The Twins Are the Surprise of Baseball – How?

A 9 game losing streak to start the season. 103 losses overall, the most losses in team history. 2016 was as ugly as Twins fans have ever seen. It cost general manager Terry Ryan his job. With a win yesterday in Baltimore, the Twins moved to 25-18 on the year and remained at the top of the American League Central. A season ago, the Twins didn’t win their 25th game until June 28th to move to 25-51. Without making wholesale changes, this has the look of a real Major League Baseball team. How have they got here? 2 big reasons:

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Improved Defense

Last year the Twins made the disastrous decision to try and play Miguel Sano, their promising young third basemen, in right field. Sano was a disaster out there. No surprise. Robbie Grossman was brought in after being waived from Cleveland and proved to not measure up as a fielder as he does as a batsman. Trevor Plouffe and Danny Santana added to the defensive issues. Many questions remained coming into the year on the defense for the Twins, especially on the left side of the infield with Sano at 3rd and Jorge Polanco at shortstop. Polanco has been much better than expected and Sano hasn’t been quite as bad as many thought. But the biggest step forward for been in the outfield. With uber-prospect Byron Buxton patrolling center field and plus defenders Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario in Right and Left field respectively, this defense has been able to track down balls that were doubles a season ago.

Pitch Framing

Jason Castro was targeted early in free agency from the new front office of the Twins with Derek Falvey and Tadd Levine. They signed him to a 3 year deal for $24.5 million. Many scratched their head about  the signing of a guy that looked like he would hit .220 with 10-12 home runs. Castro’s real impact comes in his handling of the pitching staff and most importantly, pitch framing. Castro has excelled for years at “stealing” strikes. Why does that matter? Let’s look at the difference between a hitter in a 1-2 count as opposed to a 2-1 count. Batters hit .167 in a 1-2 count, .327 in a 2-1 count according to a 2014 Grantland article from Joe Lemire.

So the question now becomes, can the Twins keep up at this pace and be a contender come September? The young players still have room for growth, Jose Berrios is showing immense promise, Byron Buxton is starting to come around with the bat to go along with his outstanding defense and the bullpen has been incredibly solid on the back end. The good news is this isn’t just a team where everybody is hot over a certain stretch. It has been a team effort. We’ve seen plenty of hot starts fade out in baseball. Many believe that this team will be similar. Something tells me they’ll be hanging around longer than many in baseball think.


Trent Condon provides updates and commentary for the Marty and Miller TV program. You can watch “Marty & Miller” Weekdays from 3:00-6:00 on Mediacom 22 and stream at or by downloading the “Marty & Miller” app. Trent also hosts “Jimmy B & TC” weekdays from 12:00-3:00 on 1700 KBGG.

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Iowa State Basketball – Updated Roster Check

With 4 open scholarships coming into the spring signing period, it was expected to be a wild ride to see what the roster would look like for Iowa State basketball. Some crazy twists and turns have left the Iowa State with more open scholarships still to give and many people scratching their heads.

Michael Jacobson, formerly of Nebraska, is the latest to make his commitment to Iowa State. He joins Marial Shayok from Virginia as sit out transfers for next year. 5th year grad transfers Jeff Beverly from Texas San Antonio and Hans Brase of Princeton will be eligible to play right away next season.

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All told, pretty standard. But during this time ISU has lost out on 2 scholarship players that will look for new opportunities. That’s where some of the craziness comes in. First, Ray Kosongo asked for his release after sitting out last season as a transfer from Tennessee. Then, news Friday came out that one of 3 incoming freshmen, Darius McNeill has asked out of his letter of intent, just weeks before he was set to arrive on campus. With the news and with Iowa State expected to let McNeill out of his letter of intent, Iowa State still has 2 scholarships available to give for next year. The prevailing notion is that they are looking to add another guard, preferably a scoring guard. Perhaps they will find a 5th year grad transfer or a JUCO player to fit that bill.

Here is the roster as it looks today without McNeill:

Seniors: Donovan Jackson (G), Hans Brase (F), Jeff Beverly (F)

Juniors: Nick Weiler-Babb (G/F)

Sophomores: Soloman Young (C), Jakolby Long (G)

Freshmen: Cameron Lard (F), Lindell Wigginton (G), Terrance Lewis (F),

Sit out transfer: Marial Shayok (Senior in 2018-19), Michael Jacobson (Junior in 2018-19)

Open Scholarships: (2)


Trent Condon provides updates and commentary for the Marty and Miller TV program. You can watch “Marty & Miller” Weekdays from 3:00-6:00 on Mediacom 22 and stream at or by downloading the “Marty & Miller” app. Trent also hosts “Jimmy B & TC” weekdays from 12:00-3:00 on 1700 KBGG.

