Iowa basketball: I, for one, welcome our new digital college athlete overlords

I keep saying Jordan Bohannon changed the way UI athletes communicate, and here's how

Please, stop with the carnage. I’m all for messy, goofy violence in the name of a good story or fun, but, please, please, please, old model college athletics bros and even anonymous shit-stirring accounts with random numbers in your handle, stop tweeting at Jordan Bohannon.

It’s like the movie “Highlander.” Centuries-old feuds are fought between dudes with swords.

One of you forgot to bring your sword to this fight and it wasn’t Jordan Bohannon.

Seriously, you’re just offering yourself to the altar of social media right now. Bohannon has the momentum. He has the fan base, who’ll be happy to digitally flush your dog’s head down the toilet. He’s also right or at the very least is making a good point, so there’s that.

I say this having been on the wrong end, at least by proximity, of Bohannon’s world.

I think it was May 2019 when Bohannon needed surgery on his right hip. This was big, big news, especially if you work for the kid’s hometown newspaper. Well, Chad Leistikow of the Des Moines Register broke the living shit out of that story.

Bohannon bypassed the Iowa communications mechanism and that worked out really great for Chad and the Register. Not so great for the Gazette. Yes, you get pissed when you get beat on a story. Yes, you do have to be like a cornerback or relief pitcher. You have to pick it up and move on to the next play. It doesn’t mean you don’t think about it. (And in retrospect, I think the Bohannon’s were pissed The Gazette laid off Jeremiah Davis, who did a wonderful job building auto racing and UNI basketball communities for The Gazette. I can’t say I blame them for that. I have vein of vindictiveness, too. I just wish they would’ve let the air out of the boss’s tires and not have blown up the beat writer.)

How do I know he bypassed Iowa’s communications structure (SIDs, coaches, the like)? The UI said he did. They were caught off guard, too. I mean, obviously coaches knew about his ailment and that news usually goes over to the UI sports info office, in Carver-Hawkeye, and then is released to the masses. Didn’t happen that time.

At that point, the only conclusion to draw is that Jordan Bohannon is going to do this his way. If you, Mr. Beat Writer, get your sleeve caught in the thresher, tough shit. You’re already a grease spot. Don’t piss off the bus driver or he’ll back over you … probably on social media.

It’s not that you “olé” poor performance or bad behavior. When the lights are on, the lights are on. You come to the realization that things are changing. The old school modes of athletics comms — the athletes talk when the school says it’s OK for them to talk — were under attack and Bohannon was the zombie ice-fire-breathing dragon hammering the living shit out of that wall.

I was never the hoops beat writer, so I don’t know if Bohannon’s podcast, The Standpoint, came before or after the first hip surgery. But he does have a podcast. The Standpoint is on Twitter and has 3,300 followers. I don’t know who Bohannon’s pod partner, Zack Cohen, is. I’m going to guess they’re friends from either Marion/CR or the UI.

Rando college athlete, would you like to talk to a media group that is 99 percent old white dudes asking you about the scabs or would you rather have a podcast where you get real with a great friend of yours?

Yeah, a question so leading that it’s a statement.

Yesterday, Patrick McCaffery went on The City: Off-Campus podcast with Sam Sommerfeld and Jack McFarland. The City has 56 Twitter followers and probably a lot more after yesterday. Again, I don’t know who the guys are, but I’m guessing McCaffery knows them and might be buddies. (And, no, I can’t picture the Iowa SID telling the coach to have his son stop talking to his friends on a podcast because it’s unfair to all the media. Nope, not happening.)

In other words, the days of Tyler Sash asking me to RT a Twitter account he can’t touch so he has some followers when his Iowa career ended are over.

This is the Bohannon effect.

This isn’t a requiem for old media, or traditional media or whatever we’re calling newspapers, TV and radio now. They’re all on the web, too. We consume it digitally and are all trying to find the best way to move in that regard (some are wayyyyyy ahead of others). The way I describe to the squirrels I live near is “evolving media.” I think all media now is evolving media, and, yes, that includes players podcasts with whomever they choose to do them with.

You’re the winner. Consume away. I went on 247Sports/CBS David Eickholt’s “Swarmcast.” David is like 25. I just turned 54. We were talking and it dawned on me this is like music. I don’t know what a Pop Smoke is. Turns out he’s a rapper David is into. If you like hip hop, you’re probably more into David’s content than mine, which is probably more for a Neil Young crowd. (My parents were extras in the movie “Take this Job and Shove It.” Dad was into Willie and Waylon. I never stood a chance in the real world.)

There’s no right or wrong answer. Give the audience credit for having an ear and knowing what it wants to dance to. Traditional media isn’t out of moves. Bunch of smart people in that game. They have to learn how to better engage and entertain you and I think they will.

I tweeted this about Bohannon in late February: “So if JBo is able to engineer his assist record with a pass to Garza, that’d be two records he shaped in his way. Throw in the Street free throw and Memz, and, holy shit, you’ve been entertained. The program needed this flair and, I’d say, thrived off it.”

Most of you agreed. A small percentage respectfully said that kind of “flair” wasn’t for them. I get that. And that’s why Bohannon’s biggest disruption isn’t how he uses media (I think to him that feels like a natural extension of his personality), it’s #NotNCAAProperty.

The NCAA budget model is over. The pandemic stripped it down to “play, because, guys, we need the cash.” CBS will give the NCAA $900 million. The players get box meals and deodorant (not even antiperspirant — kidding, maybe it is the fanciest antiperspirant).

The value of the labor the players provide has grown for everyone but them. I get the “your scholarship and room and board is more than enough, shut up and dribble,” but your numbers are dwindling. Again, the pandemic stripped a lot of that away. The problem is the real leaders in college sports are old dudes who’ve been brainwashed into believing this is the only way.

If I had to sit through old Big Ten commish Jim Delany’s bullshit speech about “$15 for laundry” when he was a player at North Carolina, I would’ve thrown a shoe at him. But Delany’s language is parroted by Iowa AD Gary Barta and new Big Ten commish Kevin Warren. This outdated model is sunk in too deep for a lot of the old guard to even consider something else.

Is this the time and place for big change? Maybe, but probably not.

Football and the pandemic did show us that major-college athletes set their watch by the competition. Push comes to shove, they’ll bet on their God-given talents and the lottery that likely will not lead to a lifetime of professional sports riches over the threat of illness (however real or not that was for these healthy, young people).

The players generally love this opportunity. The schools provide training and coaching they can’t get anywhere else. With primetime college football, though, the stakes have changed and it’s time for a redo of some sort.

Lord, it’s the same old tune, fiddle and guitar
Where do we take it from here?
Rhinestone suits and new shiny cars
It’s been the same way for years
We need a change

It’s time to listen to Waylon.

Marc Morehouse

22 years as the Iowa football beat writer for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Holy bleep, that's a long damn time. Now, I'm a podcaster/writer/pop cult guru at Yes, I wrote "guru," but I didn't mean it in a pretentious way. Sincere thanks for reading, listening and hopping on board!

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