The Wolverines face their second road test this week facing the Iowa Hawkeyes in prime time on ABC. Historically we have dominated these guys, holding a 40-10-4 record. We have won eight of the last ten meetings. But that does not matter. This is their homecoming game, and you know what I feel about homecoming games, this could get ugly. I am looking forward to watching this with the same dread I had for last year’s Penn State game. To improve my experience I plan on silencing Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit by turning off the TV sound and synching the video feed with my XM Radio (Channel 196) for the Frank Beckmann and Jim Brandstatter play by play. Here are some nice things to know about Iowa before we play them.
History: The State University of Iowa was founded on February 25th, 1847, only five days after Iowa was admitted into the Union. Despite what the official school seal reads, The State University of Iowa is still the official name of the school. As you can imagine, this causes some confusion with Iowa State University which is officially known as The Iowa State University of Science and Technology. Just in case you are having trouble keeping all of this straight: Iowa is actually Iowa State and Iowa State is actually Iowa Tech. Good, let’s move on.
One thing I learned this week is that Iowa makes the claim to be first in a lot of things. It was the first U.S. public university to admit men and women on an equal basis. The first classes were held in 1855 when 124 students (41 of them women). It also established the first law school west of the Mississippi, and was one of the first institutions in America to grant a law degree to a woman (Mary B. Hickey Wilkinson, 1873) and to grant a law degree to an African American (G. Alexander Clark, 1879). In 1870 the university opened the first co-ed medical school. The original campus was 10 acres, including the state capital building. When Iowa moved their capital to Des Moines two years later (1857) the old capital building became the home of the university.
Iowa educates many of the state's professionals. 79% of Iowa's dentists and 50% of Iowa’s doctors come from here. 80% of Iowa's K-12 school districts employ teachers and administrators with degrees from UI.
Location: The school is located in Iowa City. Believe it or not, there is also an Iowa City in California, but rest assured this one is really in Iowa. The city is located in Johnson County, in the south eastern part of the state. Iowa City is the fifth largest city in Iowa, with approximately 68,000 residents. In 2007, Forbes Magazine named Iowa City the fifth Best Small Places For Business And Careers.
As I stated above, it was once the state capitol, but lost that designation in 1857. The Old Capitol building remains as a National Historic Landmark and is the centerpiece of the Iowa campus. As you would expect from a Big Ten college town, there are a lot of educated people wandering around here. Iowa City has the honor as the US metropolitan area with the highest percentage of adult’s holding a bachelor degree (44%, tied with Stamford, Connecticut) and is recognized as one of the most enlightened places in America.
If you have ever spent any time in Iowa City, you have likely been to City Plaza (commonly called the "Pedestrian Mall"). It serves as a gathering place for students and locals and draws large crowds for events. The Ped Mall area contains restaurants, bars, retail, hotels, and the Public Library. Believe it or not, there is a lively music scene here.
Iowa City is also home to the ACT (American College Testing) where in 2008 almost 1.5 million high school students took “the test” to partially determine the trajectory for the rest of their lives. According to the ACT annual report, the national average ACT Composite score for 2008 graduates was 21.1, down from 21.2 in 2007, but equal to the 2006 average of 21.1. Yesterday was college day at my kid’s high school. My daughter came home with a bunch of pamphlets, including one from Michigan. The student profile shows the average ACT score for a 2009 Michigan freshman is 28 to 32. Leaders and Best.
Nickname: They call themselves Hawkeyes. The state of Iowa is known as the Hawkeye state. How the state (and university) got to the name Hawkeyes is the subject of a bit of a debate. Some claim the name is a tribute to Chief Black Hawk, the Sauk Indian Chief who fought against the US on the side of the British in the War of 1812 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He later led a group of warriors against Midwestern settlers in the 1832 Black Hawk War. Of all the wars fought in United States history, the Black Hawk War is the only one named for a person. Chief Black Hawk died in 1838 while in captivity in southeastern Iowa. He is viewed as a tragic hero and yet another stain on the shameful history of United States Indian affairs.