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2017 CIML Baseball Preview – Iowa Division

By: Trent Condon

Last year the CIML’s run of 5 straight state championships was ended as Cedar Rapids Prairie brought home the hardware. As always, it looks to be another outstanding year across the league. Today we look at the Iowa Division with predictions on where each team will finish.

 #1 Johnston (29-10 Last season, Lost to Waukee 4-3 in State Tournament) 

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Injuries derailed pitcher Jack Dreyer a year ago, limiting him to just 3 starts. With a healthy Dreyer, a Iowa baseball commit, the Dragons are one of the favorites to bring home to the 2017 4A title. Sophomore Peyton Williams has already committed to the Hawkeyes as well and put up monster numbers last year as a freshman, hitting .365 with 26 RBI. Also back for the Dragons are Derek Hackman (.344, 1 HR, 26 RBI), Drew Beazley (.296, 26 RBI, 7 SB) and Andrew Nord (.307, 1 HR, 20 RBI, 10 SB). The pitching staff will be deep with Dreyer, Andrew Zimmerman, a South Dakota State commit, Drew Beazley and Nathan Buckallew. Head Coach Michael Barta has another state title contender on his hands.

Image result for jack dreyer johnston Dragon lefty Jack Dreyer

#2 Dowling Catholic (30-11 Last season, lost to Ottumwa in Substate 3-2) 

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Head Coach Mark Roering might have his best team in his tenure at Dowling Catholic. The Maroons welcome back 6 starters including Ben Probst, who recently changed his college commitment from Nebraska to Iowa. Probst struck out 45 batters last year in 44 innings and opponents his .192 against him. The offense will be lead by SS Sam Olson (.331, 17 RBI), RF Peyton Krugler (.342, 1 HR, 31 RBI), C Lyle Fini (.322, 2 HR, 17 RBI), LF Rob McCargar (.292, 2 HR, 21 RBI) and Cole Coffin (.369, 9 RBI, 6 SB). Plenty of arms will be available to Roering along with Probst including Colin Lacey (4-0, 2.54, 44K) Mitch Goff,  Luke Yacinich and Cody Veach. Another title contender from the Iowa division.

Image result for ben probst iowa Ben Probst

#3 Mason City (25-17 Last season, lost to Cedar Falls 4-2 in Substate)

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A year ago the Mohawks didn’t have a senior on the roster. Plenty of talent returns this season for Troy Rood. Seniors Mac Skogen (.367, 20 RBI, 19 SB), Hunter Dingman (.380, 2 HR, 28 RBI) Carson Parker (.331, 1 HR, 18 RBI, 21 SB), Weston Schultz (.301, 1 HR 27 RBI, 9 SB) and Trey Wiegmann (.291, 1 HR, 33 RBI). Zach Hendrickson (5-4, 3.02, 50 K/27BB) and Kyle Lang (6-2, 1.81, 30 K/14BB) expect to anchor a deep staff. Expect the Mohawks to be a tough out this season and have a chance to make a run to the state tournament.

Dingman, Merrill Hunter Dingman from the Globe Gazette

#4 Urbandale (29-11 Last season, lost to Des Moines Roosevelt 11-3 in State Tournament)

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One of the top programs year in and year out is the J-Hawks. Jeremy Heinen has done a good job replacing legendary head coach Denny Barton and brings back two-way player Brock Skoog, Nate Stolze, Michael Van Riessen and Carter Troncin. The pitching is expected to be solid once again this season, the question is if the bats will be able to generate enough offense to compete with Johnston and Dowling at the top of the division.

Image result for Brock Skoog baseball From Des Moines Register

#5 Marshalltown (21-20 Last season, lost to Cedar Falls 2-1 in Substate) 

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A young group made some strides last season and have a chance to make a run this year. Juniors Kody Ricken (.354, 4 HR, 25 RBI) and Nate Vance (.325, 15 RBI, 21 SB) along with sophomore Dru Dobbins (.337, 1 HR, 23 RBI) will lead the offense. Vance is also the top returning pitcher for the Bobcats (6-2, 2.12, 37 K/17 BB). The division will be much tougher for Marshalltown this season, but they’ll have talent to compete.

