felt bad for C.J.; okay, you have a series to prove something.”
It’s easy to see how Casey’s words could be misinterpreted in this case because I also bought into the perception that he had forced Ferentz’s hand as a meddling father.
But I don’t feel that way anymore, not after hearing Casey’s side of the story on Monday.
The way I see it, Casey was asked to do an article in preparation for the TaxSlayer Bowl on C.J. Beathard being the only Tennessee native on the 2014 Iowa roster. The reporter did what any good and curious reporter would do under the circumstances by asking Casey about his son’s future at Iowa.
Casey answered by saying that C.J.’s role in the TaxSlayer Bowl would help to determine the future.
That could be perceived as an ultimatum about future playing time. But after talking to Casey on Monday, it sounded more like he was saying the TaxSlayer Bowl would show where the competition stands and then we’ll go from there.
“I had no idea they were going to open it up like a true competition like they said,” Casey Beathard said of the Iowa coaches. “And I was like, `wow, that’s really weird and it’s odd. It sounded like they were willing to make some changes.
“So that’s when I said after this game we’ll know.”
What can’t be disputed is that C.J. Beathard was frustrated as Rudock’s seldom-used backup for two seasons. Adding to the frustration was that before all the drama unfolded in December and January, C.J. faced a third season of having to be Rudock’s backup in 2015.
It was a hot topic in the media and within Beathard’s family, which includes his grandfather, former NFL executive Bobby Beathard, and his uncle, Kurt Beathard, who is the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Illinois State.
Iowa will face Illinois State in the season opener on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
“The bottom line is I think everybody around him was like what are you going to do?” Casey Beathard said. “It’s been three years. (Jake’s) having a good career here. What are you going to do? Everybody was asking him that, including me.
“Everybody from my dad would ask are you going to stay, and my brother, who coaches at a school that he could have even possibly stepped down to. But that wouldn’t have happened because that would have been a political nightmare.”
My belief is that whoever lost the quarterback competition ultimately would transfer. There just wasn’t room anymore for Rudock and Beathard on the same roster.
Neither quarterback should be blamed for wanting what’s best for him.
The only blame in this case is how the Iowa coaches handled it. There were several times during the regular-season when it would’ve made sense to insert Beathard for a struggling Rudock, but it rarely happened.
But then Casey Beathard is quoted in a newspaper article and then just a few weeks later his son moved ahead of Rudock on the depth chart.
The timing just didn’t look good for Ferentz. Making matter worse is that Tennessee crushed the Hawkeyes 45-28 in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
Iowa played in the TaxSlayer Bowl like a team that was distracted and divided by the situation at quarterback. The players have said throughout the spring and summer that the team is closer than it was last season.
That could be perceived as a shot against Rudock, but I think it’s more a case of praising C.J. Beathard and liking the new circumstances where there isn’t a controversy at quarterback.
Casey Beathard didn’t speak on Monday like a father who pampers or makes excuses for his son. He brought up the decision by receiver Derrick Willies to transfer from Iowa midway through last season and that he had a message for his son after seeing C.J. Beathard address Willies’ situation with the media.
“That was the first time that I saw that C.J. looked a little bit down,” Casey Beathard. “That was the hardest because he liked Willies. I think they all just thought that guy was very, very talented.
“But I told him after I saw that interview, you looked bitter and you can’t look like that. You can’t have pity parties about yourself. Just because you guys aren’t starting, you can’t be those guys that say, okay, we’ll be over here and that will tear things up.”
That to me is exactly what a father should say in that situation. I applaud Casey Beathard for taking a tough stand because I agree that C.J. looked depressed that day. And I agree with Casey Beathard that Willies made a hasty decision.
“He tried to talk to (Willies) several times, it was man, don’t leave,” Casey Beathard said of his son. “But the coaches aren’t going to chase him down and go, `no, we need you, we need you.’ They’re not going to do that.
“If you want to transfer, go ahead and transfer.”
It’s hard to misinterpret those words.