The Most Badass Person I Know

Just about a year ago right now, I was sitting down to lunch with a couple of my former coworkers at KCRG-TV, Katie Wiedemann and Mike Battien.  Mike was one of our promotional guys, who was in town for something or other and wanted to take Katie and I to lunch next door to our office in downtown Dubuque.  Katie and I were having what we thought would be a slow day.  All of the day’s big stories were coming out of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, so we were snapping up a few smaller stories around town.  We had two or three already in the can when we sat down to lunch.  We barely had our order in when our day changed dramatically.

As we chatted around the table, Katie and I both got word that there had been a shooting a few blocks away at Knicker’s Saloon.  We cancelled our food, jumped into the news car, and got to the scene as soon as we could.  As we would come to find out, the shooting was an officer-involved incident, and the officer in question was our friend Lt. Scott Baxter.

Dubuque Police Lt. Scott Baxter

Lt. Baxter had been elevated to the position of the Dubuque Police Department’s Public Information Officer a few months earlier.  He was our main contact person on any story about the DPD, and he was pretty good at that job.  Moreover, he was a good guy and very easy to get along with.  Little did we know, he is also 100% badass.

Lt. Baxter was returning to the police station from his lunch break when he heard the call about a robbery in progress at Knicker’s.  He was the first officer on the scene.  As he encountered the robbers, shots rang out.  One of the suspects was injured in the shootout.  So was Baxter, who was struck in the left shoulder, right arm, abdomen, and thigh but shot from the sawed-off shotgun that was fired at him.  Baxter was taken to the hospital, and released the following day.

Here’s the amazing part of this story:  Baxter was back at work less than 10 days later.  Shot in the line of duty and back to work in 10 days.  That more than qualifies as badass in my book.

Even more amazing than his recovery time has been Baxter’s humility over the past year.  He has said on more than one occasion that any other officer on the force would have done the same thing, and the only thing that set him apart is that he was the first one on the scene that day.

After the jump, I’ve posted a few links to some of the stories we put together on Baxter in the day after the shooting a year ago today.  Please take a moment or two today to remember just what kinds of sacrifices our police officers and firefighters are faced with each and every day.

Continue reading

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College Football Viewing Guide – Week 13

This week, the listings and announcer pairings come via The 506. Here are the ABC/ESPN coverage maps for the 2:30 and 7:00 games.

Thursday, November 25
7:00 PM
#17 Texas A&M at Texas, ESPN (Rece Davis, Craig James, Jesse Palmer, Jenn Brown)

Friday, November 26
10:00 AM
Louisville at Rutgers, ESPN2 (Mike Gleason, John Congemi)
Ohio at Kent State, ESPNU(Justin Kutcher, Tom Luginbill)

11:00 AM
West Virginia at Pittsburgh, ABC (Beth Mowins, Ray Bentley, Quint Kessenich)

1:00 PM
Southern Methodist at East Carolina, CBS College Sports (Dave Ryan, Aaron Taylor)

1:30 PM
#2 Auburn at #11 Alabama, CBS (Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson, Tracy Wolfson)

2:30 PM
Colorado at #15 Nebraska, ABC (Ron Franklin, Ed Cunningham, Jeannine Edwards)
UCLA at Arizona State, Fox Sports Net (Barry Tompkins, Petros Papadakis, Rebecca Haarlow)

5:30 PM
Southern Mississippi at Tulsa, CBS College Sports (Jason Knapp, Akbar Gbaja-Biamila)

6:00 PM
#21 Arizona at #1 Oregon, ESPN (Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe)

9:15 PM
#4 Boise State at #19 Nevada, ESPN (Joe Tessitore, Rod Gilmore)

Saturday, November 27
11:00 AM
#8 Ohio State at Michigan, ABC (Sean McDonough, Matt Millen, Quint Kessenich)
Boston College @ Syracuse, ESPN (Mike Patrick, Craig James, Heather Cox)
#10 Michigan State at Penn State, ESPN2 (Todd Harris, Tim Brown)
South Florida at Miami, ESPNU (Rob Stone, David Pollack)
Tulane at Marshall, CBS College Sports (Roger Twibell, Mike Leach)
Indiana at Purdue, BTN (Tom Hart, Anthony Herron, Lisa Byington)

11:30 AM
Kansas vs. #14 Missouri, Fox Sports Net (Steve Physioc, Dave Lapham, Jim Knox)

