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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Know Your Foe - Iowa

The Wolverines return home to face the Iowa Hawkeyes this Saturday. Michigan’s won almost four out of every five games in the series, including the last two. Last year’s game was an overtime victory for the Wolverines in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes will try to salvage their season and get back into the AP Top 25 with an upset. So with that setup for the game, it’s time for the latest edition of the MZone's KNOW YOUR FOE.

History – The University of Iowa was founded as the State Univeristy of Iowa in 1847. The official university Web site claims that Iowa was the first public university to admit men and women on an equal basis. In 1868 the university established the first law school west of the Mississippi. In 1870 the university opened the first co-ed medical school, allowing all of the lawyers from the first western law school to sue both male and female physicians. In 1932, the first educational television station was established on campus. So that must mean that Arthur and Clifford are big Hawkeye fans.

Location – Iowa City, Iowa. It’s the sixth largest city in Iowa, and was the first state capitol until 1857. The Old Capitol building remains and is a centerpiece of the Iowa campus. It’s tied with Stamford, Connecticut as the U.S. Metropolitan area with the highest percentage of adult’s holding a bachelor degree (44%). Much like so many of the locales that are home to Big Ten schools, Iowa City is a stereotypical college town. There’s a pedestrian mall that includes many of the town’s restaurants and bars. There’s a lively music scene. And it’s been ranked as the eighth most enlightened town by Utne Reader, and the tenth smartest place to live by Kiplinger’s. It’s also the home to the ACT, so if you don’t “test well” and your ACT score kept you out of the school you really wanted to go to, you have someone in Iowa City to blame. Because I’m sure that 18 had nothing to do with you getting drunk the night before the exam.

Nickname/Mascot – Hawkeyes, named for the state of Iowa which is known as the Hawkeye state. Hey, that’s the same way that U of M is known as the Wovlerines. But how did the state, and thus the university’s sports teams get the name Hawkeyes? Well that’s subject to a bit of debate. There’s no questioning that the efforts of two men, Judge David Rorer and James G. Edwards, were the driving force behind the adoption of the name. But the origin is still unclear. Wikipedia claims it’s a tribute to Chief Black Hawk, following the Black Hawk War of 1832. But the Iowa Athletics site maintains that it originally came from the novel, The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper. In the book, Hawkeye was the name bestowed on a white scout who hunted and lived with the Delaware Indians.

The university has a costumed Hawkeye, known as Herky, who has been a symbol of the university since 1948. The university had had gone through 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 was conceived by a journalism instructor and his name was selected based on a statewide contest. His first appearance at a football game came in 1959. But why Herky? It’s not for herky-jerky, which could describe the Hawkeyes’ offense this season, but rather is a shortened version of Hercules.

Colors/Logo/Fight Song – Black and Gold. But is it really gold? If I remember my Crayolas correctly, gold is what Purdue or Notre Dame wears. The “gold” on Iowa’s helmet is more of a corn yellow, or dare I say, maize. The colors have always been the same for Iowa, but the football uniforms purposely mimic those of the Pittsburgh Steelers. When Hayden Fry came to coach the Hawkeyes in 1979, his main task was to eradicate the atmosphere of losing in the program – Iowa hadn’t had a winning season since 1960. Since Iowa had the same colors as the most dominant NFL team of the day, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Fry copied the wide stripe on the pants, and the black helmet with single yellow stripe. Whether it was the uniforms, or more likely his coaching ability and getting better players at Iowa, Fry turned around the Iowa program quickly, and made it into one of the Big Ten’s best.

The Iowa logo showed up at the same time as Fry, and the football team’s success since then has ensured that the logo will be around for a while. It’s actually a very clever design, consisting of four separate pieces to make up a hawk’s head. It’s not only the helmet logo, but is a symbol of all of the sports teams and the university itself. Just about any piece of Iowa memorabilia contains the logo.

The Iowa Fight Song is rather generic, especially when compared to many of its Big Ten counterparts. The song only has 61 words, yet the word “Fight!” appears nine times. Even “Iowa” only shows up four times. Even the word “Rafters” shows up once, but that’s not surprising – this is a farming state.

Academics – Surprisingly, Iowa only rates as #64 on the U.S. News rankings of the nation's universities, tied with Big Ten cohort Purdue. That’s even lower than tOSU. I never would have imagined. Maybe U.S. News is taking into account the past two beat downs that the Buckeyes have administered on the Hawkeyes. Or maybe Iowa’s #8 ranking as the best party school by the Princeton Review.

