It's Not Plagiarism If You Link to It Didn't Put That in Writing

By Patrick Vint on October 12, 2017 at 8:00 am
Brian Ferentz

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports



It's the bye week, which means that the press gets its annual opportunity for a midseason press conference with Iowa's coordinators, Brian Ferentz and Phil Parker.  Here's what we learned:

  • Iowa's baseline goal is between 4.5 and 5 yards per carry in the run game.  Currently it's at 3.7, and that's insufficient to keep Iowa's offense moving as it should.  Brian didn't flat-out say that the running game cost them the Michigan State game, but he certainly said enough to indicate that was his diagnosis.  "I don’t think we had a good plan going into Michigan State running the football, and then unfortunately our line has got to take the brunt of the criticism. I think that starts with me. I didn’t design it very well. We didn’t have a good plan going in there. We didn’t ask guys to do things that were going to help us be successful, so who’s fault is that? That’s mine."
  • This is a pretty effective summation of the Belichick offensive philosophy, as applied at iowa: "We try to be cognizant every week of what we don’t want to do is go out there and run the same play we ran the week before the same way we ran it because that’s what those guys watch."  The problem, of course, is that you don't have the NFL's infinite budget of time with your players to install a new system from week to week, so it's repackaging the same stuff with different personnel most of the time.  Also, your running game is built largely on one running play, and has been for nineteen seasons.
  • Ferentz's assessment of Nate Stanley through six weeks: Efficient, growing, fumbles too much, needs to start completing passes downfield to make the offense work.
  • The part of the press conference that will be picked up by people looking for beef with Ames: "I think it’s real easy sometimes as a young player to start feeling like maybe you’ve accomplished something or you have arrived, and we went through that after the Iowa State game. The goal around here is not to be 2-0, it’s not to beat Iowa State."
  • The rest of that quote, which is what every Iowa fan should want to hear: "Just like the goal is not to come close with Penn State. We expect to beat Penn State, and that was the comment in the meeting room afterwards. I told those guys, was anybody here surprised when we were in the football game in the fourth quarter despite our best efforts offensively to not be in the football game? Was anybody surprised? And the answer was no, and of course it’s not. We expect to win the football games we play."
  • Epenesa is moving toward being a three-down defensive end; Iowa is going to rotate four ends up front, and Phil makes it sound like it's becoming less situational as the season progresses.
  • Looks like it's Snyder and Hooker at safety going forward, with Taylor ready when needed.  "We’ve got three good guys that can play there, maybe four, so I’m very comfortable with the guys where we’re at right now, but obviously I think Hooker has definitely earned some playing time."
  • Phil was surprisingly critical of Josh Jackson, though it felt more motivational than anything sinister: "I still think he has a lot more upside than how he’s playing now. I think maybe towards last week, I think he played okay. I think he’s been playing well, but I think he can even play better for what he has."  Parker cited the Barkley touchdown run, where Jackson lost him on the perimeter, as an area where improvement is needed.
  • The Phil quote to end all Phil quotes: "Well, you’re never happy. There’s not a game that you go through and say, hey, we played well."
  • No, wait, THIS is the Phil quote to end all Phil quotes: "We’re not a big pressure team."  He says Iowa usually blitzes 17 to 19 percent of the time.  We're at about 10 percent this season.

Look, Phil's gonna Phil, and there's not much there to read.  But I would recommend the entirety of Brian's transcript to everyone.  The dude can talk, and there's not much of a filter.  As Doc wrote yesterday, while Iowa's running scheme remains Kirk's baby, the passing game has gotten back to its roots and built on throws over the middle of the field.  If you're interested in offensive strategy, you can find a lot in Brian's comments.

State of the Union

We're sports-centric here, and we don't usually get too deep into the greater politics of the University of Iowa.  Then again, the politics of the University of Iowa increasingly intersect with sports.

Take, for instance, the fact that UI Athletics is now considered a bona fide annual revenue source for the University at large:

A new financial contribution that the University of Iowa Athletics Department made to support the wider UI mission in the 2017 and 2018 budget years presages a long-term commitment, UI President Bruce Harreld said Thursday.

The institution sees a continued revenue sharing that goes beyond the Athletics Department’s past contributions to the university’s bottom line that have included purchasing services like parking, police and health care.

“It’s going to be baked in for the long-term,” Harreld said in an interview after delivering a “state of the campus” speech to Iowa City’s Noon Rotary Club.