The Iowa Athletic Department maintains the name originally came from James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel: The Last of the Mohicans. In the book, Hawkeye was the name given to the Anglo hero originally named Nathaniel "Natty" Bumppo. A famous marksman, Hawkeye carries a rifle named Killdeer and has earned the French frontier nickname La Longue Carabine (The Long Rifle). His closest bonds are with Indians, particularly Chingachgook and Uncas, but he frequently asserts that he has no Indian blood. Hawkeye provides a link between Indians and whites.
Mascot: Yet another school with a funky costumed creature on the sidelines. This one is known as Herky (a shortened version of Hercules). The university has had a number of mascots, including Burch, a black bear cub who lived under the football bleachers until he was found drowned in the Iowa River in 1910. Herky has been around since 1948 when he was drawn by a journalism instructor as cartoon character cross between Woody Woodpecker and a bald eagle. The name was selected based on a statewide contest. His first appearance at a football game came in 1959, but he was soon banned from the sideline after a couple of dangerous shenanigans. In Evanston he came close to starting a riot when he pulled the tail off Northwestern's Wildcat mascot and he caused some heartburn when he climbed an electric pole at a home game. A year later, a member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity convinced the administration to give the sideline mascot another chance. That guy dropped out of school, but another Delt took his place. That tradition continues.
Originally made of papier-mache and chicken wire, today’s mascot has several seven pound Kevlar heads, two wearing football helmets and one without. They are manufactured by the same Minnesota company that makes Sesame Street costumes, and cost a total of $5,880.
Colors/Logo/Helmet: Officially they wear Black and Old Gold. I search high and low, but could not find any related story as to how and why they picked these colors. Like most schools that claim gold as one of their colors, the “gold” for Iowa more of a yellow. Given we are talking about Iowa, and they grow a lot of corn here, it would make sense that their yellow is actually maize.
The logo is a very cool looking Tigerhawk. It was introduced in 1979, when former head football coach Hayden Fry arrived from North Texas State University. Fry was allowed to hire a marketing group to create the logo to in an effort to reshape the image of the Iowa football team; they last had a winning season in 1960. It must have worked, because Fry turned the Hawkeyes into a respected football program where he gathered 143 wins, 3 Big Ten titles, and 14 bowl appearances in 20 years. He also painted the visitors locker room in Kinnick Stadium pink, believing the color relaxes and calms the other team.
In case you haven’t noticed, their football uniforms look a lot like those of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers. Another thing Hayden Fry did when he became the coach in 1979 was change the look of the uniform. With the approval of the Rooney family, Fry copied the black uniforms, wide stripe on the pants and the black helmet. Prior to that, Iowa had a series of non-descript yellow and black helmets. About the only thing that has changed on the Iowa helmets since 1979 is a small, circular yellow decal containing the letters "ANF" in black on their football helmets; the acronym stood for "America Needs Farmers" and was intended to draw attention to the economic plight experienced by many farmers in the American midwest at that time. The decal is placed high up on the right side of the helmet, midway between the Tigerhawk logo and the central stripe. Coach Fry also had his players wear a small American flag decal for a season or two around the time of the Persian Gulf War; the flag was placed opposite the "ANF" decal on the left side of the helmet.
Fight Song: The Iowa Fight Song was written in 1951 by Iowa native Meredith Willson, creator of Broadway play The Music Man. The song is copyrighted in a subsidiary of Paul McCartney's holding company (MPL Communications). In addition to handling McCartney's post-Beatles work, MPL is also one of the world's largest privately owned music publisher. In case you are counting, the word “FIGHT” is repeated nine times and makes up almost 15% of the song.
The word is "Fight! Fight! Fight! for IOWA,
Let every loyal Iowan sing;
The word is "Fight! Fight! Fight! for IOWA,"
Until the walls and rafters ring (Go Hawks!)
Come on and cheer, cheer, cheer, for IOWA
Come on and cheer until you hear the final gun.
The word is "Fight! Fight! Fight! for IOWA,"
Until the game is won.
Academics: Given the school’s reputation, I find it a little surprising that Iowa is only rated #71 on the U.S. News & World Report rankings. It is tied at the bottom of the Big Ten with Michigan State and Indiana. If you applied to Iowa in 2008, you had an 82% chance of getting accepted. The school is well known for its Writers’ Workshop. For more than 70 years emerging writers have come to Iowa City to work on their craft. The Workshop is a two-year residency program and it’s alumni have won a dozen Pulitzer Prizes, and four graduates of the program have been named U.S. Poet Laureates.
