Hawkeyes have bounce back season in 2013Contractors seek payment for Iowa football project
DES MOINES (AP) — It might be misleading to say that Iowa exceeded expectations in 2013, since hardly anyone expected much of anything from the Hawkeyes.
But Iowa came through for longtime coach Kirk Ferentz this season. After a 4-8 season that ended with six straight losses, Iowa put up eight wins, a 5-3 mark in the Big Ten and landed a New Year’s Day bowl bid.
Though the Hawkeyes (8-5) closed the season with a 21-14 loss to LSU in the Outback Bowl, that didn’t put much of a damper on what they accomplished.
Iowa made major strides in 2013 and should be in position to challenge for a Big Ten title in 2014.
“To be around this football team, to coach them, to go to the practice field every day with those guys, weight room, wherever they’ve been, it’s been a really great group of guys to work with. The guys have played hard, competed hard each and every step,” Ferentz said Wednesday.
Ferentz, who is signed through 2020 with a prohibitive buyout at roughly $2.7 million a year, made a number of coaching changes before his 15th season in Iowa in hopes of reversing a disturbing three-year slide.
Iowa got off to a rough start when quarterback Jake Rudock, playing in his first career game, threw a late interception to help give Northern Illinois a 30-27 win in the opener. The Hawkeyes answered with four straight wins, but losses to Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin showed the gap remaining between themselves and the Big Ten elite.
The difference between a middling regular season and a strong one came down to the final two games; at home against Michigan and on the road at Nebraska.
The Hawkeyes rallied past the Wolverines and blew out the Huskers in Lincoln, securing their best league finish since 2009.
“I’m extremely proud of these guys. It’s been a lot of fun to be around them on a daily basis. It’s been a great 13 months,” Ferentz said.
Things could get even better for Iowa over the next 12 months.
Iowa returns most of its starters in 2014, including Rudock, star tackle Brandon Scherff and the majority of its skill position players. Though the Hawkeyes will lose all three of their standout starting linebackers, a vastly improved defensive line will stay nearly intact — and young cornerback Desmond King could soon become one of the Big Ten’s top players.
Iowa’s schedule also appears to be much more forgiving than in 2013, when the Hawkeyes faced every team with a winning Big Ten record.
Iowa will avoid Michigan State and Ohio State and instead face Illinois, Indiana and league newcomer Maryland as the Big Ten shifts to East and West divisions in 2014. The Hawkeyes should join Wisconsin and Nebraska as early favorites to win the West’s spot in the league title game.
Iowa does have concerns, though.
Rudock was forced to leave the last two games of the season with a sprained knee. Though Rudock was solid as a first-year starter he’ll need to cut down on his 13 interceptions from 2013 or risk being replaced by raw but talented backup, C.J. Beathard.
The Hawkeyes also need to get more production from its wide receivers, who struggled against LSU’s athletic defensive backs.
Iowa will likely discover that replacing linebackers James Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey will be tougher than it looks, and it’ll have to lean on youngsters in the secondary as well.
But instead of spending the offseason surrounded by doubts about the program’s future, the Hawkeyes will now be looked upon to jump back into the Top 25 and compete for a Big Ten title.
IOWA CITY (AP) — More than a year after its completion, several companies that helped build the University of Iowa’s new indoor football practice facility say they are still owed money for their work.
Four subcontractors have filed claims in state court in recent weeks alleging the project’s general manager, the Samuels Group Inc. of Wausau, Wis., owes them a total of more than $1.5 million, records show.
In a separate federal lawsuit, the Samuels Group argues that it should not have to pay some of the companies because they delivered and installed metal panels that did not initially meet specifications, causing delays and extra costs. And in October, Samuels filed a claim asking the university for an additional $105,000.
State and federal judges are expected to sort out the claims in the coming months. The litigation follows a project that has been hailed by the football team, which was competing in the Outback Bowl on Wednesday, for improving their practice environment.
The facility, completed in August 2012, replaced a 25-year-old campus landmark nicknamed “the Bubble” for its inflatable white cover. It features a metal roof and panels that allow daylight inside and a full-length football field with artificial turf.
The building and the renovation of a nearby outdoor practice area were the first phase in a $55 million project to upgrade the team’s practice, training, meeting and office space.
The Samuels Group won a competitive bidding process to land a $12.4 million contract to manage the project. Samuels in turn hired subcontractors, some of whom also hired additional subcontractors. In all, 10 companies worked on the project, which started in 2011.
In the federal lawsuit filed in August 2012, the Samuels Group claims that some problems started after it hired Guilford Building Systems of North Carolina to provide and install metal wall panels. Guilford hired Florida-based Kingspan Insulated Panels to manufacture them.
The lawsuit says the first batch of panels did not meet the project’s specifications, which caused the university to issue a stop-work order and insist that they be removed. The setback prompted the university to later order Samuels to accelerate installation of the panels, which caused the company to “incur additional cost to add labor and equipment to the project,” the lawsuit says.
Samuels should not have to pay Guilford and Kingspan since they did not meet their contract, the lawsuit alleges. Lawyers for Guilford and Kingspan have asked a federal judge to put that lawsuit on hold to allow their claims in state court to be decided first.
The state case started in October, when subcontractor Townsend Crane Service LLC of Wellman, Iowa, claimed that it was owed $68,000 for its work. Guilford, Kingspan and Mark Fondell Excavating of Dubuque have since filed claims in the case alleging they are owed $535,000, $286,000 and $703,000, respectively.
They’re seeking to be paid out of some $600,000 the university retained to pay claims at the end of the project, a standard practice in the construction industry, and from insurance bonds taken out by Samuels to guarantee the project’s completion.
Jeffrey Stone, an attorney for the Samuels Group, said the company had not been served with the state claims and could not respond to them. But he said the allegations in the federal lawsuit make clear why the company has not paid Guilford, Kingspan or Townsend, which worked under Guilford.