The pride and joy of the University is probably the Writers’ Workshop. The Workshop is a two-year residency program which ultimately requires a creative thesis, usually a novel or a collection of stories. It was the first creative writing degree program in the country and it’s alumni have won a dozen Pulitzer Prizes, and four graduates of the program have been named U.S. Poet Laureates. So I’m sure if Know Your Foe was in the hands of a Writers’ Workshop grad it would be much more interesting.

Athletics – As mentioned above, Hayden Fry breathed life into the moribund football program starting in the early ‘80s. Though only appearing in three Rose bowls since then (and losing them all), the Hawkeyes are a consistently tough Big Ten opponent. Under legendary wrestling coach Dan Gable, the Hawkweyes won 20 national and 31 Big Ten titles. This includes nine straight national titles from ’78 through ’86. So even though the basketball team has had some success, and the trampoline was invented by university members George Nissen and Larry Griswold around 1935, when you’re talking Iowa athletics, you’re talking wrestling.

Famous alums – While not a super-impressive list, it sure kicks the alumni asses of Michigan’s two most recent opponents, Sparty and Penn State. They pick up points for being able to claim Tom Brokaw, John Irving, Tennessee Williams, Eddie Robinson and Gene Wilder (who was married to Michigan alum Gilda Radner). But they have to lose some points for having Tom Arnold, Ashton Kutcher, and Lou Holtz as alumni. And though she didn’t attend school in Iowa City, current U of M President Mary Sue Coleman held the same post and the University of Iowa prior to moving to Ann Arbor.

The Game – Before last week, many pointed to this game as Michigan’s Waterloo. But then Iowa crapped the bed against Indiana - Indiana!!! – and people started to look at the Hawkeyes’ body of work and realized this isn’t a very good team. Michigan 27, Iowa 10.


BK said...

The MZone has a lot of great articles every week, but "Know Your Foe" is one of the best. Well done, Benny.

anonymosity said...

You forgot to mention that, turned sideways, the Hawkeye logo looks strikingly similar to a certain cartoon character.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Lou Holtz graduated from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio

beast in 'bama said...

That's a distinguished list of literary alums, and there are many others that could have been mentioned (I would mention them myself, but I really don't want to do the research). Two of my best profs were products of the Writers Workshop.

The Hawkeyes nickname is derived from J.F. Cooper? I never knew that. Guess it's better than the "Iowa Natty Bumpos."

Wasn't Herbert Hoover an Iowa graduate? Or was he just from Iowa?

IC said...


Hoover was born in West Branch, Iowa. When he was six years old his father died of heart disease and his mother died of pneumonia three years later. Hoover eventually moved to Oregon and was raised by his uncle before attending Stanford.

Following his 1932 election loss to FDR, Hoover left the presidency after one (bad--very, very bad) term. He lived for more than thirty years and established his presidential library in West Branch on his 88th birthday. He died two years later.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, I don't think Ashton Kutcher graduated...I'm going to go kill myself now, for knowing this...

Anonymous said...

As an Iowa alum, I enjoyed this piece. However, please clear the good name of the University of Iowa - Ashton Kuchar is not an alum, he's only from Iowa.

beast in 'bama said...


Thanks for answering that. Hoover was a great public servant OUT of elective office. In office, not so much...

Anonymous said...

Not true about always being black and gold. It used to be "old gold" and black. I think "old gold" is what Purdon'ts could be described as.

Anonymous said...

And Holtz graduated from the grad school at Iowa, and had his first assistant coaching job there. Sadly.

Anonymous said...

Not to criticize the great post, but I don't think Brokaw graduated from U of I either. I believe he partied it up while he was there and then transferred to South Dakota State, or something like that.

Anonymous said...

If you really want to get under a UM fans skin, point out that they lost to Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas, and Nebraska all in the same calendar year. Those are the other four of the five winningest programs in CFB. If you go back to the 2004 season, then the Wolverweenies have also lost to Ohio State (again) and Notre Dame (again), making them 0-6 versus the other four of the five winningest programs in the country in just the last two years.

Anonymous said...

what's the news on Arrington? is he suspended?

Doug said...


Okay. So, I think Iowa is entitled to that shade of maize, if Michigan (alma mater #2) is entitled to wear the Day-Glo yellow that it does instead of maize. BTW, gold is what UCLA wears. Cal (alma mater #1) claims to have gold as one of its colors, but we're all over the place there, too.

Anonymous said...

Hey flamer - you might want to check your facts again; I'm pretty sure UM beat ND this season.

Aram said...

Iowa's fight song is also written by famous Iowan Meredith Willson, of Music Man fame.