The Iowa Barnstormers went 10-20 in their first two seasons in the Indoor Football League. After that stretch, Iowa had gone seven straight years without a winning season.
Dixie Wooten entered. He went 36-8 in his three seasons at the helm in Des Moines, winning IFL Coach of the Year twice and also the franchise’s first championship.
The Barnstormers announced last week that the pair had parted ways and on Wednesday, the Tucson Sugar Skulls announced that Wooten would be their next head coach.
The full press release from the IFL can be found here.
So. Where does Iowa go now?
FERGUSON: Where Iowa will go Following Dixie Wooten Era
Well, the right candidate will likely have a strength in recruiting. That’s how the Barnstormers were successful under Wooten.
Even with rosters that only included five to eight players returning each season, Wooten rounded up talented teams in each of his three seasons.
Iowa’s front office as well as its fans are going to be looking for the same quality in their next leader.
Now, with Wooten’s departure, it’s expected that some of the stars from Iowa’s roster will not be returning to the team in the upcoming season.
The most obvious is 2019 LWOS IFL MVP Ryan Balentine, who has played under Wooten since their days in Billings.
Rocky Hayes was another standout during this past season in the heartland. When asked if he was coming back after Iowa’s last game he said it would depend on what Wooten would do.
And what’s to make of standout quarterback Daquan Neal? Wooten brought him to Iowa and he shined. Will he follow to Tucson?
October 1 is the first day that returning players from 2019 can sign with teams for 2020, so we won’t know much of anything in concrete until then.
As for coaching candidates for the team, it’s not likely that a former player of recent years will be taking over the ship. It didn’t work for Joe Brannen and of the players that have gone on to coach, most headed to the college ranks in position coaching spots.
Although, there is one exception to that in Jason Simpson.
Simpson was an stand out defensive back and has been involved with Iowa for a number of years. Last season, he was the team’s defensive back coach and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the 2020 staff in some capacity.
Another pair of names to look at are those that were assistant coaches when Wooten was in Iowa.
Hurtiss Chin and Marcus Coleman both have experience with Wooten, were on the Iowa staff during the United Bowl season, and coached in Tucson this past season.
Now, there’s still a chance the two stay in Tucson for 2020, but the Sugar Skulls did not announce any plans for their assistant coach when Wooten’s hire was announced.
The last time Iowa was staffed with hiring a new coach, Mark Stoute’s name was thrown around as the next potential coach instead of Wooten.
Stoute ended up taking the job in Jacksonville and most recently finished off the 2019 season with the Cedar Rapids River Kings. The team finished 1-13 last season.
If you’re looking for Iowa to get what some would consider a home run hire, I’d pick one out of left field in current Carolina Cobras (NAL) head coach Billy Back.
Back has plenty of experience and has proved his worth in Carolina, earning back-to-back trips to the east coast league’s championship game and winning the whole thing back in 2018.
Not to mention, Back has history with the IFL and was at one point signed to coach in Iowa with Cedar Rapids right before accepting the Carolina job.
No matter who Iowa hires as its franchise’s next head coach, fans in the stands are going to expect wins – rightfully so. That’s what they should expect after the Dixie Wooten era.
The thing that’s important to remember is that in a sport filled with uncertainty year after year, Iowa is still here in Des Moines at Wells Fargo Arena, and come February, we’ll all be sitting back, watching some good, old Barnstormers football.