George Wine Online

Aug. 30, 2004

Because Kinnick Stadium opened for business 75 years ago, Iowa’s football opener with Kent State is being called a “Throwback Game.” That means we are going back in time, and players on both teams will wear uniforms similar to the days when Nile Kinnick starred for the 1939 Ironmen, the most storied team in Hawkeye history.

It’s a great idea that should provide a lot of fun. Iowa players like it so much that some have purchased the uniforms they will wear in the game. Yes, dressing the players as the legendary 1939 Ironmen is a good start. But uniforms are not the only difference between modern and olden-day football.

If we really want to duplicate a football experience at Kinnick Stadium in 1939, I offer these suggestions for the “Throwback Game.”

The game will start at 1:30 p.m. and there will be no TV timeouts. (Do I hear applause?)

Tickets will cost $3, parking 25 cents, hot dogs a dime and pop a nickel. Since the game is a virtual sellout a ticket refund would be costly and complicated, so forget that reduction. But the rest of the above prices could stand (more applause.)

The Jumbotron will be shut down and a manually operated scoreboard erected.

Fans, mostly men, will drive to the game in Model-A Fords and wear coats and ties and broad brimmed hats. Many will carry a bottle of booze in their hip pocket. Ed Benedict, a student at Iowa in the 1930s, earned money by cleaning the stadium after football games. He once told me, “We used scoop shovels to pick up the empties.” Minnesota Coach Bernie Bierman often complained about whiskey bottles being thrown at the Gophers’ bench.

Cheerleaders will dress in baggy outfits and lead yells such as, “E-O-Wah-Wah . . .I-O-Wah-Wah.” (Honest.)

Coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff will be nattily attired in coats & ties on the sideline, and Ferentz will smoke a pack of Camels during the game to emulate Eddie Anderson, coach of the 1939 team and a chain smoker. Anderson was also a doctor who visited his patients at University Hospital after the game, but Ferentz should not do that, the cost of medical malpractice being what it is today.

Only one captain will represent the Hawkeyes at the pre-game coin toss. (Iowa did not have multiple captains until the 1960s.) No more than 50 players will be on each sideline.

Quarterback Drew Tate will call the plays, just as sophomore Al Couppee did for the Ironmen. (When I suggested this one to Coach Ferentz, he gave me a look as if to say, “Are you out of your mind?”)

In keeping with the spirit of the occasion, Offensive Coach Ken O’Keefe will have the Hawkeyes run several plays out of the single wing. Defensive Coach Norm Parker will call no stunts or blitzes.

Rather than kick from placement, Kyle Schlicher will drop-kick extra points and field goals, a throwback to what Nile Kinnick did in 1939. (Again, when I mentioned this to Kirk, he gave me a strange look.)

Matt Roth will play both offense and defense and never leave the field, emulating “Iron Mike” Enich, the Ironmen’s star lineman who often played the entire game. And as Enich did in one 1939 game, Roth will block two punts, each for a safety.

In keeping with the spirit of the occasion, Offensive Coach Ken O’Keefe will have the Hawkeyes run several plays out of the single wing. Defensive Coach Norm Parker will call no stunts or blitzes.

Sportswriters will show up in the press box dressed as if they are going to church. (Many will have to buy a new wardrobe for this.) They will write their stories on manual typewriters, with wide-brimmed hats cocked back on their heads, and dispatch their copy via Western Union. Cigar smoke will be so thick by the second half that it will be hard to see the field. Women will not be admitted to the press box, but who would want to view the game in this environment anyway?

These suggestions are, of course, made with tongue planted firmly in cheek. College football has changed in 75 years, mostly for the better. Sure, it would be nice to return to the days of consistent and reasonable starting times, but who wants to give up televised football?

I believe that Nile Kinnick would be proud of the stadium that bears his name today, and the way Iowa plays football there. A clean-cut young man, he would surely be delighted with the current ban on alcohol and tobacco. Were he to return to the place where he performed so many marvelous deeds, I think he would look around with a smile and say, “It’s still great to be a Hawkeye.”

Editor’s Note:George Wine, the University of Iowa’s long-time sports information director who is now retired and living in Coralville, Iowa, is the author of George Wine Online. George has remained very close to the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI since his retirement and, in fact, has authored two books during that time. The first was a collaboration with the subject of today’s editorial, Hayden Fry, and named “A High Porch Picnic.” The second, “Black & Gold Memories, The Hawkeyes of the 20th Century,” included many of the essays George originally wrote for “The Voice of the Hawkeyes.” As he wrote in the book, “Collectively, they serve as a historical reference, and hopefully provide entertaining reading.” “Black & Gold Memories” is currently available at Barnes & Noble book stores across Iowa and on the world wide web.