2:30 PM
#5 Louisiana State at #12 Arkansas, CBS (Craig Bolerjack, Steve Beuerlein)
Northwestern at #7 Wisconsin, ABC/ESPN (Dave Pasch, Bob Griese, Chris Spielman, Jeannine Edwards)
Florida at #22 Florida State, ABC/ESPN (Bob Wischusen, Brian Griese)
#23 North Carolina State at Maryland, ESPN2 (Dave Lamont, JC Pearson)
#24 Iowa at Minnesota, Big Ten Network (Eric Collins, Chris Martin, Charissa Thompson)
North Carolina at Duke, ESPNU (Pam Ward, Danny Kanell)
Washington at California, Comcast California/Fox Sports Northwest (Greg Papa, Mike Pawlawski, Dan Dibley)
Brigham Young at #20 Utah, The Mtn (James Bates, Todd Christensen, Sammy Linebaugh, Toby Christensen)

3:00 PM
#3 Texas Christian at New Mexico, Versus (Ted Robinson, Kelly Stouffer, Lindsay Soto)

6:00 PM
#18 South Carolina at Clemson, ESPN2 (Carter Blackburn, Brock Huard, Mike Bellotti)
#25 Mississippi State at Mississippi, ESPNU (Clay Matvick, Herm Edwards, Jessica Mendoza)

6:30 PM
Oregon State at #6 Stanford, Versus (Ron Thulin, Glenn Parker, Lindy Thackston)

7:00 PM
Notre Dame at USC, ABC/ESPN (Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Shelley Smith)
#13 Oklahoma at #9 Oklahoma State, ABC (Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Erin Andrews)
Georgia Tech at Georgia, ESPN (Mark Jones, Bob Davie)
Houston at Texas Tech, Fox Sports Net (Bill Land, Joel Klatt, Emily Jones)
UNLV at San Diego State, The Mtn (Ari Wolfe, Blaine Fowler, Jenny Cavnar)

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Dowling Claims 4A Title in Overtime Classic

I’m not sure I’ve seen a better high school football game than Friday’s Class 4A championship contest between West Des Moines Dowling and Iowa City High. City High took a ten point lead into the 4th quarter, but Dowling stormed back to tie the game up on a field goal with 15 seconds left in regulation, forcing overtime. Dowling got the ball first, scored, and then the Maroon defense stepped up to stop the Little Hawks and ensure Dowling’s first state championship since 2001. This was the first 4A championship game to go to overtime since 1999, and it was an instant classic. Below are videos of the Maroons accepting their trophy (which I’m told lost the ‘E’ from ‘State Champions’ during the celebration), as well as interviews with Dowling head coach Tom Wilson (who won his first state title in four trips to the championship game), quarterback Connor Bravard, and safety Jason McMurray.

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North Tama Claims Class A Title Behind Boerm’s Triple-Triple

North Tama came from twenty points down to edge Madrid 43-34 for the Class A championship on Friday afternoon.  The Redhawks were guided by senior quarterback Brendon Boerm, who eclipsed the 100 yard mark passing, rushing, and receiving for North Tama.  He was involved with each of North Tama’s six touchdowns.  This is North Tama’s first state championship.  They lost by a point in the 2008 title game and fell to Mason City Newman in last year’s semifinals.

Below are interviews with Boerm, Redhawk wide receiver Lucas Hefty, and head coach Brent Thoren, as well as video of NT accepting their trophy.

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College Football Viewing Guide – Week 12

As usual, all info via Awful Announcing.

Thursday, November 18
6:30 PM
Georgia State at #11 Alabama, ESPNU (Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, Erin Andrews)

7:00 PM
UCLA at Washington, ESPN (Rece Davis, Craig James, Jesse Palmer, Jenn Brown)

9:00 PM
Air Force at UNLV, CBS College Sports (Dave Ryan, Aaron Taylor)

Friday, November 19
8:30 PM
Fresno State at #4 Boise State, ESPN2 (Joe Tessitore, Rod Gilmore)

Saturday, November 20
11:00 AM
#7 Wisconsin at Michigan, ESPN (Dave Pasch, Bob Griese, Chris Spielman, Jeannine Edwards)
#10 Oklahoma State at Kansas, Fox Sports Net (Steve Physioc, Dave Lapham, Jim Knox)
Purdue at #12 Michigan State, Big Ten Network (Eric Collins, Chris Martin, Charissa Thompson)
FCS #15 Villanova at FCS #1 Delaware, Comcast New England (TBA)
Pittsburgh at South Florida, ESPN2 (Bob Wischusen, Brian Griese)
Penn State vs. Indiana @ Landover, MD, Big Ten Network (Tom Hart, Anthony Herron, Lisa Byington)
Virginia at Boston College, ESPNU (Rob Stone, David Pollack)
Yale at Harvard, Versus (Ron Thulin, Ross Tucker, Glenn Parker, Lewis Johnson)

