Season Opener Honors Iowa's Past

Aug. 30, 2003

For Bob Hazlett and Jerry Burns, watching Iowa defeat Miami (Ohio) University 21-3 from the press box at Kinnick Stadium in the Hawkeyes’ season opener was just one stop on a weekend stroll down memory lane.

Both former Hawkeyes were among several honored for their contributions to the University of Iowa athletic program Saturday.

Hazlett, a multiple-award winning gymnast, was inducted into the National Iowa Varsity Club Hall of Fame during a banquet Saturday night, while Burns, the head football coach of the Hawkeyes from 1961-1965, was the honorary captain during the game.

Burns, who was also an assistant to coach Forest Evashevski in the late 1950s and went to the 1957 and 1959 Rose Bowls, was selected as the honorary captain last Thursday.

“I’m happy to be back,” Burns said. “The University of Iowa is a great institution.”

Burns, who was also the Minnesota Vikings head coach from 1986 to 1991, toured the campus and athletic facilities on Friday, and said he was surprised by the buildings and technologies the University of Iowa had to offer its student-athletes.

“I’m just amazed at the tremendous facilities here at Iowa. I had a nice trip all around the campus and athletic facilities, and I don’t think any other college has the same type of facilities that the University of Iowa has today,” he said.

Burns spoke to the team following meetings on Friday, came out with the swarm at the beginning the Miami game and also took part in the coin-flip.

In his comments on Friday, Burns said that he congratulated the team on being the Big Ten Champions and attending the Orange Bowl last January, but he also urged the players not to forget about academics.

“I said you have to be smart to play the game today. I’ve seen more players in the National League who couldn’t make it because they weren’t smart enough as contrasted with being good from an athletic standpoint,” Burns said.

Hazlett’s return to Iowa caps off a career, which began over a half century ago, and ranges from Dolphin Club performances at the Fieldhouse to being the first Hawkeye to win an NCAA title in gymnastics.

Hazlett is one of six members of the Varsity Club’s Hall of Fame Class of 2003. He is being inducted along with long time wrestling coach Dan Gable, Olympic gold medallist Tom Brands, footballer Francis Schammel, basketball player Samuel Williams and golfer Stacey Arnold.

“I think it’s a singular honor,” Varsity Club president Robert Stein said. “Some of them have said to me that this is the most important honor they have won in their lifetime. It’s absolutely incredible.”

The Varsity Club is also honoring Drs Bob Rasmus and David Johnston with honorary letter winner titles for their contributions to Hawkeye sports. Rasmus is a volunteer photographer for Iowa athletics, while Johnston has been a team physician for over 35 years.

The Club’s Letterwinner of the Year Award was presented to the Hilgenberg Family. Jerry, Wally, Jim, Jay, Joel and Eric Hilgenberg are two generations of Hawkeye Football players, who have a combined 19 varsity letters. The family has been dubbed the “First Family” of Iowa Athletics.

The Club comes to its annual awards after a full year of planning and polling the nearly 8500 Varsity Club members, according to Stein.

The Club appoints a specific committee to investigate those who are eligible for the Hall. That committee sorts through nominations and selects the honorees after a rigorous process.

“We want to make the voting tough. You have to get four votes out of six,” said Stein. “It takes hours. It literally takes hours to select the people. Sometimes it’s easier. You have a Dan Gable, and then it’s a no-brainer. This is the first time he’s been eligible.

“Next year, Hayden Fry will be eligible. That’s all I can say at this time about that,” added Stein, with a grin.

And for Hazlett, the award means more than going out on the field in front of more than 51,000 people and getting a display at the Hall.

“One thing it means is that I’m not forgotten, because I kind of felt that way,” said the retired professor and coach. “I have to say that Bob Stein has just done a fantastic job. If it wasn’t for him, I never would have gotten in this thing.”

“I’ve known Bobby for more than fifty years. We were classmates. We were Dolphins,” Stein said. “He was a gymnast and I was a swimmer. He was a part of the Dolphin shows and he is a zany, crazy, beautiful human being, who just does so many wonderful things and is still entertaining to be around. It’s just really personally delightful for me to see classmates going into the Hall.”

Hazlett said that his experiences this weekend were “first class”, but he did have one issue.

“It’s great being in the Hall of Fame but why did you put me with Gable and Brands?” Hazlett laughs. “Dan Gable has just got an out-of-this-world resume. How can you top that? You don’t try. Forget it! Tom Brands is the same way. You heard that ovation on the field – they weren’t going to stop. It’s justified. But I’m glad to be here, believe me.”

NOTE: The Dolphin Club’s performances merged gymnastics and swimming and the proceeds went to a scholarship fund. The club held annual performances at the Fieldhouse swimming pool until 1977. The Dolphin Club started in the 1920s at Iowa.

By Barry Pump,

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