The Iowa Hawkeyes running back curse is rampant, and it appears to have claimed another victim tonight. According to Marc Morehouse’s Twitter account, Mika’il McCall suggested he is leaving the Iowa football program via a Facebook status. If McCall does indeed transfer, he would be the fifth Hawkeye back to leave the program in less than two years, following in the footsteps of Jeff Brinson, Brandon Wegher, Jewel Hampton, and Adam Robinson.
Those are all talented players, and McCall had potential to be the best of them all. With stunning power, burst, and vision for a freshman, McCall, a valuable recruiting grab after he de-committed from Michigan State, flew onto the scene in the first game of the season against Tennessee Tech. He spelled Marcus Coker early and ran for over 60 yards before breaking his ankle. Fans were still in awe of his performance despite the injury, and excitement for his return and future existed among all who watched him and decided he looked like a better rusher than the plodding yet pulverizing Coker. McCall, who seems to issue all newsworthy proclamations through his Facebook page, told fans through a status update that he would return before the end of the season, and he did, receiving medical clearance before the game versus Michigan. McCall didn’t play even though Coach Kirk Ferentz promised to the media that he would, prompting the frosh to issue his now-infamous “Strait Bullshit” response on, once again, a Facebook link to an article detailing his medical clearance. McCall would enter the game at Purdue briefly on a goal line series, but he fumbled and lost his second carry in a cringe worthy momentum changer. After the game, Ferentz announced that McCall was suspended for the Nebraska game due to unknown reasons, a punishment that stretched to “indefinitely” and a “will not make the trip” for the Insight Bowl.
So this assumed departure seemed inevitable. Speculation mounted as to what McCall could have done, but confirmation has been difficult to find on any specific incident. Without a stain in the local police blotter, the suspension doesn’t seem to be legal in nature, and as the punishment lagged past its original single game status, the likelihood that Ferentz is that upset about an unruly Facebook playing time complaint is doubtful. Whatever McCall did, it was important enough to Iowa’s coaching staff to suspend a talented player, refuse to disclose why to the media, and put it on the back burner until after the bowl game.
And it’s apparent that McCall did not agree with it. Ferentz has been dismissive of the suspension’s nature and did not seem overly concerned about the potential loss of such a talented player, just like he has never expressed concern in past cases of attrition, of which there are many. But fans should be concerned about such a comically disturbing amount of attrition at the running back position. I don’t think many followers of the Hawks would even be surprised to see Coker announce his departure at this point. The problem has grown in magnitude and number to the point where Ferentz needs to address it. Lester Erb, who coaches both running backs and special teams, has recruited very well recently, most prominently in the talent-rich Chicago area. But special teams have been horribly inconsistent since Kyle Schlicher’s 2004 season, and getting a running back through four years at Iowa has become a laborious and seemingly impossible task. Eventually, somebody has to be held accountable. Iowa is never going to be transparent about team policies and suspension details to the public. But when the problem involves a trend as widespread as attrition at Iowa’s running back position, answers need to be given, and solutions discovered. That’s up to the $3.7 million man.