Brown: Carver-Hawkeye Arena needs a history lesson
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Iowa is proud of its basketball tradition, but you'd never know it by walking into Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Yes, there are banners celebrating team accomplishments. But individual honors remain hidden in the attic.
That's about to change. Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said plans are in place to add a Wall of Honor in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, similar to the football version that came to Kinnick Stadium in 2013.
"We'll start with women's and men's basketball, then I think we'll expand it to other sports as well," Barta said.
Thumbs up to this. Give the likes of Murray Wier, Don Nelson, Kevin Kunnert, Chuck Darling and Roy Marble their due. Add Michelle Edwards, Franthea Price and Toni Foster while you're at it. I'd hang their jerseys from the Carver-Hawkeye Arena ceiling.
And I wouldn't stop there. Celebrate the legacy of coaches like Dan Gable, C. Vivian Stringer, Bucky O'Connor and others. Please, and thank you.
This issue surfaced last week, when Iowa announced plans to honor Marble at halftime of Saturday's game with Northwestern.
"It was time to honor Roy," Barta said of Marble, who is fighting cancer.
A two-minute recognition, without any video highlights of No. 23 running up and down the court he stood on Saturday, felt a bit underwhelming. But the standing ovation clearly played its way into Marble's heart.
An outcry to retire Marble's number, or at least his jersey, followed the announcement that he would be recognized. Neither happened. Marble is Iowa's career-scoring leader with 2,116 points, but he was never a first-team all-Big Ten selection. True, he played in the Big Ten at a time when talent was crazy good.
But Iowa has had three Big Ten most valuable player selections — Wier, Darling and Sam Williams. None have had their number or jersey retired. The decision to retire numbers or jerseys rests in the hands of a committee that includes coaches, the athletic director, the media relations director and the Varsity Club. That committee has already been painted into a corner.
Of the eight retired numbers and one retired jersey for men's basketball, not all fit the current criteria for inclusion. So a Wall of Honor seems the most equitable path moving forward.
Barta said he doesn't see Iowa retiring numbers or jerseys again. There are exceptions, like Chris Street, whose No. 40 was emotionally retired shortly after his death in 1993.
A Wall of Honor is one positive step, but Iowa has to consider other changes if the program is to continue to improve as it has in the past five seasons under coach Fran McCaffery.
In addition to jerseys hanging from the ceiling, I'd love to see a big scoreboard over center court. A new sound system would be nice. Increase the size of the pep band, but change the music (with the exception of "In Heaven There Is No Beer.")
And get the students engaged and organized at games. A recent survey of Big Ten student sections by the Chicago Tribune put Iowa 12th. No argument here.
"Our next discussion about renovations at Carver-Hawkeye Arena include video boards, the sound system, the court, the concourse," Barta said.
Where the Wall of Honor goes remains in discussion. But improving the game-day experience — average home attendance dropped from 14,976 to 14,101 this season — will lead to a better home-court advantage, which will lead to more victories. And more players who might end up on that Wall of Honor.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.