Hy-Vee/Big Four Farce Killed By Napolean

Hot Beef Take

This is probably the hardest article I’ve maybe ever written. And it’s not because I don’t have an opinion, anyone who knows me, knows that I have an opinion on just about everything. It’s because I don’t really know where to start.

Anybody living in the state of Iowa, who’s not been sleeping or under a rock, knows that the Iowa Hawkeyes pulled out of the Hy-Vee/Big Four Classic on Thursday, ending almost all men’s basketball interaction among the four Division I schools after December 2018. On top of that, they also pulled out of the summer Prime Time League, an organized scrimmage league featuring both Iowa Hawkeye and Northern Iowa Panther players. Why would the Hawkeyes do this?

The company’s answer(from Iowa): “We had language in the contract that any school could opt out of the contract if their conference, in this case the Big Ten, forced them into 22 regular season games.” — Gary Barta.

The real answer: Iowa has a Napoleon complex and think they’re a bigger program than they are. And most of this stems from head coach Fran McCaffery. A head coach who believes he’s better than he is, and more importantly, those around him are not. Iowa has had a long history with this Napoleon complex, complaining about not being included in the discussion for national accolades or more lucrative positions in multiple sports. And a lot of this comes from reaction to the school’s also long tradition of weak scheduling. This was never more evident the last couple of years when the program was called out by national radio and television host, Colin Cowherd.

In December, 2011, Iowa lost the final game they ever played in the McLeod Center. A 20-point thrashing by the home Panthers, a game where Fran McCaffery was given a couple of technical fouls and run from the game. Soon afterward, McCaffery vowed that he’d never coach another game at McLeod. And somehow, he made that happen. He was able to twist Iowa AD Gary Barta’s position, to get out of the traditional on campus games with Northern Iowa and Drake, along with the standard non-conference game with Iowa State. The Hy-Vee/Big Four Classic was born out of this new situation. Iowa and Iowa State would play only one of the two Division I Missouri Conference teams annually on an alternating yearly basis.

As part of a McCaffery press conference later on, he said he didn’t see the old format coming back, saying that they would see how the new Classic worked out. He also stated that Iowa couldn’t go back to playing both Northern Iowa and Drake in the same season because Iowa was looking for national showcase-type games. Games in which they could better promote Iowa basketball as a national brand.

Really?

Let’s see who Iowa has scheduled as non-conference opponents since blowing up the on-campus series of games. This won’t include games forced by the Big Ten. That means the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Gavitt Games with a Big East opponent, Iowa State or any holiday tournament games are not included. This will leave JUST the games that Iowa elected to put on their schedule. These teams will also include that team’s RPI Ranking for that year.

2012-13

  • Texas-Rio Grand Valley(transition), Central Michigan(268), Howard(334), Gardner-Webb(196), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi(321), South Dakota(239), South Carolina State(342), Coppin State(315).
  • Average: 288

2013-14

  • UNC-Wilmington(278), Omaha(214), Maryland-Eastern Shore(348), Abilene Christian(transition), Pennsylvania(287), Fairleigh Dickinson(270), Arkansas-Pine Bluff(265).
  • Average: 277

2014-15

  • Hampton(255), North Dakota State(98), Pepperdine(134), Northern Illinois(185), Longwood(316), Maryland-Baltimore County(344), Alcorn State(348), North Florida(165).
  • Average: 231

2015-16

  • Gardner-Webb(216), Coppin State(327), Missouri-Kansas City(285), Western Illinois(258), Tennessee Tech(134).
  • Average: 244

2016-17

  • Kennesaw State(261), Savannah State(283), Texas-Rio Grand Valley(317), Omaha(139), Stetson(329), North Dakota(144), Delaware State(334).
  • Average: 258

2017-18

  • Chicago State(333), Alabama State(329), Grambling State(264), Southern(312), Southern Utah(249), Colorado(75), Northern Illinois(236).
  • Average: 257
  • Six-Year Average: 259

Their average SELECTED opponent for a non-conference game has averaged a 259 RPI over the last six years. For reference, #259 last season was Norfolk State. The Hornets were the fourth best team in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in 2017-18. A team that finished 13-17 overall, but 11-5 in conference. However, that was the #31 rated conference, out of 32, last year. Nine of their conference brethren finished between 285 and 347, out of 351. So you know Norfolk State only got to 13-17 because they were playing team even worse than they were. That tells you the kind of opponents Iowa would rather play. Because, by their own admission, they’re looking for national spotlight games and don’t have space in their schedule to play Northern Iowa and Drake.

Really?

