Harty: Wrong Kirk and hit the Rhoads
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Another historic victory.
Another weekend of disrespect and disbelief for the Iowa football team.
One of the latest disbelievers is ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, who didn’t include Iowa among even his top six teams in his latest unofficial College Football Playoff rankings.
It’s getting hard enough keeping the Big Ten West Division champion and 11-0 Hawkeyes out of the top four with some justification, but top six?
Come on. No way.
People from the outside might dismiss me as a homer, considering the name of our website, but that never has been, nor will it ever be the case.
The University of Iowa has its own sports information department and its own marketing department and certainly doesn’t need me singing its praises regardless of circumstance.
My intent is always to be truthful and fair, and that’s why I question the reasoning behind Herbstreit’s latest ranking because it isn’t fair.
But I also question the process because does the selection committee, of which Herbstreit is not a member, base their rankings more on whether a team deserves it or on who they feel are the best teams? That’s never been made clear, at least to me.
You could make a strong case that Oklahoma and Michigan State are both better than Iowa. But are they more deserving at this stage?
I say no because each has an inexcusable loss, although, Michigan State has a better argument than Oklahoma because Michigan State’s 39-38 loss to Nebraska on Nov. 7 in Lincoln, Neb., was helped by suspect officiating at the end. And that’s being kind.
Oklahoma, on the other hand, was defeated by Texas, which was shutout by Iowa State, 24-0. Enough said.
Iowa likely would be eliminated from playoff consideration if it loses at Nebraska on Friday. You could cling to the hope that Iowa still might have a chance in that case if it wins the Big Ten championship game and if some other key losses occur.
But good luck with that.
Herbstreit said Sunday on Twitter that Iowa would make his four-team playoff if it finished 13-0. So in other words, he’s saying that Iowa controls its own destiny, which is true.
I’ve read some people on Twitter who say it doesn’t really matter what the pundits think because Iowa would make the playoff at 13-0.
And while that’s true, the weekly debate helps to fuel the entire process. It builds interest and stokes a fire that already is ablaze, given the overwhelming popularity of college football.
I wasn’t surprised that Herbstreit kept Iowa out of his top four because you could make a strong case for four other teams, maybe even five being better than Iowa. But to not have Iowa in his top six is what caught my attention. It seems misguided unless Herbstreit based his rankings more on potential than achievement.
HIT THE RHOADS: Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard deserves praise for ending the Paul Rhoads coaching era because it couldn’t have been easy, but was probably the right decision.
Rhoads seems to have excelled in every phase of his job as the Iowa State football coach except for not winning enough games.
The Ankeny native raised money. He raised expectations. And he raised the energy level in Ames with his passion and loyalty.
Rhoads was the perfect fit for Iowa State except for on Saturdays in the fall. On those precious days, he was below average, his record just 8-27 since the start of the 2013 season and 32-54 overall in seven seasons at Iowa State.
Iowa State’s high-water mark under Rhoads was his first season in 2009 at 7-6, which was capped by a win over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl.
But the majority of the players on that team were recruited by the previous two coaching staffs under Gene Chizik and Dan McCarney.
Iowa State went from being slightly below average to way below average under Rhoads. Seven seasons was enough, especially in this day and age when some coaches are lucky to get half as much time.
Pollard had no choice but to pull the plug, because at some point, Iowa State’s shareholders have to be rewarded for their support, or at least, inspired by it.
It had reached the stage under Rhoads where he was doing neither.
Rhoads probably could’ve saved his job if his team hadn’t self-destructed in its last two games, including blowing a 35-14 halftime lead at Kansas State this past Saturday in an unacceptable fashion.
The Cyclones led 35-28 and had just taken over on offense at the Kansas State 44-yard line with 1 minute, 31 seconds remaining.
Kansas State only had one timeout left, so it seemed a no-brainer that Rhoads would instruct his quarterback to take a knee three times in order to burn as much time as possible off the clock.
But instead, Iowa State ran the ball. Making the hand-off was risky enough, but then freshman running back Mike Warren fumbled the ball away to Kansas State.
The meltdown was well under way as Kansas State tied the game at 35-35 four plays later, and with just 40 seconds remaining.
Iowa State began its next possession at its own 25. Quarterback Joel Lanning ran for four yards on first down.
I think even New Kirk at this point would’ve instructed his quarterback to take a knee and play for overtime. But Rhoads allowed for a pass play to be called and it backfired when Lanning was sacked and fumbled the ball away.
Three plays later, Kansas State completed the improbable comeback by making a 42-yard field goal.
Pollard had seen enough.
And now Rhoads is history, the latest coach to get chewed up by a difficult job.
One excuse for keeping Rhoads is that Iowa State is among 12 BCS coaching jobs that are available and the pickings will be slim. I get the concern, but doing nothing in this situation is worse than trying to do something.
Iowa State is now looking for its seventh head coach since 1979, which is the year Hayden Fry took over as the Iowa football coach. Iowa has made just one coaching change since then with Kirk Ferentz replacing Fry, who retired after the 1998 season after 20 years on the job.
Some fans were clamoring for Ferentz to be fired after Iowa had its own late-season meltdown a year ago.
It would’ve been premature and unfair to fire Ferentz, though, because the circumstances weren’t dire and because he had a proven track record with two conference titles and four double-digit win seasons on his resume, which has since climbed to five.
Rhoads had nothing tangible to sell anymore and it was time for Pollard to make a business decision.