Our deadline to wrap up The Messenger’s annual Winter Sports Preview — slated for a Nov. 29 publication — is fast approaching. We’re three short — yet, incredibly long — days away from being finished, meaning our staff will be crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s between bites of Thanksgiving dinner (actually, I think I just lost my appetite).
The 64-page guide is unmatched in this region — and all of Iowa, for that matter. We have a statistical and pictorial breakdown of 37 programs from 13 area schools, as well as comprehensive reports from the Fort Dodge Senior High and St. Edmond winter sports camps.
We made stops at Algona, Bishop Garrigan, Clarion-Goldfield, Eagle Grove, Humboldt, Manson Northwest Webster, Pocahontas Area, Prairie Valley, Rockwell City-Lytton, Southern Cal, Southeast Webster-Grand, Twin River Valley and Webster City to bring our readers a visual look at this year’s area scene. Twenty-five Messengerland schools, 71 teams and well over 1,000 athletes will be featured before all is said and done.
Southeast Webster-Grand all-state athletes Jennifer Jorgensen and Dillon Heesch are spotlighted for our cover story. The Eagle standouts agreed to meet with us earlier this month in Burnside for a photo shoot. Jennifer has an outside chance at becoming Iowa’s all-time five-player scoring queen, and Dillon is a defending state wrestling champion — not a bad return-on-investment for a school of less than 200 students.
Jorgensen and Heesch are humble, hard-working, down-to-earth kids, which made them even more of a perfect fit for our feature slot. The SW-G community should be proud of their accomplishments, and the best is yet to come.
Considering our tab was a relatively simple 24-page operation a few short years ago, we’ve obviously come a long way. The project wouldn’t be possible, though, without the help of the coaches and athletic directors in our area. Thank you for your patience and effort.
So many people provided assistance in some way shape or form, it’s impossible to list them all. Appropriately, on Thanksgiving, we salute each and every one of you. We hope the finished product will be both a point of reference and a keepsake for our tens of thousands of readers in the immediate future and beyond, and you helped make it happen.
WHERE THERE’S SMOKE... I don’t think Kirk Ferentz will leave the University of Iowa to fill Michigan’s coaching vacancy, but I will say this: it’s not out of the realm of possibility anymore.
According to two mutually exclusive media contacts I have in Michigan, Ferentz has in fact shown interest and will likely interview for the job. He was born in Royal Oak, Mich.; the woman who hired him at Iowa, Mary Sue Coleman, is now U-M’s president; and there are plenty of whispers suggesting he would be outgoing head coach Lloyd Carr’s top choice if the university should go ‘outside the family’ to make a hire.
I’m not sure how far this will actually go. Ferentz has declined to comment, which is standard operating procedure for him and shouldn’t necessarily be read the wrong way. Coaches — especially high character ones like Ferentz — rarely make in-conference moves, and there are no guarantees Michigan would match Ferentz’s current $2.8 million deal (Carr, for instance, makes about a million dollars less than that annually).
It’s still very early in the game, and the Hawkeye season may not be over yet (I’m also hearing that the Dec. 31 Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Tex. is very interested in Iowa, depending on the eligibility of other teams and BCS changes in the next 10 days). Whether Michigan’s interest in Ferentz is passing, mild or serious — and vice versa — remains to be seen.
When I first heard rumors of Carr’s pending retirement and Ferentz as a possible successor more than a year ago, I laughed it off. I’m not laughing anymore. Ferentz may very well stay in Iowa City for the rest of his coaching career, but times and people change.
So does perception.
The market-shifting raise Ferentz received after the 2004 season really put him in an awkward situation here, where expectations forever became attached to dollar signs. The fact that he’s 19-18 overall and 11-13 in the Big Ten since only makes matters worse.
Hawk fans aren’t happy. Ferentz seems worn down. This gem has lost a little of its luster, and it’s up to ‘‘the captain’’ to get that shine back.
Will he search for his second wind in Iowa City or Ann Arbor? Stay tuned.
Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at email@example.com