1:00 PM
Colorado State at Wyoming, The Mtn. (James Bates, Todd Christensen, Andrea Lloyd)

1:30 PM
FCS #9 Bethune-Cookman vs. Florida A&M @ Orlando, FL, ESPN Classic (Dave Lamont, JC Pearson, Charlie Neal)

2:30 PM
Mississippi at #5 LSU, CBS (Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson, Tracy Wolfson)
#6 Stanford at California, Fox Sports (Barry Tompkins, Petros Papadakis, Rebecca Haarlow)
#9 Ohio State at #20 Iowa, ABC (Sean McDonough, Matt Millen, Quint Kessenich)
#16 Virginia Tech at #24 Miami (FL), ESPN (Pam Ward, Danny Kanell, Jessica Mendoza)
Illinois vs. Northwestern @ Chicago, IL, ESPNU (Mark Jones, Bob Davie, Erin Andrews)
Florida Atlantic at Texas, Fox Sports Houston/Fox Sports Southwest (Bill Land, Gary Reasons, Erin Bajackson)
Stony Brook at FCS #18 Liberty, MASN (Mike Tilley, Ray Jones)
Arkansas State at Navy, CBS College Sports (Tom McCarthy, Randy Cross, Kaylee Hartung)
FCS #20 Richmond at FCS #6 William & Mary, Comcast New England (Jon Gurevitch, Dave Osborne)

5:00 PM
New Mexico at Brigham Young, The Mtn. (Ari Wolfe, Blaine Fowler, Sammy Linebaugh)

6:00 PM
#13 Arkansas at #21 Mississippi State, ESPN (Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe)
#15 Missouri at Iowa State, Fox Sports (Joel Meyers, Joel Klatt, Emily Jones)
Army vs. Notre Dame @ New York, NY, NBC (Tom Hammond, Mike Mayock, Alex Flanagan)
Connecticut at Syracuse, ESPNU (Clay Matvick, Herm Edwards)
Sacramento State at UC Davis, Comcast California (Jim Kozimor, Mike Pawlawski, Dan Dibley)

7:00 PM
#8 Nebraska at #19 Texas A&M, ABC (Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Heather Cox)
#14 Oklahoma at Baylor, ESPN2 (Ron Franklin, Ed Cunningham)
#25 Florida State at Maryland, ABC (Mike Patrick, Craig James)
Southern California at Oregon State, ABC (Mark Neely, Mike Bellotti, Brock Huard)
Houston at Southern Mississippi, CBS College Sports (Roger Twibell, Mike Leach)

9:00 PM
#23 Utah at San Diego State, The Mtn. (Tim Neverett, Howard Griffith, Jenny Cavnar)

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Makin’ It Better: Four Ways to Improve the Iowa High School Football Playoffs

On an annual basis, there is no greater point of contention in Iowa high school athletics than the football playoffs. Football is the only sport in which not every team is automatically entered into the postseason tournament. Football squads must qualify for the state playoffs via their regular season performance. Those two facts are unlikely to change. But the number of qualifying teams, how they qualify, and where they play in the postseason is a continual source of disagreement.

The playoff system in Iowa changed prior to the 2008 season. Through 2007, the top two teams in each district qualified for the playoffs, creating a 16-team bracket. Teams from the east side of the state were on one side of the pairings, with western teams on the opposite side. But beginning in 2008, each of the top four teams from each district qualified for what was then called the “substate” round (although the Iowa High School Athletic Association has since dropped the distinction). In one fell swoop, the number of qualifying teams doubled. In the new system, neighboring districts were matched up and cross-bracketed. District A’s #1 team against District B’s #4 team, District B’s #2 against District A’s #3, and so on.

The Iowa High School Athletic Association has a unique opportunity. When Ankeny Centennial High School opens in the fall of 2013, Class 4A will return to 48 schools, meaning that the Association has around two years to examine its current football system, ways to improve, and how to implement any changes before August of 2013. On the eve of the Iowa high school football championship games, it’s time to take a look at some ways to improve the current system.

