Iowa celebrates its 6-0, 15th-ranked start to the season by suspending its longtime radio announcer with a cryptic statement.
There were plenty of things better left forgotten about Iowa's pug-ugly 69-68 win over Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. Chief among them was Gary Dolphin, the only living "Voice of the Hawkeyes" still walking the planet, snarking off during the halftime break with an unexpectedly hot mic.
Let's run that one back.
Key quotes here, if you can't listen to the embedded audio:
"Year after year after year, get a key piece like that. Just get one! They've got three or four."
"We get Maishe Dailey... dribbles into a double-team with his head down. Gahhhd."
Despite an on-air apology from Dolphin after the game, Iowa AD Gary Barta needed less than 24 hours to issue a two-game suspension to Dolphin:
Iowa press release on Gary Dolphins two-game suspension. pic.twitter.com/JU4nLyt6Gk— Rob Howe (@RobHoweHN) November 29, 2018
Fine. Two games, fine. Let's get to why the idea is fine in a bit. But first, let's run another key quote back here:
“The two game suspension is a result of those comments, as well as some ongoing tensions that have built up over the past couple of years.”
And now, just like that, this whole situation is more of a fiasco than it ever needed to be.
This situation causes a minor blip on the radars outside the Hawkeye state if this is just a 30-word statement by Learfield (with whatever necessary boilerplate at the end) saying a two-game suspension is in line with University of Iowa policy. Maybe another 20 about the technical snafu on the network's end that inadvertently led to all this. You can't eliminate the embarrassment of a situation like this, but you can certainly minimize it.
What makes the whole enterprise particularly galling isn't that suspending Dolphin is a mistake — it's that it's correct.
But you cannot, absolutely cannot, make a veiled reference to ~MYSTERY TRANSGRESSIONS~ by your athletic department's most visible media member in a statement to the media and not expect to have to answer that. It's the athletic department's most insanely shortsighted decision since refusing to offer further comment about the hospitalization of over a dozen football players at the outset of Rhabdogate — a moment of media idiocy that might never be topped in collegiate sports history.
What makes the whole enterprise particularly galling isn't that suspending Dolphin is a mistake — it's that it's correct. The quote about Dailey has made more rounds, given that it's a particular player getting called out (rudely, but not incorrectly; Dailey was one of many Hawkeyes who had a brutal night first half). But it's the first one that merits something more than a stern talking-to in Barta's office the next day.
The first quote is Gary Dolphin saying that Iowa flat-out can't recruit. That the best 3-4 players on the court belonged to Pitt. That there are no "key pieces" (?) on a team that successfully recruited Joe Wieskamp, Luka Garza, Tyler Cook and Jordan Bohannon over the last three seasons. On a team that's currently ranked No. 15 after mollywhopping Oregon and UConn at Madison Square Garden. And the "Voice of the Hawkeyes" wants Pitt's players instead? That is, as the French say, un mucho problemo.
But that's not what people will be talking about for the rest of the week, because Gary Barta decided this situation — where a radio station suspended one of its hosts because of an accidentally public comment about a bad half of basketball — really needed to be about Gary Barta.
For someone who must very publicly administer the state's only important athletic department, that's an inexcusable ego trip in a situation that requires nothing more than terse professionalism, and it'll keep the situation in reporters' mouths and on a broader media stage than it ever should have been.
We do appreciate Barta's ambition, though. It takes a special type of gusto to assert "all focus and attention is on beating Wisconsin Friday night" in the middle of a 300-word statement about how your own radio announcer is a treasonous slimeball that you've apparently been resenting for years. Godspeed, you bravest little sentence in the world.