Iowa Football

Iowa football must ward off opening-game piracy

The MAC wants to raise some black flags at big boys' expense

We’re tick-tocking toward September and college football season, and not all news right now is newsy.

But I read something interesting from last week’s media days. No, not the Big Ten’s show of military-industrial force in Chicago. Rather, the thing that grabbed me came from the Mid-American Conference’s preseason session in Detroit.

It was there that MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher declared his league’s teams and players to be “pirates.”

That’s a better sound byte than Big Ten commish Jim Delany’s saying “Our competitiveness, our rigorous scheduling approach, our collaborative network partners and their skillful production and announce teams all contributed to these remarkable results.”

Here’s what Steinbrecher said about his league:

“The Mid-American Conference and its members are the pirates of the FBS. Our ships, our stadiums are not always the largest, but we are manned by highly-motivated troops. Our players and coaches carry a chip on their shoulders to demonstrate an anywhere, anytime attitude. If respect is not freely given, we will earn it and we will take it.”

That, my friends, is great.

“In the past,” Steinbrecher said, “I have emailed a copy of the MAC Jolly Roger to schools that have won a non-conference game or a bowl game. This year, we will take that a step farther and provide a MAC Jolly Roger to each of the institutions.”

That’s a black flag with a MAC logo on top of crossbones. When any MAC football team defeats a team from a Power Five conference, it will earn the right to fly the pirate flag for the following week, presumably at its stadium.

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Now that’s what college football should be about, not highfalutin blather about network partners.

All news is local, and this angle is relevant here because Iowa’s season opener is Sept. 1 in Kinnick Stadium against the MAC’s Northern Illinois Huskies.


For those who have conveniently forgotten, NIU won in its last trip to Iowa City, 30-27 in 2013. While Iowa fans will more eagerly await September home games against Iowa State, Northern Iowa and Wisconsin, beware of the Huskies.

Like Iowa, NIU was 8-5 last year. Phil Steele, keeper of every fluttering piece of college football trivia and a lot of bigger-picture matters as well, picks the Huskies to win the MAC West this year.

Steele says NIU has the nation’s 19th-best defensive line (he has Iowa’s 20th) and 37th-best offensive line. He doesn’t include Iowa’s in his top 55, which may be a huge oversight. It had better be if the Hawkeyes are to be any good.

If NIU doesn’t upset Iowa to get to raise the pirate flag, it will get other chances Sept. 8 at home against Utah, and Sept. 22 at Florida State.

Put nothing past the Huskies. They won at Nebraska last year as 11-point underdogs. They won at Northwestern in 2014, at Minnesota in 2010, and at Purdue in 2009. Last year they lost to Boston College, Iowa’s Pinstripe Bowl foe, by a field goal.

The MAC was 4-17 against the Power Five and Notre Dame last year and was 2-7 against the Big Ten. Size matters in college football, usually.

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The potential to raise a pirate flag won’t raise the MAC’s upset potential, but it’s a fun public-relations move for a conference that already proudly owns a reputation for fun football.

The popular #MACtion hashtag has been out there for several years now. Western Michigan’s 71-68, seven-overtime win at Buffalo last year was MACtion to the seventh degree. It was ESPN’s choice for No. 13 among its top 25 games of 2017. It will be re-aired on ESPNU Tuesday afternoon.

Iowa does not want its upcoming game with NIU to land in that Top 25 this year. It does not want a black flag flying at Huskie Stadium on the night of Sept. 1. It does not want what has happened in three of its last eight games against MAC teams, a defeat.

Military-industrial complexes should defeat the Mid-American Conference. Should the Huskies pirate themselves a win at Kinnick, there can be only one logical reaction in Iowa City:

Arrr!

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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