First and foremost, I believe that the current system works. It’s common to hear former players and coaches bemoan the current system for letting in “too many” teams. I often hear people say “Well my senior year we went 7-2 and didn’t get in, despite our only losses coming against top 10 teams.” To me, that statement is more of a testament to how unfair the old system was than a sound reason for keeping teams out of the current system. The bottom line is that more students-athletes have the chance to play for a state championship, and I don’t see that as a bad thing.

You don’t have to look any farther than the 2010 Dike-New Hartford team. The Wolverines have lost two games this season (in consecutive weeks, no less), both against highly ranked teams within their own district. If this were 2007, the Wolverines would not have suited up for a single game in the postseason. But since it is 2010, they got a berth into the playoffs and proceeded to upset four teams (three of them district champions) on their way to Saturday’s Class 1A state championship game, where they will face West Lyon.

The biggest complaint that most people have with the current system has to do with the number of teams with losing records that qualify for the expanded postseason. This year, there were 29 teams with losing records that made the playoffs. 19 of those came from Classes 4A and A, where there are fewer teams competing for the same number of postseason bids (47 in 4A and 51 in A). Additionally, of the playoff teams with records of 3-6 or worse, 10 of the 12 were either 4A or A schools. This leads me to my first proposal on how to improve the playoff system:

Expand Class 4A to 64 schools and Eliminate Class A. One of the biggest issues with the current system (and one of the biggest things I would like to see change) is the disparity between the number of schools competing for playoff positions in Classes 4A and A versus all other divisions. Class 4A is currently comprised of 47 schools (the number dropped from 48 when Newton moved down to 3A but will return to 48 in the fall of 2013). The next biggest 64 schools play in Class 3A, the 64 largest after than in 2A, and so on until you reach Class A, which is essentially the “leftover” schools. These are the institutions that are not large enough to qualify for Class 1A, but have not decided to play in the eight-player division. In 2010, there were 51 schools that played in Class A.

By moving 4A to 64 schools, there will be an additional 16 spots available in 3A. Sixteen teams will move up in each class, leaving just 35 schools “on the bubble.” These schools will have three options: enter into a sharing agreement with another school to continue playing eleven-player football, begin playing eight-player football, or stop offering football altogether. It should be noted that there have already been talks at the IHSAA about whether or not to discontinue Class A, so this is not a new idea. Again, that is 35 schools out of the 388 high schools in the state of Iowa.

As for Class 4A, after it expands to 64 schools, those teams will be divided into eight districts just like all other classes. Each team will play the other teams in their district once, with two non-district contests at the beginning of the season. This change would make all divisions uniform in how teams qualify for the playoffs.

Move the Season Back a Week. The second change I would advocate involves scheduling. As of now, the championship games are played twelve weeks after the Week 1 games. But with odd numbers of teams in Class 4A, A, and the eight-player division, many schools had to play games on August 20 of this year (in what is called Week 0). For many of those schools, that first football game was played before classes had even started. That’s a situation that ought to be avoided, if at all possible. One way to do so would be to push Week 1 back to the first Friday in September. That way, if any Week 0 games are necessary, they can be played on the final Friday of August, when many teams host public scrimmages or practices. This would also require the rest of the season to move back by one week. This year, the final games of the regular season would have been played on October 29, with the playoffs beginning the following Wednesday (November 3). Instead of the weekend before Thanksgiving, this would move the championship games to the Friday and Saturday after Turkey Day.

Many current states already play the high school championships on Thanksgiving weekend. Not only would that change cut down on the loss of class time due to playing in the state finals, but it would also be more accommodating to the University of Northern Iowa. The UNI football team typically finishes their regular season the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, so pushing the championship games back a week would likely mean there would be more locker room space available for the high school games.

Reseed the semifinals. Speaking of the semifinals and championship rounds, why is it that the championship games essentially have to be the east side winner against the west side winner? Here’s a bit of trivia: the attendance record for an Iowa high school football championship game was set in 1999 when 13,375 people saw Cedar Falls play Iowa City West for the 4A title. Under the current set-up, that game would have been played in the semifinals. I can understand why the IHSAA breaks things up into east and west for the first three rounds of the playoffs. It makes more sense from a travel stand-point. But when you get to the semifinal round, all the teams are traveling to the UNI-Dome, so why not try to get the best championship game possible? My third suggestion is one way to do so.