Football: Football was first played as a club sport at Iowa in 1872, but it was not a varsity sport until 1889. They lost their first official varsity game to Grinnell College in the one and only game they played that season. The next year they won a game. Ten years later they went undefeated and were offered a place in the Western Athletic Conference, which later became the Big Ten. Iowa has won eleven Big Ten championships, the last in 2004. Nile Kinnick won the 1939 Heisman Trophy, beating out Tom Harmon. In 1970, Michigan’s Bump Elliott became Iowa’s Athletic Director a year after Don Canham replaced him as coach with Bo Schembechler.
Iowa finished the 1958 regular season with one loss and ranked #2 in the AP poll, behind undefeated LSU. In those days, the AP vote was taken before the bowl games. Iowa convincingly won the 1959 Rose Bowl over Cal where they set or tied six Rose Bowl records. The Football Writers Association of America, arguably the most prestigious organization at the time to vote on a national champion after the bowls were played, awarded Iowa The Grantland Rice Award (Their version of the national championship trophy).
Over the years, 92 Hawkeyes have been named a first-team or second-team All-American, and 22 have been named consensus first-team All-Americans. They have produced three members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including Michigan native Paul Krause. Nine players and five coaches represent Iowa in the College Football Hall of Fame, including 1985 Heisman runner up Chuck Long. As previously mentioned, Hayden Fry breathed life into the moribund Iowa football program in 1979. They have been a consistently tough Big Ten opponent since.
Other Sports: The University of Iowa currently fields 24 varsity teams. When you think Iowa sports, you need to begin with wrestling. Legendary Olympian Dan Gable and 2 other coaches have led the wrestling Hawkeyes to 21 national and 32 Big Ten titles, includes nine straight national titles (1978-86). Their men’s basketball team has had some success, making it to three Final Fours. Their baseball team made the drive to Omaha and the College World Series in 1972. I’ve been to the CWS a couple of times, and Iowa is right across the river from Omaha. If you ask a local Omaha resident what IOWA stands for, they will tell you "In Omaha Without Asking".
Famous alums: Famous non athletic Hawkeyes include Actors Gene Wilder, Tom Arnold and Ashton Kutcher. TV news anchor Tom Brokaw and Pulitzer Prize winner Tennessee Williams. The founder of famous public opinion poll, George Gallup was a football player and editor of school paper. Grammy winning singer Al Jarreau and Academy Award winning Diablo Cody (screenplay for the movie Juno) both spent some time in Iowa City. Finally, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General James E. "Hoss" Cartwright graduated from Iowa in 1971.
On the athletic side of the list, You could fill a football stadium with the number of Olympic gold medal wrestlers they have. College football Hall of Fame coaches Eddie Robinson and Lou Holtz both hold graduate degrees from Iowa. Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema, Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops and Arizona football coach Mike Stoops also went to Iowa. They can also claim Baseball Hall of Fame player Cap Anson and Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton. Speaking of broadcasters, recently departed voice of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies (and NFL Films) Harry Kalas went to Iowa. And finally we have the late great Reggie Roby. He was my favorite NFL punter of all time, because he wore a watch when he played to measure his hangtime.
Current University of Michigan President, Mary Sue Coleman was the President of the University of Iowa before she traded up to the big House in Ann Arbor.
Game: Are you ready for a blackout? I just don't get the 2009 Iowa football team. I have watched several of their games and have witnessed two different teams. One team that just barely beat Northern Iowa and the other dominating team that crushed Penn State in Happy Valley. Their defense line looks big and very athletic while their offensive line looks massive. Their running game is young and talented. There is no doubt we have the talent to compete - the question is how long? Can we eliminate defensive mistakes? Make positive plays? Score some points?
It really boils down to how are we going to respond? I fear not very well. No matter how I look at it, I just don't see any way we can come out of Iowa City with a victory on Saturday night. I just don't like the match up at every position. When you add in the pressure of prime time television and a rowdy crowd -- and it spells disaster to me. That being said, who knows which Michigan team will emerge from that pink locker room on Saturday night ?
I pray we can win, I think we can keep it close, I hope I am surprised.