By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Gary Barta would’ve had to resign as the Iowa Athletic Director on the spot or announced that he had re-hired Jane Meyer to upstage the news about Akrum Wadley on Tuesday.
Or, maybe a better way to describe it was the lack of news about Wadley.
Some Iowa fans were upset, disappointed and befuddled over the decision to not have Wadley represent the Hawkeyes at Big Ten Media Day later this month in Chicago and shared their thoughts on social media.
Each of the conference’s 14 teams will send three players to the annual event, with linebacker Josey Jewell, offensive lineman Sean Welsh and receiver Matt VandeBerg picked to represent Iowa.
A strong case certainly could be made for Wadley to represent Iowa as one of the Big Ten’s most productive and entertaining running backs.
Wadley also has a gift for gab, so he probably would be a hit at media day.
But Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz apparently feels that Jewell, Welsh and VandeBerg are more deserving, and this is one of those situations when you have to trust that Ferentz is being fair because why wouldn’t he be fair?
And it’s not as if any of the three players who will represent Iowa are undeserving of the honor. You could argue that Jewell and Welsh are more accomplished than Wadley, Jewell for sure, while VandeBerg is no slouch, either, with over 1,300 career receiving yards.
Even if he did feel slighted, Wadley is now too experienced and media savvy as a fifth-year senior to show it publicly.
The New Jersey native seemed relaxed and content as he met with reporters on Tuesday. There has to be some disappointment in not being picked to represent Iowa at Big Ten media day because Wadley is only human despite some of the incredible moves that he makes on the field.
But I wouldn’t begin to criticize or question Ferentz’s decision because I certainly don’t know everything that went into it. I do know Ferentz well enough to believe that he is fair and honest, and that he makes decisions that he feels will ultimately benefit the team in the long run.
It might be something as simple as Ferentz trying to motivate Wadley. It’s impossible to know for sure because so much of what goes into a decision like this happens behind the scene and is based on privileged information.
Was I surprised that Wadley didn’t get picked to represent Iowa at Big Ten media day?
Sure, a little bit. But I also figured that Jewell and Welsh were locks, and that VandeBerg was a worthy candidate.
Wadley was among several Iowa players who met with the media on Tuesday, along with Barta. It maked the first time that Barta had spoken to the media since a settlement was reached in the Jane Meyer discrimination lawsuit in May.
Barta's interview was big news, but fans seems more pre-occupied with the decision to leave Wadley at home, at least based on my feedback.
Some fans have complained that Iowa will miss an opportunity to promote Wadley for individual accolades by keeping him in Iowa City, while the Big Ten's other star players get to bask in the spotlight at media day.
There is some truth to that. But there also will be plenty of opportunities for Wadley to shine on the field and to promote himself off it.
Wadley is a special talent, probably the most elusive Iowa running back since Tavian Banks played two decades ago.
Wadley has overcome academic issues off the field and ball security issues on it. He also has worked hard recently to increase his weight to over 190 pounds in hopes of getting stronger.
The stage is now set for Wadley to be a mega-star, with or without an appearance in Chicago later this month.
“With everything, you’ve got to give it your all,” Wadley said Tuesday. “There’s a lot of people out there who may think I’m a good running back. Some may think I’m great. Some may think I’m too small.
“My focus is not on getting caught up in the hype or getting caught up in the doubters. I’m just doing my best and having fun.”
Wadley is used to sharing the workload at running back after rotating with LeShun Daniels in each of the past two seasons. Daniels has since graduated, but Iowa recently added a new option in the backfield with the addition of graduate transfer James Butler from Nevada.
Butler is not your typical graduate transfer, with over 3,000 career rushing yards to his credit. He figures to contribute in some capacity or why would he have picked Iowa to finish his career?
“Ain’t nothing like competition, especially if it’s going to help out the team,” Wadley said when asked about the addition of Butler.
Wadley is like any talented running back in that he always wants the football in his hands. But he also is unselfish and smart enough to realize that he can’t do it alone and that Butler is a proven talent.
Wadley was asked Tuesday what he immediately thought after learning that Butler would transfer to Iowa. Wadley answered like somebody who wants to win more than anything else, and he made sure to mention fellow Iowa running backs Toren Young and Toks Akrinibade, both of whom will be in the mix for playing time.
“I honestly thought of last year with LeShun and I,” Wadley said. “One thing that stood out is the amount of rushing yards he (Butler) rushed for, over 1,300. And I’m like, wow, we need him.”
“The more the merrier, not taking anything away from Toren or Toks. They work hard.”
Wadley also likes the idea of playing at the same time as Butler, and in the same backfield.
“Yes. Yes. Why not? Wadley said.
Wadley has stayed humble despite being a fan favorite. Iowa fans love his big-play capability and his exciting running style.
And so does Ferentz, despite who he picked to represent Iowa at Big Ten Media Day.
“Every day I’ve got something to prove,” Wadley said. “Every day you’ve got to give it your all.”
Wadley sounds more determined than disappointed, and that should excite fans.