BLUM: Enough was Enough


Forty-eight hours after the Jamie Pollard press-conference and controversy continues to boil. The Des Moines Register reported on Monday afternoon that Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby informed Jamie Pollard that the replay official on duty for the Iowa State-Oklahoma State was in fact correct in overturning the goal-line stand decision.

What followed was a public reprimand and a fine to Pollard from the Big 12 with Bowlsby saying in a release, "Mr. Pollard’s public statements called into question the integrity and competence of game officials and the Conference’s officiating program. To insinuate that games are called unfairly to negatively impact a program is irresponsible and completely baseless."

The Big 12 did what they had to do. The $25,000 fine is believed to be the largest fine ever doled out by the conference.

Pollard countered with his own apologetic statement, "Although on Saturday I felt the need to defend our players and our institution, Dr. Leath and I recognize that our decision to have me do so publicly was in violation of the conference’s sportsmanship guidelines and we accept the Commissioner’s punishment.  Furthermore, I apologize for implying that Iowa State University’s vote against the addition of an eighth official at a conference meeting in 2013 impacted game officiating. It was inappropriate for me to do so. We are committed to working with the Big 12 Conference in the appropriate manner moving forward."

If there was ever such a thing as $25,000 well spent, this was it.

Anyone that has kindly read my nonsense over the last few years realizes I love officials and absolutely loathe officiating conspiracies. To outsiders and most media members, Pollard’s presser probably came off as petulant and whiny. Little, old Iowa State blaming someone else for another loss. When I first heard Pollard was going to address the media regarding the officials, my gut reaction was, "Oh no, this won’t end well."

Then I actually listened to what he said.

While I felt Pollard’s implication in the presser that he and Rhoads voting against the eighth official impacted game officiating was a bit "tin-foil-hat" for my tastes, the rest of the message struck a chord. That presser wasn’t about unearthing some Big 12 conspiracy against Iowa State or even blaming the loss on the goal-line call. This was about the leader of the Iowa State athletic department standing up and saying in front of the world that this institution isn’t going to idly stand by and nod along to another apology letter. Enough was enough.  

Fred Hoiberg and Pollard stayed quiet with the botched Kansas non-call back in 2013 and didn’t raise a public peep. Rhoads raised his voice a few octaves following the game-changing Texas strip fumble last October. Pollard was silent. And previously this season, Iowa State was again publically silent when the K-State game replay official was admonished for failing to hit a buzzer on a potential game-changing chain of events. All situations were tough to swallow, but the Cyclones trudged along in the back-channels taking their medicine hoping something would eventually break their way.

After a brilliant defensive first half on the road at a place they hadn’t won since 2000, the Cyclones made what appeared to be a momentum changing stop to keep the game tied. As you are aware, the replay official thought the evidence was indisputable enough to overturn, much to the chagrin of Cyclone players, staff, fans and most people with two eyes. As the great Eric Heft pointed out on the Cyclone Radio Network, "If that was indisputable evidence, then I am indisputably the President of the United States."

Eric Heft is not the President.

It was another gut shot for a program that is operating with the thinnest margins of error to begin with. Perhaps Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor can overcome this type of  "officiating adversity," but right now, Iowa State can’t. Take that for what it is; that decision had an impact on the rest of the game. And Pollard felt the urge to speak up. He was going to fight for his coaches and the players wearing the Cardinal and Gold. He was speaking up for all of Cyclone Nation, "I hear you and I’m going to say something because I care."

Part of being a leader is representing your followers best interests publically. Yes, Pollard could have sat back and cashed another Big 12 check while Iowa State coaches and players waffled in frustration. Not doing anything is always the easy thing to do. Instead, Pollard stuck his neck out and risked making himself look like a fool to a national audience. Leading means showing support when nobody else will. I guarantee the players, coaches and any staff member at Iowa State appreciated the comments and grinded a bit harder today knowing they have a man at the top that will fight for them.

Pollard is not a run-of-the-mill athletic director; he is more like Mark Cuban than an empty suit. He is as competitive as anyone you will meet and not shy to rattle a few cages. He is exactly what Iowa State needs and Saturday’s presser is the perfect illustration of that. The man will not settle for secondary status, plain and simple.  Passive AD’s don’t mount billboards to poke their biggest rival. The Cyclones needed that bravado and still do. When the BCS realignment fiasco torched the college athletics earth in 2010, Pollard’s competitiveness was a big reason the Cyclones stayed afloat. He wasn’t going to sit idly and settle for the Big East or Mountain West.

The Pollard presser reminded me of a stance Mark Mangino took in 2004 while the head coach of Kansas. Leading 7th ranked Texas 23-20 with three minutes left, a first down would have salted the game away for Kansas and knock Texas out of the BCS race. But an egregious offensive pass interference call stopped the KU drive, the Jayhawks punted and Texas scored to win the game.

Mangino was ticked afterwards saying in regards to the penalty, "You know what this is all about, don’t ya? That’s right BCS. Dollar signs." Mangino added emphatically, "I’m not going to be pushed around or this University pushed around because we aren’t the big BCS team."

At the time, I thought Mangino had lost his mind. There is no such thing as a conspiracy, just make a play and it doesn’t matter; what a loon. It turns out that outburst from Mangino was setting a foundation for future success. He wasn’t going to settle just because they are lovable old Kansas. Two seasons later, Kansas won 12 games.

Much like Mangino’s KU squad in 2004, Iowa State isn’t going to settle into being the meek victim. It was time for the leader of the department to raise a voice, regardless of the validity or perceived "baseless-ness".

Money well spent Mr. Pollard. You may be mocked, laughed at and publicly reprimanded, but now more than ever, Cyclone Nation is happy to have you. You’ve got their back.