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Colin Cowherd vs. Kirk Ferentz, Hulk Hogan vs. Rocky

Fox Sports host takes umbrage with Iowa coach, and vice versa

Colin Cowherd pumps up the crowd at Hubbard Park on the University of Iowa campus in September 2010 when ESPN's
Colin Cowherd pumps up the crowd at Hubbard Park on the University of Iowa campus in September 2010 when ESPN's “SportsNation” was telecasted from there. (Gazette photo)

It's the Herd against the Swarm.

Before you get bent out of shape about this post, Iowa fans, I encourage you to remember an Elton John album title.

Don't shoot me, I'm only the piano player.

Colin Cowherd, the host of “The Herd” on Fox Sports Radio and a commentator on Fox Sports, recently had no kind words for Iowa's football scheduling.

Without naming Cowherd, Hawkeyes Coach Kirk Ferentz had a response at his Tuesday press conference. Wednesday on “The Herd,” Cowherd poured gas on the fire, such as it is.

Here's how it began, with Cowherd saying this on his show:

“I get these Iowa fans that are all worked up. Listen, it's all on you. You're the one who won't schedule good out-of-conference games. So stop blaming everybody. I will not move Iowa ahead of Notre Dame if Notre Dame runs the table. I don't care if Notre Dame has a 2-point loss at Clemson.

“Some Iowa meatball is 'Well, we beat Iowa State, and they beat Texas.' Yes, that's great. But when Notre Dame scheduled Texas they scheduled a program that fills the NFL full of players and is historically a 10-win program. Iowa State's historically a 6-win program.

“These Iowa fans 'Well, what's the difference between Iowa and Ohio State, I don't see any difference.' Really? Ohio State won a national title. Eighty percent of their starters return including both quarterbacks. I know who they are.

“They have a proven track record and the best coach. I'm going to give them as an undefeated team the benefit over you as an undefeated team. And I have every right to do that. How can I not consider that? Ohio State wins the title and returned all their crucial starters outside of one really, really good defensive lineman. How am I not supposed to give them a benefit over you?

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“I consider everything. I consider the last five years Ohio State has had better recruiting classes than Iowa's. That tells me they have better athletes on their roster. I absolutely consider that.

“Think about the roster of Ohio State. Ohio State's roster, 80 percent of it's back from thumping Alabama and Oregon last year. So let's look at Iowa's roster. It's filled full of guys over the last two years — let's go to last year, 7-6 and lost to Tennessee in a bowl. Their big win, and I'm not joking, over 6-7 Illinois. The year before, they were 8-5. Lost another bowl. Their big win: Over Brady Hoke Michigan. That's what this roster's full of. Guys who have gone 0-2 in bowls and in the last two years their big win before this year, Michigan Brady Hoke.

“Now this year they beat an average Wisconsin team in an ugly game which I watched. They beat Northwestern, which, that's fine, that's a nice win. They thumped 'em. But ... you find me one time in 20 years they've gotten on the phone and dialed up a Top Ten program, a Top 20. They haven't done it.

“Michigan has. Ohio State has. Iowa's a poser. They walk into the club, they're a $30,000-a-year millionaire. Look at my Corvette. It's leased. Look at my jewelry. It's fake. Look at my jeans. They're my brother's. They're the ultimate poser in a nightclub. Look at me, look at me. You make 32 grand a year. Cowboy, sit down.

“You're a poser. Michigan's not. Michigan State's not. Ohio State's not. Iowa's a poser. Give your brother his jeans back.”

 

 

So Ferentz, without being asked about any comments Cowherd or anyone else has made about Iowa's schedule, offered this on Tuesday:

“I found it interesting last week there was somebody that has had access to a microphone, who suggested we knew our schedule five years ago. I think there were 11 teams in the Big Ten five years ago if I'm not mistaken. There was no Leaders or Legends, no East or West.

“The world has changed a lot in five years. It's been a great avenue for a lot of interesting dialogue and discourse, but I think our guys are pretty much wired into what we're doing, and we'd better be because we've got a big challenge on our hands Saturday.”

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I later asked Ferentz if he would take the call if that person with the microphone phoned him to invited him onto his program.

