Well, here we are. It’s WRNL’s 5th Anniversary this week. For those of you who may remember, WRNL’s first real piece of public exposure came from a fake Craigslist Ad about a 150 year old Land Grant institution that was seeking a stable athletic conference. The madness of conference realignment provided a perfect platform to get our fledgling half-drunken idea of an irreverent ISU themed blog off the ground and into the public consciousness. It’s funny to look back on the fury, confusion, and general helplessness of those days and chuckle. From a financial standpoint, ISU and the Big 12 walked away from the precipice of death with a massive new TV deal, and a few new friends (‘sup Riot Bros!). Crisis was, for the time, averted.
Funny to find us here, on 5 years after that fateful spring staring down the barrel of yet another ISU athletic crisis – HoiWatch ’15.
As even the most casual fans among us know, rumors have been flying wildly about Fred Hoiberg leaving ISU for the Chicago Bulls. Of course, there are all sorts of technicalities still in play, such as the fact that the Bulls haven’t fired their current coach, a good week after the season has ended. Or that Fred Hoiberg hasn’t said a word one way or the other about his professional status, as he’s coming off open heart surgery. But his silence has spoken volumes.
Now, we aren’t in position to break anything officially yet, but pretty much anyone with any kind of connection to ISU is hearing things that the Mayor is as good as gone, and this has naturally ignited a meltdown in the ISU fanbase. The meltdown is being countered by people trying to tell other people how to react to emotional news by saying things like "be happy for him" or "Fred Hoiberg doesn’t owe this university a damn thing". I first heard the belief he would be gone from someone that I trust on Saturday morning, and it felt like a punch to the gut as I woke up. I’ll be honest, I was livid. I was mad at Fred. I was pissed at the universe. I couldn’t fathom how someone who loved ISU as much as Fred does could leave ISU at such a critical juncture for our program. Indeed, this is a year that could cement our status as one of the Top 15 programs in college basketball, or mark our high water line. "How could he do this?" was a refrain in my head.
Well, I hate to break it to you guys, but one thing is clear – Fred Hoiberg probably doesn’t love ISU as much as you do.
Back in the spring of 2010, when Jamie Pollard hired a guy who hadn’t even coached his kid’s youth basketball teams to be the head of the ISU program, it was partially sold by the idea that this guy bled cardinal and gold in a way that you could only dream of. From being a child hood ball boy at Hilton, to a star player at Ames High, and four memorable years of Big 8 play and some of the hallmark moments of Hilton Magic, nobody embodied ISU basketball like Fred "The Mayor" Hoiberg. While there was a huge risk of hiring a guy with zero experience, if he was able to win, he’d stick around and turn ISU into a true power. After all, we’re talking about The Mayor. Mr. Iowa State himself.
And here - after a run that included back-to-back Big 12 Tournament Titles, four NCAA tournament berths, a Sweet Sixteen berth, and a bunch of wins over ranked opponents - we are. Fred Hoiberg is all but gone. With his best team coming back. For an opportunity that will likely be there as long as he wants it.
As fans, it’s hard to look at this and understand what Hoiberg is thinking. It’s safe to say that we would all relish the opportunity to turn ISU into an elite program while making millions of dollars in the process. We’re fans. We love ISU to an unhealthy degree. This is what we were told we were getting with Hoiberg. A guy who loved this place as much as we do, and would relish the opportunity to win here, and would stick with us long enough to achieve those things.
Here’s the thing though. Fred Hoiberg isn’t a fan. He’s a coach, and he’s a damn good one. He’s going to be in high demand, and he’s going to continue to have success in this profession. And he doesn’t love ISU enough to stay here when there are higher profile jobs at the next level for him to conquer.
Fred Hoiberg is a brilliant man. He knows exactly what his leaving ISU will do to this fanbase, and the potential harm it could do to the program he’s resurrected over the past 5 years. He knows that if he leaves at this point, a stigma will develop that no one worth a damn wants to stay at ISU. And he’s going to do it anyway. That’s just not how you treat something that you "love more than anyone else" (not Fred's own words, but the way the local media has spoken about him and ISU). That really only leaves one conclusion to take away – it just doesn’t rank as high to him as it does to you.
Now, I’m not saying Fred Hoiberg doesn’t care about ISU. He clearly enjoyed his time here in Ames, and he always speaks well of the community. He’s proud to be a Cyclone, and an alum of this university. Although it will crush me to see him do what he’s about to do to this fanbase, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s a good man, father, and husband. The world could use more guys like Fred Hoiberg. But when the rubber meets the road, he’s not a Cyclone fan the way you are, or I am, and the sooner you accept that the idea we were sold on was based on a false premise, the easier the current reality is to accept and move forward from.
As much as it sucks, we simply aren’t meant to have good things for a long period of time. Crises will befall us. Life as a Cyclone fan is going to suck more often than it won’t. Accept the things you can’t change and make peace with them.
Il Maiori, Pacem