"There’s great talent in this state. If we could just get the top ones to stay home we could compete with anybody. It would be a team of great state pride." - Frank Burns, introductory press conference.
Last week's coinflip hullabaloo was a monumental development for more reasons than just the obvious appeal of the story. I can understand why Kirk Ferentz criticized Ka'Lial Glaud; New Jersey has been very, very good to Iowa over the years. Glaud's other finalist was West Virginia, but Iowa had been considered a very strong contender for his services. (With this post, I also wanted to expound on a tangent from the Wisconsin post today.)
Iowa has a lot going for it; it's a nice school with great fans. So it pains me to say this, but: I hate their undemocratic primary caucuses, United States agribusiness, and that the Hawkeyes have had so much success with with players from the tri-state area. Putting aside Nolan MacMillan (a Canadian who went to prep school in New Jersey), Glaud's coin flip may represent the sunset of Iowa's efforts to lure away the region's top talent. Glaud's uncle is LeRoy Smith, who was an All-American for the Hawkeyes nearly two decades ago. Glaud's contact at Iowa was Darrell Wilson, the former head coach at Woodrow Wilson HS in Camden, who is connected as anyone in southern New Jersey. If that combination couldn't bring a player like Glaud to Iowa, it's hard to say what can.
That Burns quote that I brought up, that's been the mantra at Rutgers forever. Sleeping giant, if only they could all stay home, etc... Events can have unexpected repercussions years down the line. Glen Mason went to Ohio State in the sixties, and ended up being a thorn in RU's side for decades. A similar case would be the tale of one Bernie Wyatt, a Long Islander who went to Iowa in the late fifties, and later returned as an assistant coach. I can understand why a New Jerseyan would be enticed by schools like Notre Dame, Penn State, or Syracuse, especially before Rutgers committed to its football program. Intuitively, the culture shock from going all the way from New Jersey to Iowa City seems like a much larger stumbling block.
How exactly did Hayden Fry and the Hawkeyes do it? Fry was savvy enough to keep Wyatt on board after taking the reins. Well, more accurately, Wyatt with an assist from Frank Verducci later on. Wyatt was able to lure the likes of Andre Tippett from Newark to Iowa City. More soon followed, including LeRoy Smith, and current UVA assistant Bob Diaco. When former Iowa assistant Barry Alvarez landed the Wisconsin job in 1990, Wyatt came along. Those Badger teams were built with talent from New Jersey and New York.
Rutgers finally getting its act together is part of the conclusion to this story, but it isn't the entirety of it. Wyatt retired in 2000, and his colleague John Palermo was out the door as well following Alvarez's retirement. Verducci left for the NFL after Kirk Ferentz took over at Iowa, and is only now returning to the college ranks at Notre Dame. Bielema has chosen to forego the Northeast entirely; Iowa still makes a go at it, but for a well-respected head coach like Ferentz to lash out at an eighteen year-old at a press conference is quite telling. It's not just about "kids these days", it's not even about Glaud staying home, because he would have otherwise been a Mountaineer. It's really that those years of fruitful mining have seemingly come to a close.