The year comes to an end with two football coaches squarely on the hot seat. The Iowa Hawkeyes head back to Florida to play Tennessee in the Taxslayer Bowl in Jacksonville on January 2.
A win over the 6-6 Volunteers certainly won’t make the season, but it will help alleviate some of the negativity that surrounds the program in the wake of a 7-5 regular season against a weak schedule. It was capped off by a second half collapse in an overtime loss to Nebraska and the pressure is mounting on veteran coach Kirk Ferentz.
Iowa athletics director Gary Bartz has said Ferentz will be back next year for a 17th season as the Hawkeye’s head coach, but Barta called the team’s 2014 record “unacceptable.” During a news conference earlier this month. Ferentz was asked to respond to that assessment.
“The reality of what we do is if you don’t win enough, at some point, you’ll be asked to leave. I get that and I got that a long time ago, so I’ve never worried too much about that,” Ferentz said. “We’re worried about trying to get better. That’s what we’re trying to focus on.”
Pressure is just part of the job, according to Ferentz.
“That’s just how it works. That’s how it works in sports. It was that way 50 years ago, let alone two years ago,” Ferentz said. “It all comes and goes with the territory. You can’t worry about that. What you have to worry about is what can you do to improve the team, the program, etc. That’s my job. That’s what I do.”
Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads received a vote of confidence from athletic director Jamie Pollard even though the Cyclones finished 2-10 overall and failed to win a Big 12 Conference game. It was the program’s fifth straight losing season.
“Jamie and I have a great relationship,” Rhoades says. “That doesn’t mean he’ll keep me if I keep losing. It’s not that kind of relationship. This is a business world. We all get that. My plan is to win in 2015 and not have to be worrying about that.”
Rhoads is confident better days are ahead for the program.
“We’re going to be a better football team, simply stated, because we’re going to have more experience. We’re going to be physically more developed. We’ve got some key playmakers coming back. We’ve got an understanding of an offense two years running,” Rhoads says. “There are a lot of things that are in our favor as we go towards 2015.”
Iowa State has jokingly been referred to as Transfer U. but it is a recipe that has paid off for Cyclone basketball coach Fred Hoiberg. The Cyclones made it to the “Sweet 16” of the NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual national champion Connecticut 81-76 in New York City.
“They do such a good job of getting the ball in the right guy’s hands, either Boatright or Napier, where those guys are so tough,” Hoiberg said. “And, again, they shoot the ball at an extremely high clip. To make almost 40 percent of your threes, a lot of that has to do with the great actions that Kevin runs for those playmakers.”
The U-Conn guard combination of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright combined to score 35 points in the win.
“Two excellent basketball players, two guys that love having the ball in their hands at clutch time,” Hoiberg said after the loss.
The Cyclones won the Big 12 Conference Tournament in Kansas City last spring and Iowa State could make another post season run this season. They are 9-1 and ranked 12th in the latest Associated Press Poll.
The Iowa Hawkeyes returned to the 2014 NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006 but. like they did during the regular season, the Hawks stumbled late in a 78-65 loss to Tennessee. Iowa was outscored 14-1 in overtime.
“Our execution was good all night. We only had six turnovers and three of them were offensive fouls, so we gave ourselves a chance,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey said after the loss. “But in the second half they got us on the glass which is always your concern when you play this team…with how they rebound the ball.”
Despite having a huge advantage in terms of depth the Hawkeyes were worn down by a Tennessee team that trailed by as many as 12 points in the opening half.
“They’re a hard team to guard, especially when they start making jumpers,” McCaffrey said. “…that says a lot when you think of the league we play in.”
Des Moines has finally landed the NCAA mens’ basketball tournament. The NCAA announced in November that Wells Fargo Arena will host first and second round games in 2016.
“It’s unreal when we heard today that we were selected,” Iowa Events Center general manager Chris Connolly said. “There’s a feeling of joy and then numbness…We’ve made a lot of adjustments since the last time we bid on NCAA Men’s Basketball second and third round and I think those adjustments paid off.”