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What is Sports Information Doing to Promote Banks for Heisman?

What is Sports Information Doing to Promote Banks for Heisman?

11/12/2002 by Jon Miller of Hawkeye Nation

 

As Brad Banks continues to blaze new trails for the Iowa Hawkeyes on the football field, the Iowa Sports Information Department is also working behind the scenes.

Several Iowa fans have voiced their concerns on the HawkeyeNation.com message boards to the effect that they feel that the Iowa Sports Information Department should be doing more to promote Banks for the Heisman Trophy Award, the annual honor bestowed upon the nation’s best football player as voted on by a panel of national football experts.

Over the last several years, football fans across America have seen the great lengths that some schools have taken to promote their players for the Heisman.

Last year, Oregon paid $250,000 to construct a 100-foot by 80-foot billboard in Times Square in New York City to promote then quarterback Joey Harrington for the Heisman. He ended up finishing fourth in the balloting behind the 2001 winner, Nebraska’s Eric Crouch.

Schools send out marketing trinkets, CD ROM’s, full-color brochures and more to promote their Heisman candidates. When a player wins the Heisman Trophy, it brings a lot of attention to the University he plays for.

Iowa State didn’t blow out the budget this year when promoting quarterback Seneca Wallace for the Heisman, but they did send out some promotional materials, including a play off of Harrington’s billboard in New York.

Some creative person at Iowa State superimposed a picture of Wallace on a grain bin, the Eiffel Tower and other monuments around the world, lampooning Oregon’s excessive efforts from a year ago.

So what has Iowa done for Brad Banks in his bid to join Hawkeye legend Nile Kinnick (1939) as just the second player to win the Heisman in school history?

“We can do some things, but the best thing that he has had in his favor is that Iowa will have been on television for all 12 games this season. I think that we will end up with nine of those games having been played on national television,” said Iowa Sports Information Director Phil Haddy.

“I think there are a lot of little things that we can do. Last night (Monday, 11/11) for example, he was on ‘The Best Damn Sports Show, Period’ (Fox Sports). Kirk was on the halftime show of a Thursday Night ESPN football game a few weeks ago to talk about Iowa football and Brad.”

Banks was also interviewed on Fox Sports Radio last week.

Haddy and his staff are not going to stop there with regards to ensuring that the national media is aware of Brad’s accomplishments this season.

“We are going to send out some post cards to remind people what Brad has done this year. Those will go out to all of the Heisman voters and to all of the members of the Football Writers Association of America. It will be a post card with a nice color picture of Brad and his statistics to remind them what he has done this season..”

That might sound too simplistic for some fans, but keep in mind that the Heisman Trophy will be awarded on December 14th and the ballots are due roughly a week before. That gives the Iowa Sports Information department precious little time to coordinate the logistics behind a mailer of that size.

Haddy says that the technology of today’s world and the national exposure Iowa has been receiving makes his work different than in past years.

“It’s not like the old days where you had to send things out every week, because the fact is with him (Banks) being on national television virtually every week, the proof is in the pudding right there on what he has done.” Haddy said.

“Our job is made much easier by the fact that people like (ESPN commentators) Mark Jones, Bob Davie, Chris Spielman, Trev Alberts and all of the people on ESPN are talking about Iowa and Brad Banks on a daily basis. We have played well enough to have that be our ‘PR machine’ right there.”

“I go back to what Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz have said; the best publicity campaign that you can have is what you do on the field. But that doesn’t mean that we still won’t send out some things to remind them (the national media and Heisman voters) and that is what we intend to do.”

One of the obstacles that Haddy and his staff have been faced with is Banks’ quick ascension to being one of college football’s elite players.

“A big difference between this situation and that of Chuck Long’s Heisman campaign in 1985, is that Long went into the 1985 season as one of the top three or four favorites for the Heisman Trophy,” said Haddy, who has been a part of the Hawkeye staff in 1971 and took over as Sports Information director in 1993.

“He came back for that 5th year at Iowa to lead Iowa to the Rose Bowl, which he did. He was one of the favorites for the Heisman. Everyone had a full year to figure out what to do and what kind of campaign to run for Chuck Long.”

Long was the runner-up in the 1985 Heisman race behind Auburn’s Bo Jackson in what is still the closest Heisman vote ever. Jackson beat long by 45 points.

“In this case with Brad, Iowa didn’t know who its starting quarterback was going to be until sometime in August. This was not something that could have been expected and it has been an unbelievably pleasant surprise for everyone with the way things have turned out. We will do what we can to promote Brad with the short amount of time we have. It’s almost like throwing a cherry on top of the cake because most people do know what Brad has done.”

Haddy added that not only has Banks played consistently well, but he has done so when so many other top national players have not necessarily distanced themselves from the pack of would be Heisman hopefuls.

“One of the main reasons they (the national media and Heisman voters) know what he has done is because nobody has really stepped forward to grasp a real strong handle on this year’s Heisman. I am not saying he is the favorite, but at this point I think if nothing else, he deserves strong consideration.”

While on the topic of Heisman history, we asked Haddy if the 1997 season was similar to the Long campaign of 1985 as Iowa was touting Tim Dwight as a Heisman candidate five years ago.

“One thing that made that year (1997) so hard was that Iowa has two candidates then and you couldn’t single out Tim for being something special when you had a player like (Tavian) Banks. From Hayden’s standpoint, how do you single one of them out as the one we should pump for national honors when we had two potential all-American players?” Haddy said.

Dwight finished 7th on the 1997 Heisman ballot. Michigan’s Charles Woodson won the award that year.

Iowa is faced with a similar dilemma this year with regards to the Outland Trophy Award that goes to the best offensive lineman in the nation.

“The Outland Award has been difficult for us, because much like Tim Dwight and Tavian Banks for the Heisman in 1997, who do we single out? Kirk is cognizant of that fact and he doesn’t want to single anybody out. How can you single out any one offensive lineman when they have all done so well?”

Haddy said that Iowa is making the John Mackey voters aware of the season that Dallas Clark is having. The Mackey award goes to the best tight end in the country. They are also keeping the national media aware of the job that junior place kicker Nate Kaeding has done in his record-breaking 2002 season, as he is a serious candidate for the Lou Groza award that goes annually to the nation’s best kicker.

The activity in and around the Iowa Sports Information Department is truly a sign of the times for the Iowa Football program and its return to Big Ten and national prominence.

“We go to the coaches and get their opinions on the players who should be nominated for postseason Big Ten honors. They will only nominate players who are playing well enough to deserve merit for all Big Ten honors; those names are not just pulled out of a hat,” Haddy said.

“In Kirk’s first year at Iowa in 1999, I think we nominated three or four players for all conference consideration.”

“This year the total number of players we sent in for all-Big Ten consideration was 17.”

It should come as no surprise that a team ranked in the Top five nationally should be using words like Heisman, Mackey, Groza or Outland, but the ultimate goals are still of the ‘on the field’ variety, something Haddy was quick to point out.

“We (the Sports Information Department) can always go a little further by calling media outlets and offering Kirk and Brad to them and to try to make them available.” Haddy said. “Next week, we are going to try to make Brad available for a teleconference to the national media. We try to make him accessible but at the same time, that is not always the easiest thing to do.”

“Coach Ferentz wants to protect his player and keep them somewhat shielded from the media spotlight and make sure that they don’t lose sight of the fact that they have another game to play.”

“The most important goal is the Big Ten championship.”


Hawkeye NationHawkeye Nation was founded by Jon Miller, and later acquired by Rivals and Sports Illustrated. You can visit them at HawkeyeNation.com

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