IOWA CITY — To hear a lot of people tell it this week, Gary Dolphin isn’t just the Voice of the Hawkeyes, but he’s suddenly the Voice of Unvarnished Truth, and The Man is holding him down.
Here, in Dolphin’s 22nd year of radio play-by-play with University of Iowa athletics, I had believed Dolphin was like virtually every other radio voice employed by a university athletics program or a professional team. His job was to call games as best he could, and be state media for the boss.
That’s not an insult or a criticism. The Vikings or Cubs or Cyclones or Hawkeyes don’t hire radio announcers to rip them when things aren’t going well. You may not be under orders to coat tough times with sugar, but you aren’t supposed to pour on salt, either.
Dolphin’s job is to be Emcee Guy and Coaches’ TV Show Guy and the guy who does 10-minute interviews about the Hawkeyes on sports radio shows from Dubuque to Ashtabula. His job is to be It’s Great To Be a Hawkeye Guy, and it’s one he has done happily for those 22 years.
Now, however, he also is known for remarks he made when he thought his microphone was off, and the remarks weren’t the least bit flattering to Iowa men’s basketball.
They came Tuesday night at halftime of the Pittsburgh-Iowa game, and they cast aspersions on Fran McCaffery’s recruiting in general and Hawkeye guard Maishe Dailey in specific.
My emails, tweets and in-person contact with people tell me Dolphin’s comments were not only tolerated by many Hawkeye fans, but were appreciated. Thursday morning, a stranger wearing a UNI sweatshirt walked up to me to say “I don’t think Gary Dolphin should have suspended two games.”
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Which he was, for Friday night’s home game against Wisconsin and Iowa’s game at Michigan State next Monday.
Whether you agree with the comments or think they’re a million miles off base, they weren’t remarks Dolphin would have made had he known he still was on the air.
But as many a radio vet will tell you, never assume a microphone isn’t on.
Microphones take many forms. I caught myself reminding myself to lower my voice in a restaurant talking Hawkeye football with a friend over lunch a few weeks ago. It was someone I was comfortable talking with, and when some of us are comfortable we get bolder with our opinions. Being bolder usually doesn’t equate with being more accurate.
Dolphin said things in a conversation with a trusted friend and colleague that he would never dreamed of saying publicly. He apologized for it during the second half and after the game. An apology alone obviously won’t cut it from Iowa’s end, even if a lot of the fan base believes it should.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but this story quickly evolved into how Iowa has responded to the situation. “Not great” is again the short answer.
Instead of a one-day story, it’s a multiple-days story. A statement by Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta was handed to the media immediately after McCaffery’s postgame press conference Tuesday informing us he was aware of the broadcast team’s comments and would evaluate the situation. Story.
Wednesday night came the news of the two-game suspension. Story. The story within that story was the line in the news release citing “some ongoing tensions that have built up over the past couple of years.” Yowsah.
Barta wasn’t present Thursday at McCaffery’s previously scheduled press conference. Iowa assistant athletic director Steve Roe said Barta will meet with reporters before Friday’s game. Again, story.
But McCaffery addressed the matter head-on.
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“I was disappointed in those comments,” he said. “When one of our own attacks one of our players the way he did, it’s inexcusable.
“It’s over, we dealt with it, and we’re moving on.”
Uhhh, we’ll see. “Everyone lived happily ever after” seems like a conclusion that will take some major reconciliation for this story to reach.
McCaffery said he spoke to Dailey regarding Dolphin’s comment about the junior guard.
“It was incredibly unfair,” said McCaffery. “The kid has played extremely well for us. Plays hard. He’s a good person, didn’t deserve it.
“But he’s also a young guy with tremendous character. So I’ve been really impressed with him. Always have been.”
McCaffery was asked about the “ongoing tensions” in Wednesday night’s announcement about Dolphin’s suspension.
“I think it’s fairly well-known we’ve had some issues,” was the coach’s reply, though that may be news to many.
“We’ve gotten along fine. I’m disappointed in him, but we’ve gotten along fine.”
At least no one can say Hawkeyes men’s basketball isn’t more interesting this season. Oh, there’s a big game Friday night, too.
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