Commentary: Hankins sets a standard for Iowa athletics

BY KEVIN GLUECK | MAY 08, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa men’s golf team was selected to play in the NCAA Regional in Tallahassee, Fla., on Monday. It shouldn’t come as a surprise — the squad has three-consecutive top-three finishes in their last three tournaments, including a win. It seemed obvious the Hawkeyes would play in the postseason.

This level of success has become the norm for Mark Hankins’ men’s golf program at Iowa. This is the fifth-consecutive NCAA regional the Hawkeyes have made under Hankins in his six years at the helm. This kind of success is what many programs strive for, but never achieve, and Hankins should be commended for it.

It’s refreshing to see a program at Iowa consistently do what it has set out to do — Hankins’ teams have finished no worse than sixth in the conference after his first year as the head coach.

Iowa baseball coach Jack Dahm, meanwhile, has a career Iowa record under .500 and had squads in the basement of the Big Ten the past three seasons (his team currently sits ninth among 11 teams). Iowa men’s tennis coach Steve Houghton hasn’t led a team to place higher than fourth in the league in his 32 years at Iowa and hasn’t won a Big Ten tennis meet since April 2, 2011.

Why aren’t Dahm and Houghton — and all other Iowa sports, for that matter — held to the same measure of success that Hankins has had in a fraction of the time?

The kind of success that Hankins’ squad has accrued should be an expectation for every athletics program at Iowa. In this past year, only wrestling, men’s gymnastics, women’s basketball, and field hockey made their respective NCAA Tournaments. Hankins’ team is in line to be the fifth to do so.

His squad, along with those other Iowa programs, has become consistent NCAA championship competitors. This should be the Hawkeye athletics standard across the board.

Not only have the male golfers made five-consecutive NCAA regional appearances, but in three of out the last four trips, the Black and Gold played well enough to earn a berth in the NCAA Finals, finishing as high as 10th in 2011 — the Hawkeyes’ highest finish since 1960.

The other two times, the Iowa men’s golf team still finished in the top 25.

Those three trips to the NCAA Finals in four years is something only 22 golf programs in the nation have done. If Hankins’s squad makes it a fourth time in five years this season, that would tie Hankins with former Iowa men’s golf coach Frank O’Connor for the most NCAA championship appearances in Hawkeye history.

That moves the team beyond being an annual Big Ten threat. That makes it a consistent national contender — something a slew of other Iowa sports can’t put on their résumés.

The key for the team’s consistent performance lies in the recruiting and developing of individual standouts.

The most notable to find success under Hankins’ tutelage is Vince India, who was chosen as the Big Ten Golfer of the Year in 2011. India is one of three All-Americans coached by Hankins at Iowa — the program has six All-Americans total.

Hankins won a conference title at each of his previous two head coaching jobs —Texas-Arlington and Michigan State — and has consistently had Iowa right there competing for a Big Ten championship, finishing in the top three in three of the last four seasons.

This is normal for the golf program, but it should be normal for every other program, too.

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