Wine: Home Field Advantages

Oct. 2, 2005

Iowa’s football team is streaking – at least at Kinnick Stadium, where the Hawkeyes posted their 21st straight victory Saturday. In beating Illinois 35-7, they broke a school record set more than 80 years ago.

Teams coached by the legendary Howard Jones and featuring stars like Aubrey Devine, my choice as Iowa’s greatest all-time player, and Duke Slater, the Hawkeyes’ first black all-American, ran off 20 consecutive wins. That streak began in 1918 and ended in 1923.

The Hawkeyes have won their last 21 games at home by an average of 24.3 points. Seventeen of the victories were determined by double-digit margins and the games were pretty much decided before the fourth quarter began.

Those teams played at old Iowa Field, located on the east bank of the Iowa River near where the University Library now stands. Interestingly, the opponent that ended the streak in 1923 was Illinois, the same foe Iowa beat Saturday to break the record. It is also coincidental that Iowa celebrated homecoming on both games.

But that’s where the similarity ends. In 1923 Illinois beat Iowa 9-6 enroute to a perfect season and Big Ten championship. Its star was Red Grange, called the “Galloping Ghost” and perhaps the greatest player in league history. The 2005 Illinois team has no “Galloping Ghost” and will have a hard time winning more games than it loses.

Iowa’s current string of victories dates back to Sept. 21, 2002, when it thrashed Utah State 48-7. That 41-point victory is fairly typical of what has happened at Kinnick Stadium since then.


Fans of the Iowa Hawkeye are encouraged to wear black on Saturday, Oct. 22, when the Hawkeyes entertain Michigan in the first-ever ‘Black Out Saturday” event at the UI.

The Hawkeyes have won their last 21 games at home by an average of 24.3 points. Seventeen of the victories were determined by double-digit margins and the games were pretty much decided before the fourth quarter began.

Iowa had its biggest struggles with Purdue, beating the Boilers by two points last year and three points in 2002. The Hawkeyes escaped Michigan by three points in 2003.

The coziest stadium in the Big Ten is unquestionably Kinnick, especially since the renovation of both end zones, which gives it a bowl effect. The shallow sidelines put fans closer to the field of play than any other stadium in the league.

When 70,000 Hawkeye faithful get really vocal, they can become an intimidating factor to the visiting team.

Yes, a noisy intimate stadium filled to capacity has no doubt helped the Hawkeyes build their record of 21 straight victories at home. But without good coaches and players, the streak would have never gotten off the ground.


One of the great things about living in the Iowa City area is that every now and then something unusual is guaranteed to happen. The latest example is the bruhaha over the visitors’ locker room at Kinnick Stadium.

It is decorated in pink. When UI adjunct law professor Erin Buzuvis suggested pink promotes homophobia and sexism, some took issue with her view and the news media jumped on the story.

A campus meeting was held and both sides aired their opinions. At Saturday’s Homecoming football game there were an uncommon number of fans wearing pink. I thought we had changed school colors.

I am a believer in the First Amendment and respect the views of those who think both pro-pink and anti-pink. But I would like to lend some accuracy to this story, which has in some cases been badly reported.

Gary Kurdelmeier was an Iowa assistant athletic director in charge of facilities in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. Earlier he was the wrestling coach who hired an assistant named Dan Gable. Some consider that a good thing.

But this is not about wrestling, it’s about paint. Shortly before one football season opened, Kurdelmeier decided the visitors’ locker room at Kinnick Stadium needed a fresh look. He called the UI General Stores and ordered some paint.

He was told the only color they had in the quantity he needed was pink. He said fine, send it over. He showed the color to football coach Hayden Fry, who gave his approval. A few days later the walls in the visitors’ locker room had a new coat of paint.

Fry was settling into a 20-year run as Iowa’s football coach. When he saw the shiny pink locker room he liked it. Fry majored in psychology at Baylor and figured pink might mellow out his opponents, maybe make them a little less nasty. Given the fact that Iowa went 19 years without a winning season, Fry needed all the help he could get.

Through the years, most visiting teams ignored the pink walls but some took notice. Hayden had fun with it. When a coach complained, he would say, “Gottcha!” Consider the fate of two coaches who took exception to the color. Bo Schembechler’s Michigan team lost 26-0 in 1984, and Mike White’s Illinois team lost 59-0 in 1985.

In the old locker room, only the walls were pink. In the new locker room the carpet and fixtures are also pink. Well, not exactly pink. The color is more of an off-rose.

Three visiting teams have occupied the new pink locker room. None have complained. Three more teams will arrive this season and we await their reaction. We’ll see if this story has “legs”, as journalists like to say. Stay tuned.