I understand they’re going to be playing 20 Big Ten games in the future. And that’s a lot to take on. Nobody would be upset with Iowa, okay, nobody would be AS upset with Iowa, if they were honest and said, “We want home games against winnable teams, even if they’re cupcakes, because we already have all these Big Ten games to play.” But when Iowa comes out and says they want home games and the revenue, it’s all a lie there too. What kind of crowds could they expect to continue to draw with opponents like Savannah State, Coppin State or Arkansas-Pine Bluff? Not very good. How many more fans would they get by playing Drake? It would be a good bump. How about Northern Iowa? An even bigger bump. And Iowa would perhaps consider it, if they didn’t have to return the duty and play in the McLeod or the Knapp Centers.

Even if Iowa agreed to a two-for-one, it wouldn’t be in the best interest of the other two, especially Northern Iowa. Even though Iowa is from one of the NCAA’s six power conferences(ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12, SEC), they are far from a blue blood. Granted, they’re not a bottom dweller either. But don’t let Iowa’s Napoleonic propaganda fool you, they’re not Kentucky. They’re not Kansas. They’re not North Carolina, Duke, Syracuse, Villanova or Arizona. They’re a middle-ground entity. One could argue they’re as close to the elite mid-majors as they are to the blue blood power programs.

Northern Iowa is a mid-major program. Are they elite? Probably not elite. If you only consider teams not from those power six conferences, Northern Iowa is definitely behind Gonzaga, Cincinnati, Wichita State, Connecticut(despite a poor 2017-18) and, perhaps, St. Mary’s and Rhode Island. But even those last two are subjective. The elite class of mid-majors is pretty small, but Northern Iowa right in the middle of that next group as far as national recognition; Houston, Memphis, Virginia Commonwealth, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky, Loyola-Chicago, New Mexico, San Diego State, Brigham Young or New Mexico State. None of these programs should be treated as complete inferiors to anybody except the true blue bloods.

Iowa is not on that level. And even if they were close in the 80’s, that was a long time ago. They’re nowhere close now.

Shame on Gary Barta, who used to work in Northern Iowa’s athletic office. He knows, maybe knew, what these games mean to Northern Iowa and Drake. But he pulled the plug on a unique event because he doesn’t have the balls to stand up to men’s basketball coach. And this can be said with 100% certainty. How? Where did Iowa’s women’s basketball team play Northern Iowa last season? At the McLeod Center, in Cedar Falls. Who does Iowa’s wrestling program duck and refuse to compete against? Nobody. They take on all challengers, though they have had a recent reluctance to facing Northern Iowa. As far as anybody can tell, every other Iowa program has no problem competing against anybody anywhere. But the exception is made for men’s basketball?

Fran McCaffery made the declaration and it came to pass. I was unaware that he was a prophet. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give a hand to the reincarnation of Isaiah, Daniel and Moses! He won’t coach in Cedar Falls again, he said it. He got this one right. And good for him, he’s a much better prophet than he is a basketball coach. Fran McCaffery descended on the state’s Division I basketball scene like a plague and has helped to ruin a tradition in less than a decade. Suppose the basketball plague was actually Black & Gold, right?

But do you wanna know the truth about Fran McCaffery? He was a big time coach from a small time conference. His three stops before Iowa, he had success. Unfortunately, the way he orchestrates his non-conference demands on Barta, he must think he’s still coaching in the ECAC, SoCon or MAAC. As far as the Big Ten goes, he’s a small fry. Even with a career losing record in Big Ten play, he seems to think his program is at an elite level. Take away those Big Ten games and he still doesn’t win two-thirds of those non-conference games filled with gooey creme filling. And that will tell you a lot, when you look at those chosen opponents from above that are almost certain locks, as poor as they are. He’s not winning a lot of anything else. In that aspect, you can understand the six to eight trips to the local cupcake store. He needs those empty calories to supply a fake energy rush for the rest of his coaching diet, which is in dire need of some insulin.

McCaffery turned his back on everyone in the Northern Iowa and Drake fan bases. And he did the same to a great number in the Iowa and Iowa State fan bases as well. Though it sounds like Iowa State is going along for the ride, with Iowa, because they seem afraid or incapable of making a decision without big brother telling them what to do. Hy-Vee, who is a tremendous sponsor of the event that was created, because of McCaffery’s insistence on a change from what was the status quo, get the rug pulled on them also.

The one guy who could have stopped all this, Gary Barta, cow-towed to his head coach. Thanks, Gary. I thank you. Hy-Vee thanks you. The basketball fans of the state of Iowa thank you.

In the end, if you think about it, everything changed on December 6, 2011. That was the day that Napoleon(Iowa) lost its Battle of Waterloo(Cedar Falls, actually). History always repeats itself.