Reporting in recent weeks has confirmed what everyone basically knew when he was hired: Harreld was cherry-picked from industry by the Board of Regents to create alternate methods of funding the University's mission so that the Regents could avoid difficult requests to the legislature.  Beyond tuition and fees (where Harreld is proposing a rather steep seven percent annual increase over the next five years), there aren't many sources for revenue at UI.  Obviously, the biggest money machine is UI Hospitals and Clinics, and he's been active there.  But athletics is increasingly a part of that puzzle, what with Big Ten revenues skyrocketing and facilities projects maxed out.  In the meantime, it should also keep the legislature off the University's back enough to avoid some of its worst ideas, like sending some of that money to Cedar Falls to fund dome maintenance.

I'm too far removed from the University to know whether the worst things portended by Harreld's appointment have come true -- from afar, it looks far more like he's disinterested in bread-and-butter undergraduate liberal arts education than actively working to undermine it, but I could certainly be wrong about that (on either side) -- but in a world where we can't pay players and instead surround them with money, handing a portion of that back to the University upon which the entire enterprise is built seems smart.

Not so smart?  Basically admitting that you go soft on employees during annual reviews and actively work to subvert Freedom of Information laws:

The University of Iowa is “a little sloppy about (its) performance evaluations,” president Bruce Harreld said Thursday while making his first public comments about the settlement of two discrimination lawsuits last spring.

“We’re not direct enough and we don’t document enough,” Harreld said at the monthly meeting of the Presidential Committee on Athletics, which includes faculty and sports staff.

“There’s a culture of disconnect here, which is we’re living in the public world where actually all tend to say, ‘I’ve got to be careful about what I put on paper,’ even though many of these employee-related issues (aren’t subject to public-records requests). But our behavior is not to document.”

So this is where they're headed with the Barta inquisition (and before I go any further, give it hell, Gary).  Jane Meyer won her case because the criticism of a string of coaches didn't match up with what was on paper.  Kirk Ferentz can testify about fights over dioramas for days on end, but it didn't change the fact that Meyer's performance reviews painted her as an excellent administrator right up to the point where her partner got fired.  Couple that with UI Athletics' obsessive need to avoid putting anything in writing in order to avoid disclosure of any detail through FOIA, and you get a recipe for losing a discrimination lawsuit, because there is nothing to refute your own performance evaluations.  It wasn't discrimination.  It just looked like it because we were really nice beforehand.

There's another side to that coin, though.  If Iowa Athletics, and the University in general, has nothing to hide, there is no reason not to put everything in writing.  And if the complaints voiced by that string of coaches at trial were true, there was no reason they should have been omitted from the documentary record unless the UI was actively working to conceal even the smallest of issues from the public (especially since, as Harreld says, employee reviews aren't subject to FOIA request).  To overgeneralize, not putting things in writing to keep them private is what guilty people do.

The thing that ties these two issues together is the guy talking about them: Harreld, who we learned in recent weeks was secretly brought to secret meetings with secret members of the Board of Secret Regents so that they could secretly woo him to take the job before holding a sham interview process.  Bruce Rastetter, who orchestrated the entire hiring, testified under oath that he intentionally set up the meetings in small groups to subvert open meeting laws and used private email so that he wouldn't have to retain those messages for potential disclosure.  For Harreld, a product of a culture of hiding the ball, to now decry Iowa's ability to hide the ball, is irony too rich for human consumption.

Odds and Ends

Josey Jewell is an ESPN midseason All-American.  Saquon Barkley and Wisconsin tackle David Edwards are the only other Big Ten representatives.

My mom taught me that, if I can't say anything nice, don't say anything, so: Jon Crispin is a Big Ten Network basketball analyst.  He thinks Iowa will be entertaining this year.  That is all I will say about Jon Crispin.

Leistikow dives into the Illinois film to examine the first career start of freshman tackle Tristan Wirfs.  Brian Ferentz said Wednesday that he had only two bad plays, which is good.  I think he was older than most of the guys he was blocking against the Illini though.

We're going to examine the medical redshirt rule later this week, but this deserves a thinking man emoji:

Brian Ferentz didn't sound optimistic about his return, so this could be an option if, you know, he wants to spend six years in college.  And James, if you're reading this, and you're considering graduating and moving on with your life, one word of advice:

And finally, BHGP has the excellent story of a group of Wisconsin fans who stopped in Iowa City on their way to Lincoln for the Badgers' beatdown of Nebraska and bought some tickets to the Iowa-Illinois game just to participate in The Wave.  Which reminds me: Donate to Touchdowns for Kids when you have a chance.

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