Best of College Football: Iowa City

Aug. 3, 2005

The following story was written by Tom Dienhart of The Sporting News

Go ahead. Call Iowa fans bumblebees. They’ll shrug their shoulders, scream louder and hug their Hawkeyes tighter.

That’s what it’s all about in Iowa City. Hootin’. Hollerin’. And — most of all — living and dying Hawkeyes football, all while decked out in black and gold. (Yee-haw to the crazies proud enough to strut in those bib overalls with the vertical black-and-gold stripes!)

But that passion and reverence is only part of why the crown of best college football city is nestled along the Iowa River. The action between the white lines the past three years — 31-7 record and three consecutive January bowls — has been unprecedented in these parts, elevating the program to college football’s luxury suite. All of this tall corn has offered legendary Hawkeyes radio play-by-play voice Jim Zabel ample opportunity to chortle his favorite refrain: “I love it! I love it! I love it!”

A quaint blip-of-a-burg located a short Drew Tate toss off I-80 in eastern Iowa, this is where you will find King Kirk. (That’s coach Kirk Ferentz to you nonbumblebees.) And red-brick Kinnick Stadium — named for 1939 Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick — is the X-marks-the-spot of Saturday insanity.

Downtown, bumblebees pour in and out of establishments such as Joe’s Place, an Iowa classic. Many fans never make it off their bar stools to the game. A short walk away is Kinnick, where the players trot onto the field hands locked, with the captains in front — a grand entrance, inspired by Hayden Fry, called the “Swarm.” Fitting. About that time, P.A. announcer Mark Abbott trumpets: “Here come the Hawkeyes!”

That’s enough to set off the fans lucky enough to be in the stands, where they hope later to sing “In Heaven There Is No Beer” when the game is in hand — which almost always is the case these days for their Hawkeyes.