Photo Credit: Vance Photography

#6 Fort Dodge (20-23 Last season, Lost to Johnston 8-1 in Substate)

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The Dodgers lose a lot from last season with a solid group of seniors. Sophomore Drake Miller (.333, 19 RBI) and junior Damond Lockner (.282, 1 HR, 19 RBI, 7 SB) are back and look to lead Fort Dodge. The pitching staff has plenty of questions as well. This is not the division to play in when you’re in the midst of a rebuild.



2017 CIML Baseball Preview – Central Division

By: Trent Condon

Last year the CIML’s run of 5 straight state championships was ended as Cedar Rapids Prairie brought home the hardware. As always, it looks to be another outstanding year across the league. Today we look at the Central Division with predictions on where each team will finish.

Jake Gilbert via the Des Moines Register

#1 Ankeny Centennial (22-17 Last season, lost to Ankeny 7-6 in Substate)

A year ago the Jaguars were cruising around at 19-8 and had the look of a team that could make a run to state. The wheels fell off as Centennial lost 9 of 11 down the stretch including getting upset for cross town rival Ankeny in Substate. A big group of juniors saw action last year for the Jags and look to make a move up the standings. 17 seniors and 13 letterwinners are part of this group including catcher Brenden Kuehl (.301, 22 RBI), 1B Jake Gilbert (.301, 4 HR, 20 RBI) SS Jacob Wilson (.278, 5 SB) and outfielders Alex Kopriva (.246, 2 HR, 14 RBI), Dawson DeAngelo (.218, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 9 SB) and Jordan Wilson (.263, 14 RBI, 4 SB). The staff is also experienced with Cam Cowan, Ethan Chips, Reed Pegram, AJ Pierce, Michael Van der Heyden and Gilbert. With the experience and top end pitching, the Jaguars are my pick to take home the division crown.

Valley senior Will Rodruck

#2 West Des Moines Valley (25-11 Last season, lost to Council Bluffs Lewis Central in Substate 8-7)

It looks to be a new look Tigers this year as Valley will look to replace 5 starters and their top 3 pitchers. Head Coach Ryan Cooley also is working on some new philosophies in hitting and pitching. The Tigers will welcome back junior Jevon Mason (.374, 1 HR, 18 RBI, 11 SB) who will patrol center field and is joined by returning senior starters 1B Cole Pederson (.338, 16 RBI), OF Will Rodruck (.348, 3 HR, 21 RBI) and catcher Jacob Morris (.375, 11 RBI). Sam Rogers and Rodruck saw plenty of action on the mound last season and will anchor the staff for 2017.  It looks to be another good year for Valley baseball.

Fisher Henderson via Ginnie Coleman Photography

#3 Waukee (31-12 Last season, lost to Cedar Rapids Prairie 4-3 in State semifinals)

Dave Dirkx’s Warriors put together another great season a year ago, knocking off Johnston in the state tournament before falling to the eventual state champion, Cedar Rapids Prairie in the semis. Waukee welcomes back Fischer Henderson (.313, 1 HR, 27 RBI), AJ Shaw (.327, 17 RBI) & Calvin Smith (.260, 1 HR) and look to have a strong rotation lead by Shaw and lefties Smith and Ross Hingst. If the Warriors can find some offense, this has the look of a team that will be a tough out again in 2017.

Cole Hassman via The Des Moines Register

#4 Southeast Polk (33-9 Last season, lost in Substate Finals to Des Moines Roosevelt 10-1)

After winning back to back state championships in 2014 & 2015, it looked as though Southeast Polk was primed to make another run last year, but were upset at home by Des Moines Roosevelt in the Substate Finals. It will be a new look squad for the Rams in 2017 as they lose 17 seniors that were a big part of the success over the past 3 years. First basemen Cole Hassman returns for his senior season after hitting .338 last year with 3 home runs and 40 RBI. Chase Wheeldon also returns as a starter behind the plate. Aaron Lang had a good year as a sophomore (5-1, 2.66 ERA, 29/12 K/BB) and looks to build as an upperclassman along with another junior, Joe Bagley (4-0, 0.88 ERA, 17/7 K/BB). Look for this squad to look better in July than they will in late May.

