As for college football — well, I’ve never played — as my friend Buzz at the New Moon restaurant in Nevada City jokes when I express praise about my nephew’s role as starting quarterback at Iowa State. No, Buzz, I joke back, half of being a quarterback is “above the neck,” not your frame below it. And we do discuss that.
Today Iowa State beat Tulsa (a regular in post-season bowls) in its opener. My nephew Steele and his team did a stellar job. Next week, my wife is going back to Iowa City to watch the intra-state rivalry between Iowa State and Iowa. We’ll all go out for the Texas Tech game two weeks later.
My observations about this weekend’s game, however, is about the coaching, not the players. When you get inside the sausage factory of college sports, it’s about both.
I’ve already admired the style of Iowa State’s new offensive coordinator, Courtney Messingham.
Messingham is in his fourth season on the Iowa State coaching staff and his first year as the Cyclones’ offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. In business, we call people like Courtney “player-coaches,” because they understand what it’s like to be a coach — but also a player.
We used that term at our internet startup CNET in the ’90s, observing that “hands off” managers aren’t much help (except to pay for a round of drinks of Fridays). CNET later was sold to CBS.
Unlike many offensive coordinators, Courtney walks the sidelines with the players — he is not holed up in a sound booth upstairs. When I watched Courtney “high-five” Steele on the sidelines after a well-executed drive in the fourth quarter, I knew this was going to be a productive season.
(And, truth be told, as his Uncle, I know Steele responds to this kind of reinforcement more than “command and control.” I guess that’s what makes California different from the Midwest, though I respect and have lived in both regions. I graduated from Northwestern University with a master’s degree in ’82.)
When I watched Iowa State’s Head Coach Paul Rhoads shake Courtney’s hand immediately after the game ended, I knew that this team had clicked.
I’m looking forward to this year’s season. This was Iowa State’s toughest home opener in years, but the conference games are going to be much tougher. Working together, however, is the first step.
(Photo credit: Des Moines Register)
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