“That's a good question. I don't know. It's kind of like that scene from Rocky, right, where — it's Hulk Hogan, right? Is that the guy? Hulk Hogan beats the crap out of Rocky for a while, and Rocky is like, what the heck. It's a game. I understand that. People that have a national mike have to make news.

“But I also say this: I really respect people that do their research, do their homework before they throw things out there, and I probably should just be quiet right now, so I will.”

 

I'm still not sure how the reference to Hulk Hogan and Rocky applied, but let's proceed. Cowherd's “Opening Rant” on his radio show today addressed Iowa.

“I look at your record, Iowa, and I see crap for 25 years. I see nothing but you getting on the phone for 25 years and dialing up Lamar, North Texas State and Panera Bread. That's your schedule.

“I don't see that with Michigan. Michigan the last 25 years has played Notre Dame 18 times. Oregon several times. Utah four times. BYU.

“By the way, I hear this excuse: 'Well, the Big Ten's changed. Our schedule's ... that's fine, it's changed. Michigan still plays great teams. ...

“You know who USC opens up with next year? Alabama. They don't have to. UCLA plays tough games. Oregon plays tough games. Historically, Washington plays tough games.

“You know who never does? Iowa.

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“You have not one time in 20 years. Kirk Ferentz hasn't once — and he's the most powerful guy in that athletic department — gotten on the phone and said 'I want to schedule a game against a Top Ten team. Not one time.”

 

Cowherd then played Ferentz's comments from Tuesday, and came back with these remarks of his own:

“No, no, we really don't. I don't have to make news. My contract's guaranteed. I don't have to make news here. I'm not paid off bonuses and surges. I'm paid because I've worked my ass off for 30 years and I do a good show. And I don't make stuff up. It's not a game to me, it's a profession.

“Is it a game to you when you schedule Lamar? (Iowa has never played Lamar in football, but let's assume Lamar represented FCS teams.) Kirk Ferentz is a good man, but I don't want to hear about 'Well, the Big 12 (he meant Big Ten) has moved and changed. So has the Pac-12, so has the Big 12.

“All these conferences, they're adding, they're subtracting, they're moving. ACC — they still play tough teams. You can give me all the excuses in the world. Ohio State, Michigan, Oklahoma, Alabama — every year — USC, UCLA, Oregon — they all get on the phone and schedule Alabama. They schedule each other. The one exception in the country, the biggest poser has been Iowa.”

 

OK, that's it. For now. The video of Cowherd's comments today is on this page.

I'm a columnist and I should probably chime in instead of just giving you he said/he said. I'll say this:

I like Cowherd, have interviewed him on the phone and in person, and he couldn't have been kinder. Also, he doesn't get where he's been and where he is if he isn't interesting. Interesting in sports talk radio often means provocative and pot-stirring. But you have to be a talented broadcaster to endure on the national stage, and he has endured.

However, this is milking an angle. He has Iowa riled up, which doesn't mean much on a national scale. But it makes for good radio for him, because a lot of people around the country see Iowa No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings and aren't thrilled about it.

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Last year, if I recall correctly, he was a staunch defender of Ohio State getting the fourth playoff spot over TCU and Baylor. They didn't care for that much in Fort Worth or Waco. Elsewhere, people nodded their head and agreed.

Cowherd isn't the first person to ask what the last regular-season nonconference game Iowa scheduled that really tripped your imagination. The Hawkeyes are committed to playing Iowa State every year, and Iowa State doesn't bring a marquee football name with it. Cowherd was generous when he called it a historical 6-win program.

After that, who? Pittsburgh? Arizona? Arizona State? Syracuse?

The point about Iowa not having a say in its Big Ten schedule is totally valid by Hawkeye people and netural observers, of course. But, here's the kicker I've been attaching to just about everything Hawkeye-related the last couple weeks:

If Iowa goes 13-0, it will have beaten someone of repute in the Big Ten title game and it will almost surely go to the playoffs without an apology required. If it loses along the way, that's that for playoff talk.

But everything said about its schedule won't impact any of it whether it's said by you, me, Colin Cowherd, or Hulk Hogan.

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