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Iowa football has poached MAC in recruiting, pounded it on field
Iowa will pay Kent State $1.85 million to take a beating Saturday
IOWA CITY — Iowa’s last football game against a Mid-American Conference team was in 2019 when it beat Miami (Ohio), 38-14.
I’d have to use a search engine to get details. And I was there.
The Hawkeyes are 24-4 all-time against MAC teams, and none of the losses came in seasons Iowa had a particularly good club.
Kent State comes to Kinnick Stadium Saturday, and the Golden Flashes aren’t bad. But they aren’t a Big Ten team. Their 41-10 loss at Texas A&M on Sept. 4 was a tight game for a half, then it was a rout. This is how it goes.
Nearly all the games Iowa has played against MAC teams have been on the Kinnick field. A level playing field, it isn’t.
Yet, these games are played for two reasons. One, Kent State will receive $1.85 million from Iowa to show up. Two, Iowa gets one of the seven home games it insists upon each year for its own big money, and it gets a win.
All the major-conference teams do it. You schedule nonconference home games against teams that have the decks stacked against them, and everyone in the Power Five conferences have inflated records come December.
Sure, there are occasional upsets. Mostly, though, the big fish eat and the little fish take home paychecks big enough to help sustain their athletic programs.
This is college football, folks. The NFL doesn’t have the Philadelphia Eagles play home games against the Pottstown Firebirds and Scranton Miners.
The law-of-the-jungle stuff extends to recruiting. Iowa, like pretty much all major-conference teams, doesn’t take verbal commitments to Kent State as binding. If Iowa decides a future Golden Flash would make a good future Hawkeye, the player will decommit from Kent State in, well, a Flash.
“I've joked about that a lot of times with our staff,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday. “We waste a lot of time recruiting. We should wait till the MAC schools get their guys lined up and go poach.
“I say it half-jokingly, but that's how fine a line it is in recruiting, too. What you can't measure a lot of times are intangibles with players.“
Perhaps you remember Geno Stone. He was a pretty salty strong safety at Iowa from 2017 to 2019 before entering the NFL draft. He originally committed to Kent State.
"I want to thank the staff at Kent State for everything and (am) thankful for the opportunity to play at the school," Stone said in a statement after switching from the Golden Flashes to the Hawkeyes. "But after talking with my family and friends I decided it's the best thing for me to decommit from Kent State and pursue my dreams at the University of Iowa."
Desmond King, another Iowa defensive back of renown, verbally committed to Ball State of the MAC. All of King’s scholarship offers were from MAC schools.
Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker, who has consistently mined Michigan for talent in his 23 seasons with the Hawkeyes, paid attention. King became a Hawkeye.
There have been so many other Hawkeyes who either had verbally committed to a MAC team or had their best offers from that league. Then came Iowa.
Current Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta would have gone to Bowling Green had Iowa not entered the picture. Quarterback Joey Labas was a Ball State commitment in May 2020. The next month, he was on his way to the Hawkeyes.
Bob Sanders is one of Iowa’s all-time greats. The 5-foot-8 safety was verbally committed to the MAC’s Ohio. Erie Cathedral Prep assistant coach Joe Moore, Ferentz’s mentor, called Ferentz and told him Sanders would be a great college player. More than any other player, Sanders transformed Ferentz’s program.
Charlie Jones, who did so much for the Hawkeyes as a receiver and kick returner against Iowa State last Saturday, played the one season at Buffalo of the MAC and scored three touchdowns before transferring to Iowa.
“I just want to play against the best of the best every week,” Jones said Tuesday. “The Big Ten does that every week. I want to play against the best competition to be able to showcase myself.”
Iowa will probably beat Kent State Saturday by 38-14 or something similar. You “poach” recruits from smaller programs. Then you pay them to come to your campus and take a beating.
Then we pretend it means something.
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