Jayden Maifeld

#5 Ankeny (14-24 Last season, lost to Des Moines Roosevelt 2-1 in Substate Semifinals)

The Hawks made their season last year after they upended their Ankeny brethren, Centennial, to kick off Substate play before losing a tough 2-1 decision to state qualifier Roosevelt. The Hawks will face a tough division and welcome back juniors Drew Hill (.242, 17 RBI, 8 SB) and Jayden Maifeld (.275, 8 RBI). Ankeny is going to have to see improvements from the rotation in order to move up the pecking order. Nick Hayden, Matt Wiedmier and Jayden Maifeld will look to get first crack at starting games for head coach Joe Balvanz.

Ethan Hahn

#6 Ames (8-23 Last season, lost to Johnston 10-0 in Substate)

Head Coach Eric Bappe has a rebuild on his hands up in Ames. The Little Cyclones return a solid core of hitters in seniors Eric Steyer (.355, 7 RBI), Ethan Hahn (.358, 10 RBI) & junior Tynan Shahidi (.265, 13 RBI). Pitching looks to be the biggest concern again for the Little Cyclones and the shift in divisions will prove to be difficult this year.

Image result for google play apple storeCatch High School baseball all season long on the “Marty & Miller” sports network. Trent Condon will provide play by play for the Central Iowa Game of the Week. You can listen to the games at or by downloading the “Marty & Miller” app through Google Play or the Apple Store.

The Ever Changing Cyclone Basketball Roster

By: Trent Condon

After another successful year, culminating with a Big 12 Tournament title and NCAA Tournament appearance, Iowa State has a year of retooling to their basketball roster. Departing seniors Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long, Deonte Burton and Matt Thomas leave a roster in a state of flux.

Iowa State came into the spring signing period with 4 open scholarships. They went hard after JUCO All American Shakur Juiston (committed to UNLV), JUCO guard Daryl Edwards (LSU), 5th year grad transfer Elijah Brown (Oregon) and transfer Ed Morrow (Marquette). After missing on these top targets, they zeroed in and received commitments from Marial Shayok, a sit out transfer from Virginia along with 5th year grad transfers Jeff Beverly from Texas San Antonio and Hans Brase of Princeton.

Image result for hans brase Hans Brase

Another scholarship became available yesterday when it was announced that Ray Kasongo, a transfer from Tennessee that sat out last season, would be leaving the program.

As it currently sits, Iowa State still has 2 scholarships available. Head Coach Steve Prohm has shown his willingness to continue to look at the transfer market. The guess here is that they will look for another transfer to come in and be eligible to play next season. Along with the aforementioned transfers, the Cyclones will bring in a freshman class that includes 5* Guard Lindell Wigginton along with small forward Terrance Lewis and guard Darius McNeil.

Lindell Wigginton shoots a game against Tennessee Prep Academy during the Marshall County Hoopfest (Photo: Jim Brown, USA TODAY Sports)  (Lindell Wigginton, Photo: Jim Brown, USA TODAY Sports)

Here is the roster as of today:

Seniors: Donovan Jackson (G), Hans Brase (F), Jeff Beverly (F)

Juniors: Nick Weiler-Babb (G/F)

Sophomores: Soloman Young (C), Jakolby Long (G)

Freshmen: Cameron Lard (F), Lindell Wigginton (G), Terrance Lewis (F), Darius McNeil (G)

Sit out transfer: Marial Shayok (Senior in 2018-19)

Open Scholarships: (2)

Plenty of pressure will be on the newcomers to produce at a high level early. Lindell Wigginton finished as the leading scorer at Oak Hill Academy and saw his star rise with strong performances late in the season. He’ll share the point guard responsibilities with senior Donovan Jackson and they will play together a lot. 5th year grad transfer from mid-major schools have been a mixed bag for Iowa State.  Darrell Bowie and Merrill Holden didn’t produce at the level many expected last year for ISU. The hope is that Beverly and Brase can provide some scoring pop for the front court. What kind of leap can Nick Weiler-Babb have after shaking the rust off last season? And the greatest unknown; what will Cameron Lard be for Iowa State.

Image result for cameron lard Cameron Lard from the Iowa State Daily

It will be a new look team in 2017-18. Steve Prohm has brought in plenty of talent and the middle of the pack appears to be open in the Big 12 next year after Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas and TCU. Can the newcomers come together early enough to get enough wins in the non conference? And what will the expectations be in the fan base after 6 consecutive NCAA Tournament bids? Plenty of questions to ponder this summer.