Using the Class 4A point system, which rewards teams for playing better competition, you could establish a #1, #2, #3, and #4 seed in each class, with the #1 seed playing #4 and #2 vs. #3, regardless of geography. If such a procedure had been in place this season, the semifinal match-ups would have looked like this:
Class 4A: #1 West Des Moines Dowling vs. #4 Ankeny, #2 Iowa City High vs. #3 Bettendorf
Class 3A: #1 Pella vs. #4 West Delaware, #2 Sioux City Heelan vs. #3 Solon
Class 2A: #1 North Fayette vs. #4 North Polk, #2 Iowa City Regina vs. #3 Sheldon
Class 1A: #1 Council Bluffs St. Albert vs. #4 Dike-New Hartford, #2 West Branch vs. #3 West Lyon
Class A: #1 Madrid vs. #4 LeMars Gehlen, #2 WACO vs. #3 North Tama
Eight-Player: #1 Fremont-Mills vs. #4 Tripoli, #2 Armstrong-Ringsted vs. #3 Lenox

Establish a Clear Hosting Procedure for the Quarterfinals. There’s an old saying that says “To the victors go the spoils.” Except for in Iowa high school football, apparently. If that saying were true, then why would the top seed on the eastern half of Class 4A (Bettendorf) have had to play at the eleventh seeded team (Cedar Rapids Kennedy) just a couple of weeks ago? Doesn’t make much sense. But then again, neither do the current hosting criteria of the IHSAA, which I’ve pasted directly from this year’s Football Postseason Manual:

For the quarterfinal-round games:
1) If one team has been at home for both games and the other team has traveled for both games, the team which traveled both games, will be the home team.
2) If both teams were at home or if both teams traveled for their first two games, the team with the higher finish in their respective district will be the home team for the quarterfinal round game. However, if the two teams paired have the same district finish, the team with the best district record will be the home team. If the two teams have the same district finish and district record, head-to-head competition between the two tied teams will determine the home school with the winner of the head-to-head competition being the home team. If there was no head-to-head competition, the home school will be determined by the alphabetical system and the school listed LAST alphabetically will be the home team.
3) If both teams have had one home game and one away game, the team with the higher finish in their respective district according to the district playoff qualification procedure will be the home team. If both teams have the same finishing position in the standings, the team with the best district record will be the home team. If the two teams have the same district finish and district record, head-to-head competition between the two tied teams will determine the home school with the winner of the head-to-head competition being the home team. If there was no head-to-head competition, the home school will be determined by the alphabetical system and the school listed LAST alphabetically will be the home team.
4) In other situations, travel will be balanced out between teams. For example, if one team has been at home for both games, while their opponent has been at home for only one game, the team, which has been at home for only one game, will host the game.
5) In any other situation, the team with the higher finish in their respective district according to the district playoff qualification procedure will be the home team.

Clear as mud, right? It’s admirable that the IHSAA tries to even out the travel for the quarterfinal round. But that doesn’t stop it from being a bad idea. After all, shouldn’t home-field advantage be a team’s reward for playing well during the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs?

Let’s simplify it like this: If you are a district champion, you play at home throughout the first three rounds. In games where neither team won their district, the team with the higher district finish is the home team. If both teams had the same district finish, the game would be played at a neutral site. It’s my opinion that the IHSAA drastically underutilizes neutral fields during the football playoffs. Many late-round postseason games in other sports are played on neutral sites. Beyond that, there are numerous first-class facilities that sit empty during the postseason for no reason other than no high school team plays there on a regular basis. Why not use places like Kingston Stadium in Cedar Rapids, the Rock Bowl in Dubuque, Schipper Stadium in Pella, or Valley Stadium in West Des Moines, just to name a few? The bigger venue would give the games a bigger feel for players and spectators, and I’m sure some of those on-campus facilities would love the chance to host a couple hundred prospective students on a fall evening.

Those are my ideas. I wouldn’t expect any of them to be put into practice by the IHSAA anytime soon, but they make sense to me. If you have other suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

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Video: Solon Advances to 5th Straight Title Game

The Solon Spartans will have a chance to make history on Saturday, when they face Sioux City Heelan in the Class 3A state championship game.  No team in Iowa history has won four consecutive state titles, but the Spartans can change all that.  Solon used a stout defensive front and an efficient offense to get out to a 19 point lead on their way to a 26-14 win over Pella in Monday’s semifinal matchup.  Below, Solon coach Kevin Miller and players JJ Hanus and Derrick Loveless comment on Solon’s chances to win a 4th straight title, their streak of five consecutive championship games, and the extra motivation they felt moving up to 3A this year.

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