Saturday, June 03, 2006

Who Wants a Heisman? He'll Take a Harley

Iowa quarterback Drew Tate, a darkhorse Heisman candidate, clearly is an excitable guy, but imagine his reaction after acing the 13th hole during a golf tournament Friday at the university's Finkbine course. You see, the shot earned Tate $25,000 toward the purchase of a new Dodge. James White, who was in Tate's foursome, said the quarterback was trying to figure out how to cash in the prize and spring for a new Harley-Davidson. About then, word reached Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby, who had been resting comfortably after turning over the keys to the bank to coach Kirk Ferentz. Bowlsby made a beeline to Finkbine and practically yanked the keys out of Tate's hands, telling the star quarterback that accepting the prize would violate NCAA rules. So one disaster was averted, but another one is developing in Eastern Iowa, with rival Iowa State moving in. Cyclone athlete director Jamie Pollard announced that the university will put up a billboard on busy Interstate 380 between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Kudos to the great Ron Maly blog and Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette for getting the billboard story first. Hlas' column is in the comments section. We will have more on this Sunday along with a picture of the billboard.

2 comments:

dawizofodds said...

Pounding ISU chests is all right: Pollard

Mike Hlas
Cedar Rapids Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS — Starting July 15, for two months a billboard in Cedar Rapids will please a large number of people and irritate a large number of others.

It will show Iowa State football players holding high the Cy-Hawk Trophy they captured with a 23-3 win over Iowa last September.

In red letters against a yellow background, the billboard will read "It’s a CYCLONE STATE." That can be interpreted as in-your-face to Iowa in the two months leading to the Sept. 16 renewal of the ISU-Iowa series in Iowa City. Or it can be interpreted as Iowa State celebrating itself. ISU Athletics Director Jamie Pollard says it’s the latter. But as Dizzy Dean eloquently said, it ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.

The billboard will be the only one in the state. It will be situated off I-380, appropriately, south of 33rd Avenue SW.

"We just wanted to be able to do something for the folks in Cedar Rapids," Pollard said last night after the Cedar Valley Cyclone Club’s annual banquet at the Cedar Rapids Marriott. "When I came out here last fall for my first visit in Cedar Rapids (after taking the Iowa State job last October), they said at times we feel in the eastern part of the state that all we ever get is the Hawkeyes. We want to know that we matter."

Along with his four bestknown coaches — football’s Dan McCarney, men’s basketball’s Greg McDermott, women’s basketball’s Bill Fennelly and wrestling’s Cael Sanderson — Pollard literally took a busload of Iowa State people to Cedar Rapids. Before his coaches spoke to the ISU fans who filled the hotel’s ballroom, Pollard gave a stemwinder in which he insisted Cyclone sports and their supporters must "push, push, push."

That, of course, takes money, money, money. But it takes more, something Pollard may be the person to provide. It requires demanding on more than rolling into town once a year, telling everyone how glad they are to be here with such great fans and how hard they’re working over in Ames. It takes firmly saying things will get better in ISU athletics because the man in charge insists on it.

"We’re a small ma-and-pa store trying to compete in the big world," Pollard told Thursday’s gathering. "We’re going to get to be the big world someday, and we’re pushing to do that, but we’ve got to do some things we haven’t done in the past."

One is selling 30,000 football season tickets. Iowa State is close to hitting that mark. Another is making Jack Trice Stadium and Hilton Coliseum better. Those are on Pollard’s immediate to-do list. He wants the south end zone of Trice bowled in for a better atmosphere, and he wants a renovated Hilton, as well as a practice facility for the basketball and volleyball teams.

He wants these things yesterday, not in 2015. You have to push, push, push, which Pollard has already done by deciding wrestling and men’s basketball needed changes at the top. He wasted nary a nanosecond in exchanging Bobby Douglas and Wayne Morgan for Sanderson and McDermott.

"My motto has been 'If not now, when?' " Pollard said. "I don’t know how to lose. I hate losing. I didn’t come here to lose. I came here to win."

That is what Iowa State needs as much as generous donors and upgraded facilities. It needs to shed inferiority complexes, be they in comparison to Iowa or to some big-moneyed Big 12 programs. It needs the same attitude Sanderson displayed on the wrestling mat as an unbeaten Cyclone.

It needs to be aggressively upbeat. McCarney is and always has been fire-and-brimstone. But never before has an Iowa State AD matched McCarney’s intensity at the podium.

"I think that people are responding to someone standing up and saying this is what we want to do and let’s not be afraid to go for it," Pollard said. "I think Iowa State has a very conservative, modest background. We never pound our chest and say 'Let’s do it.' It’s OK to set a goal. You can’t do it if you don’t say what you want to do. You should be proud of it."

Pollard was plenty proud as he stood before the Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk Series championship trophy, which ISU gained with triumphs in six of nine head-to-head events against Iowa in 2005-06, including double-digit wins in men’s and women’s basketball.

"(Outgoing Iowa men’s athletics director) Bob Bowlsby never thought that thing was going to leave his home," Pollard said. "We’re never going to give it back.

"It’s a Cyclone state, folks!"

They do own those trophies.

mike.hlas@gazettecommunications.com

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