Trent Condon provides updates and commentary for the Marty and Miller TV program. You can watch “Marty & Miller” Weekdays from 3:00-6:00 on Mediacom 22 and stream at or by downloading the “Marty & Miller” app. Trent also hosts “Jimmy B & TC” weekdays from 12:00-3:00 on 1700 KBGG.

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Iowa Wide Receiver Group Dealt Another Blow

On Friday, the University of Iowa announced that wide receiver Jerminic Smith was no longer part of the football program. Back before the open practice in West Des Moines, it was announced that Smith would not be going through spring drills to work on academics. It appears that respite didn’t help.

The wide receiver position was already incredibly thin. This adds another major blow. Smith had 23 catches for 314 yards and 2 touchdowns a year ago and had a breakout game as a freshman when he caught 4 passes for 118 yards against Illinois. Going into his junior season, much was expected for Smith in a depleted group. The questions grow about the group going forward.

Image result for jerminic smith iowaReese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The only scholarship wide receiver that has caught a pass at the D-1 level is Matt Vandeberg. He was injured a year ago during practice after the Rutgers game with a foot injury. The injury returned and he needed another surgery during the spring. The question remains if Vandeberg will be able to recapture the speed and route running needed to be as productive as he was before the foot injuries.

Image result for matt vandeberg iowa Matt Vandeberg, via The Gazette

After Vandeberg, walk on Ronald Nash is the only wide receiver to catch a pass in an Iowa uniform. Devonte Young played last season as a true freshman, but didn’t catch a pass. Nick Easley is a walk on that is on the spring two-deeps, but is moving in from Iowa Western Community College.

It may be a season where freshman are relied upon at a big level. In the past, Iowa has had some success with freshman including James Cleveland and Dominique Douglas. Iowa is going to have to find some players that can contribute early out of a freshman group that includes Brandon Smith (6’3 198 lb, Lake Cormorant, MS), Max Cooper (6′, 175, Waukesha, WI), Henry Marchese (6’3, 190 Lincolnshire, IL), Ihmir Smith Marsette (6’2, 175 Newark, NJ) & Trey Creamer (6′, 175 Cartersville, GA).

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To compound the issues, Iowa will be looking at a new starting quarterback in 2017. Nathan Stanley was thought to have a leg up heading into spring practice, but it appears to be a 2 man race with him and Tyler Wiegers. Iowa is also installing a new offense with their new offensive coordinator, Brian Ferentz. Add it all together and the concerns on who will be catching the football next year are big.

brian-ferentz-kirk-ferentz-0109.jpgUSA Today

Catch the “Hawkeye Swarm” with Marty Tirrell, Dr. Steven Fuller and Trent Condon during the 5:00 o’clock hour on the Marty & Miller program on Mediacom 22. You can watch “Marty & Miller” each weekday from 3:00 – 6:00 pm on Mediacom and stream the show at or on the “Marty & Miller” app.


Next Year’s Big Ten Basketball Schedule Craziness

By: Trent Condon

In November of 2012, it was reported that Maryland and Rutgers would be joining the Big Ten, making the conference 14 members. Neither brought much to the table in terms of football prestige, but they did add value in terms of revenue with the New York City and Washington, DC television markets. The Big Ten, in conjunction with the Big Ten Network (BTN) wanted to get the network into those markets on the basic cable/satellite packages. In those terms, mission accomplished. But in order to appease these new members and grow the advertising for BTN, the conference has made moves towards the east. Last season the conference basketball tournament was in Washington, DC and next year they will play the tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York.

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A few issues have arisen because of the move next season to MSG. The first is the timing of tournament. Because the Big East still controls the building the week before the NCAA Tournament, the Big Ten will have to play their tournament a week earlier. That means that they will be playing their conference tournament during the same time as the Missouri Valley, MAC and Horizon leagues. It also means that teams will be off for as much as 2 weeks before they play their 1st game in the NCAA Tournament. You have to assume that coaches won’t be excited about trying to shake the rust off in the opening round of the Big Dance.

Another problem that has come up is the regular season schedule for 2017-18. With a week chopped off the schedule because of the early start of the conference tournament, the Big Ten had to find a way to get the 18 game schedule in. Rob Dauster of NBC Sports has an article talking about what the Big Ten will do.

