YOU'RE THE WIRFS
Everyone acknowledges that A.J. Epenesa is (1) probably the best defensive end in the Big Ten despite never having actually started a game, and (2) a legitimate top 10 draft pick in April, should he choose to leave early. This will obviously be an important season for Epenesa's NFL future, but there is ample confidence in his ability to play as an every-down defensive end.
Two articles from this week, however, suggest he might not even be the first Hawkeye taken next spring. The Athletic ($) ranks Tristan Wirfs as the top NFL-ready tackle in the nation entering the 2019 campaign:
Wirfs not only has the physical traits that NFL teams covet but also understands the mechanics of the position. He is quick to strike and reset mid-kickslide, using his hands like weapons to protect his chest and keep rushers at bay. Wirfs’ coordination at the point of attack is especially impressive, as he uses his wide range of skills to finish.
This was backed up by some dude that apparently writes about the Draft:
ICYMI: I ranked my top-5 OTs for the 2020 NFL Draft— AJ Schulte (@AJDraftScout) August 13, 2019
1. Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
2. Andrew Thomas, Georgia
3. Lucas Niang, TCU
4. Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame
5. Jedrick Wills, Alabama
Full explanation, as well as other OT talk:https://t.co/CQMoL102kO
If Wirfs and Epenesa were to go in the top 15, it would be the first time in program history that two Hawkeyes went that high in the same draft. If someone else were to sneak into the first round, Iowa would have three first-rounders for the first time since 1986.
Which brings us to the must-read article of the week: Marc Morehouse's epic on Tristan Wirfs. It's spread over six articles (so far; they're still rolling this out all week), totaling damn near 20,000 words, and covering everything from the Tristan Wirfs origin story to his family to the wiffle ball diamond where he played first base as a kid. Read it. Read it all. It's well worth it.
FOSTER THE PEOPLE
Oskaloosa center Xavier Foster, the top basketball recruit in Iowa for 2020, released his final five potential schools: Iowa, ISU, Baylor, Providence and Virginia Tech. The list isn't that surprising, at least not for the first three programs. Not sure where the Providence thing comes from, and Virginia Tech didn't offer him a scholarship until July.
This is hardly a slam dunk for Iowa. Both ISU and Baylor have recruited him hard, and the late inclusions -- particularly Virginia Tech -- show he's not exactly sold on the three frontrunners. But the concern for two years has been that Kansas/Kentucky/Duke/UNC would get in the game and pull Foster away. That is apparently not going to happen. Iowa has tried to play in that pool before with mixed-at-best results. An intrastate recruiting battle with Steve Prohm is certainly more winnable than a feud with John Calipari.
MONEY RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME
This chart sums up everything that is wrong with college athletics at the moment:
In FY18, NCAA Division I public schools' spending on compensation for administrators and support staff surpassed their spending on scholarships for the first time: https://t.co/sxuEL41DSL pic.twitter.com/aD23QcNVYV— Steve Berkowitz (@ByBerkowitz) August 12, 2019
Division I public schools now spend more money paying administrators than "paying" players. Those same schools have paid more to coaches than they have funded in scholarships since 2005. By way of comparison, the NFL pays just over $6 billion to its players and an estimated three percent of that to coaches and administrative staff.
We're running out of things to spend all the money on. First it was higher salaries for coaches in the revenue sports. When it became politically untenable to continue increasing those salaries, focus shifted to facilities. That arms race continues to this day, while we also have greatly increased salaries to revenue assistants. Now salaries in non-revenue sports are exploding:
USA TODAY Sports examined the total compensation each of the Power Five public schools reported paying head coaches in 23 sports other than football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball in 2013 and 2018. Including salaries, benefits and bonuses, the combined compensation for those coaches grew by about 43% over that time.
The rate of increase those schools reported for their football head coaches over that time was almost 51%.
Meanwhile, Alabama's stadium lights are now LEDs that can change color:
LSU just built a $28 million football locker room. Because when you can't pay the players, you have to surround them with money instead.
I know plenty of non-revenue coaches. They work hard, and they deserve their salaries just as much as any revenue coach. But doesn't this all feel a little absurd, when universities spending tens of millions of dollars on facility upgrades and coaching salaries claim they can't afford to pay players for generating the income that funds those upgrades and keeps those coaches employed? And if we're not going to pay players because it would defeat the academic mission of collegiate sports, shouldn't we be funneling that money back into the universities that ostensibly support the on-field product? The NCAA model simply isn't built for this kind of free money, and the obvious hypocrisy at its heart needs to be corrected.
ELSEWHERE AROUND THE MAJORS
Tyler Cook signed a two-way contract with the Denver Nuggets yesterday, after nine appearances for Denver's summer league team last month. A two-way contract entitles the team to use the player on either the main squad or G-League team. Denver doesn't have a G-League affiliate, so Cook will presumably spend significant time with the Nuggets.
In other, non-Wirfs player profile news:
- Dochterman goes in-depth on Tyler Linderbaum ($, but seriously, The Athletic is killing it on Hawkeye stuff right now), the converted defensive lineman who is about to become Iowa's first freshman center since 2006.
- Doc also goes behind the scenes on the transfer of Oliver Martin and the non-transfer of Daviyon Nixon.
- Mark Emmert profiles transfer defensive end Zach VanValkenburg, who is probably the best option as an every-down defensive end should a starter get knocked out, and will then become a diplomat in Eastern Europe.
Epenesa gonna get 15 sacks. Y'know, for the children:
Former Hawkeye Jake Adams has been promoted to the Astros' double-A affiliate in Corpus Christi, where he has immediately made his presence known by nearly killing children via the longball:
Northwestern and Wisconsin have alternate uniforms for their game on September 28. They're Horace E. Cow's best work yet.
And finally, unlicensed Iowa-ish Bud Light cans are back, for those who want their open container ticket to have a consistent color mosaic.
Bud Light unveils college themed cans: Alabama, Virginia Tech, LSU, Texas A&M, Texas Tech & Iowa. LSU is only school that approved logo on can and packaging. pic.twitter.com/RF9vQfCnlV— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) August 13, 2019