Sept. 27, 2004
EDITOR’S NOTE: Every Monday, hawkeyesports.com will bring readers a Kinnick Stadium Memory from the thousands of stories that have been submitted to the website for the 75th Anniversary of Kinnick Stadium.
Scott Neff found it a bit difficult to keep up with the Hawkeyes while he was stationed on the US aircraft carrier Enterprise in the late 1970s, but that made his first game inside Kinnick Stadium one to remember.
The Sept. 8, 1979, matchup was another person’s first game inside the historic venue too: Head Coach Hayden Fry’s.
“It was great because my first game in Kinnick was Hayden’s first game,” he said. “It was a thrilling game, not a blowout.”
Neff remembers the crowds chanting “dynasty” when the Hawks built up a large 26-3 lead at halftime, but strangely not being dejected when Indiana made a near 70-yard run with under two minutes left to pull out a 30-26 victory.
“(Fry) was saying all the right things when he came in the December before,” Neff recalls. “It was a hopeful kind of thing. It was pretty exciting. Even with a 5-6 record that first year, it felt pretty good.”
Fry brought a new energy to the team and made people believe in higher expectations for the Iowa program, according to Neff.
“That first year we played Oklahoma, and they lost but the players felt good about how they played,” Neff said. “And Hayden tore them a new backside and that really changed people’s thinking – maybe we should expect something too.”
“He was saying all the right things when he came in the December before. It was a hopeful kind of thing. It was pretty exciting. Even with a 5-6 record that first year, it felt pretty good.”
Scott Neff on Hayden Fry
Fry made a believer out of Neff, who traveled to South Bend, IN, last month to see the legendary coach enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. The 49-year-old software sales director has also seen the Hawkeyes win in every Big Ten Conference stadium.
His first experience in Kinnick, which celebrates its 75th birthday this year, transferred over to his two daughters as well.
In 1990, when they were only in grade school, Neff took his daughters to their first game on a spur-of-the-moment decision while on a trip to visit his mother in Dubuque. But the last-minute detour meant that the threesome couldn’t get tickets anywhere other than the lowest row of the south endzone.
Next to the Wisconsin band and amid a crowd of Badger fans, Neff jokingly instructed his 6-year-old to “go get” the mascot, Bucky Badger.
“I nudged her and said go after him, and before I could stop her, she tackled him,” Neff said. “Most of the fans saw it. The Iowa fans loved it, the Wisconsin fans laughed, but the Wisconsin band thought it was a hoot.
“Coming off the field after halftime, they all high-fived her and the tuba player even let her play a few notes.”
The story of the Badger tackle got his daughter a coveted place as an athletic ambassador through Students Today Alumni Tomorrow.
“She told me that her memory about wiping out `Bucky’ was the clincher that got her on the squad,” Neff said.
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com