The league will play 2 conference games during the 1st weekend of December. Teams will play one home conference game and one road game. The games will be played either Friday/Sunday or Saturday/Monday. Dauster said, “during the final week of November and the first week of December — which will be three weeks after the start of college basketball season and upwards of a month before any other high-major conference starts their league play — the Big Ten will force teams to play one of their most important non-conference games AND their first two league games within the span of six or seven days.”

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The Big Ten is giving up being the lead in to the NCAA Tournament selection show, putting teams at a disadvantage with a long lay off before the Tournament and putting 3 big games early in the season all to get the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden. Everything is for sale. As always, just follow the money for the real reasons for these crazy moves.


Trent Condon provides updates and commentary for the Marty and Miller TV program. You can watch “Marty & Miller” Weekdays from 3:00-6:00 on Mediacom 22 and stream at Trent also hosts “Jimmy B & TC” weekdays from 12:00-3:00 on 1700 KBGG.

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Missouri Valley Conference Expansion

A month ago Missouri Valley Conference member Wichita State announced that they were leaving the conference after 72 years to join the American Athletic Conference. It’s the 2nd big blow to the conference after the loss of Creighton to the Big East 4 years ago. Wichita and Creighton are national basketball brands that brought a level of prestige to the conference that can’t be replaced. After the loss of Creighton, the MVC brought in Loyola of Chicago. It appears that the conference is looking to add Valparaiso.

Valpo brings basketball pedigree and have made the NCAA Tournament 9 times since 1996. In 1998, Bryce Drew hit a buzzer beater to knock out Ole Miss as the Crusaders advanced to the Sweet 16. The Crusaders play in the Athletics-Recreation Center, with a capacity of 5,432. It has a fan base that is known to travel well, something sorely needed after losing the fan bases of Creighton and Wichita. With the conference still holding their conference tournament in St. Louis, they need a fan base that will make the trip each year.

Murray State is another program that is hoping for an invite from the MVC. Other programs mentioned include Nebraska-Omaha, UW-Milwaukee, Missouri-Kansas City, Belmont, Oral Roberts, North Dakota State and South Dakota State. It appears that Doug Elgin would like to keep the conference at 10 members. I believe when you look at a program continuing to build, North Dakota State makes a lot of sense. It has a fan base that travels. In football, 10s of thousands of people have flocked to Texas for the national championship game yearly. When they played Kansas in Minneapolis in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, many thought they outdrew the Jayhawk fans. It is a growing fan base, that is willing to travel. It is a school that has an endowment of $138 million. And the oil boom in North Dakota has given many disposable income.

An expansion to 12 teams make sense. You’re cutting the revenue pie a couple of extra ways, but growing the conference is important with these defections. I’d propose a 2 division line up, playing your division mates in home in homes in basketball while playing the other division teams with 3 single plays and 3 more home and homes. That is 19 conference games.

North Division




* North Dakota State

Northern Iowa

* Valpo

South Division


Illinois State

Indiana State

Missouri State

* Murray State

Southern Illinois


Iowa Spring Game – What to watch for

Tonight at Kinnick Stadium the Iowa football team will finish up their spring practice with a game in front of their home crowd. It has been an uneven spring camp for the Hawkeyes as injuries have slowed the progress of some areas. Iowa is also installing a new offense with offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz taking the reigns in year 1. Here are 3 things to watch for if you’re making your way to Kinnick tonight. The game begins at 7:00 and will be available on BTN on tape delay at 8:30.

  1. Who’s the quarterback?

Coming into the spring, Kirk Ferentz said that they would be having an open competition. Many believed that was only window dressing. After Nathan Stanley came in as a true freshman and beat out Tyler Wiegers for the back up spot, it seemed inevitable that Stanley would be the guy for 2017. That hasn’t been the case and Kirk Ferentz said this Wednesday, “It’s really close right now, and I see this thing going into camp, probably midway into camp before we have to make a decision. But if we had to do it right now, we’d be throwing darts.”

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2. What is happening at safety? 

Before the open practice at Valley Stadium 2 weeks ago, it was announced that starting free safety Brandon Snyder had been lost with a torn ACL. Snyder came on last season and the year went on and combined physicality and know how to the position. With Synder out, is it as simple as moving Jake Gervase in as he was the back up? Keep an eye on Amani Hooker, the sophomore out of Brooklyn Park, MN. He has been somebody that has been getting praise inside the program, he may be making the move over. And can Miles Taylor bounce back after a rough 2016? Bad angles, missed tackles and blown assignments hurt him last year. As a senior, the time is now.

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3. Catch the Ball!

After the injury to Matt VandeBerg last season, the Iowa wide receiver corp saw some rough outings. A mixture of an offensive system that didn’t work with the Iowa run game created an ugly situation. The Hawkeyes are currently down to 2 scholarship wide receivers going through spring practice, Adrian Falconer and Devonte Young. Nick Easley has been gaining love from the coaches. The walk on from Newton caught 72 passes for 954 yards and 7 scores a year ago for Iowa Western in the JUCO ranks. He’ll be needed.

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The freshman won’t be on campus until this summer, but they’ll be needed. The good news is that the tight end position appears to be stacked. From blocking tight ends (Peter Pekar, Nate Wieting) to athletic mismatches (Noah Fant, TJ Hockenson, Shawn Beyer) along with Dowling Catholic product Jon Wisnieski trying to get on the field after having injuries hamper him during his seasons in Iowa City and a young man making a move to the position where his dad was an All American (Drew Cook). Lots of weapons, different styles, can Iowa utilize them correctly?

The Future of the Iowa/Iowa State Football Rivalry

Earlier this week, the University of Iowa and Iowa State University announced an extension to their football series that will continue the annual game through the 2023 football season. The Hawkeyes and Cyclones have played annually since 1977. It will be 46 years of continual games when this version of the contract finishes. The question becomes what is the future of the rivalry?

Both Iowa State in the Big 12 and now Iowa in the Big Ten play 9 conference games annually. With a 12 game football schedule, this makes it difficult to have much wiggle room for other non-conference games away from the home stadium if you’d like to play 7 home games a season. Iowa athletic director Gary Barta has maintained that Iowa needs to play those 7 games in Kinnick Stadium each season for the athletic budget. Another reason is the impact to the Iowa City/Coralville region and the local businesses. Iowa can afford to have a year where they only play 6 home games. According to the USA Today database, Iowa brought in $105,969,545 in revenue in the 2014-15 school year. The local business aspect is where the money is difficult to monetize. Iowa State has done things differently and have played only 6 home games, including this season. If Iowa State can get away with it, certainly Iowa can with a larger revenue stream.

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The landscape of college sports continues to evolve and what it will look like in 2024 is nearly impossible to understand. Who would have thought that Xavier and Creighton would be part of the Big East? That Rutgers and Maryland would be members of the Big Ten? What we do know is that the grant of rights for the Big 12 will be up in 2025 and the Big Ten TV deal will finish in 2023. The Big Ten could make a move towards Texas, Oklahoma and/or Kansas at that time to get to 16 members. If that’s the case, what does it mean for the Big 12 and more importantly for Iowa State? That has to be a huge concern going forward for the Cyclone side.

But back to this series, as it is currently constructed. I propose a 2 year hiatus from the series after the completetion of the 2023 year. After 2 years off the schedule, Iowa and Iowa State sign a 4 year deal to play annually again, then another 2 years off. This allows the freedom for both schools to either find a home and home series with another Power 5 program, find a neutral site game to play or just schedule another “buy” for their home schedule. The series doesn’t go away, it just has breaks.

In Central Iowa, their isn’t anything bigger on the sports landscape than the Cy-Hawk game. It gets week long build up, it is THE topic for the whole week. But that isn’t the case in Eastern Iowa. I lived in Eastern Iowa for 7 years and though it is still a rivalry, it doesn’t burn as hot over there. It’s the reality of the situation. Another reality is that Iowa State has been hugely successful over Iowa over the past 2 decades. Without that aspect, I don’t think you’d see the same number of Iowa fans hoping to move away from the series.

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Their are many moving parts that will decide what the future of this rivalry is. If Iowa can build momentum to become a bigger national brand, they could decide it’s time to move away from the series completely. What is conference expansion pillages the heavyweights from the Big 12? Would a home and home series make sense with a school that is no longer in a “major” conference? Does Matt Campbell turn Iowa State into a consistent winner that has a bigger national profile and has the game gain more national prominence? These are questions to ponder going forward. What we do know if the game will go on for 7 more years. From there, it’s anybodies guess.