Iowa football excels in class, on the gridiron

Dec. 31, 2008

TAMPA, Fla. — When it comes to playing in January bowl games since the 2002 football season, the University of Iowa has very few equals. When you factor in graduation rates of the New Year’s Day competitors, the Hawkeyes are at the top.

When Iowa takes the field against South Carolina in the 2009 Outback Bowl tomorrow, it will mark the fifth time in the last seven seasons that the Hawkeyes have extended their postseason play into the month of January. Only five teams in NCAA Division I have played in more than five January bowls and four others sit with five January bowl appearances.

“We’re awfully proud of our players,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “They’ve done a great job. We had a little dip last year — it was tough not going anywhere and that was disappointing — but over the long haul, the guys have done a fantastic job, we’re really proud of them and it puts us in pretty good company.”

Iowa’s streak began with the 2003 Orange Bowl and continued with the 2004 Outback, 2005 Capital One, 2006 Outback and now the 2009 Outback. The Hawkeyes are searching for their third victory on New Year’s Day under Ferentz when they meet the Gamecocks with a 10 a.m. (Iowa time) kickoff inside Raymond James Stadium. Iowa defeated Florida 37-17 in the 2004 Outback Bowl and LSU 30-25 in the 2005 Capital One Bowl.

“That means we’re doing a lot of successful things,” said UI junior Shonn Greene, winner of the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s premiere running back. “This program has done a great job for a long time and it’s an honor to go to the January bowl games.”

During the past seven seasons, Southern California is the lone school to play into January all seven times. Six-time participants include Florida, Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma. The Hawkeyes are joined at five with LSU, Michigan, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

“That’s consistency,” UI senior defensive tackle Matt Kroul said. “When you hit that many January bowls, it shows that our program gets after it every year. It says a lot to recruits who want to play at the highest level.”

With only seven seniors listed as starters on the latest two-deep roster, Iowa appears to be poised to extend the January streak.

“It’s an honor to be in a program like this,” UI sophomore quarterback Ricky Stanzi said. “We’re trying to build on that tradition we have going right now. It means a lot to be among that elite company. People are looking to win and you want to choose a college and go to January bowl games and experience all that.”

“We’re awfully proud of our players. They’ve done a great job. We had a little dip last year — it was tough not going anywhere and that was disappointing — but over the long haul, the guys have done a fantastic job, we’re really proud of them and it puts us in pretty good company.”
UI head football coach
Kirk Ferentz

The statistics get even better for the Hawkeyes when you look at the comprehensive student-athlete experience. Of the 10 colleges that have played in five or more January bowl games since the 2002 season, Iowa is tied with Virginia Tech with the highest football graduation percentage (75.0) as ranked by the NCAA Report on the Federal Graduation-Rates Data.

“We have a great support group with our academic advisors who will help you out in any situation,” UI senior center Rob Bruggeman said. “What you do off the field kind of correlates with what you do on the field. Academics are stressed here and it’s important.”

Earlier this week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution released a report showing the average SAT scores of all football and men’s basketball players from schools in BCS conferences. Iowa’s average total of 964 was 10th-best in the nation.

“All the resources are there for us to take advantage of,” Kroul said. “If you do, you’ll have a good career academically. If guys are willing to put in the work with football and their academics, there’s no reason they shouldn’t have high scores and success through college.”

Kroul has already received a bachelor’s degree in health promotion with a minor in exercise science. He is currently enrolled in the college of public health and will make his 50th consecutive start for the Hawkeyes in tomorrow’s Outback Bowl.

A model of steadiness since 2002, the Hawkeyes have never won fewer than six games in a season. Three times they compiled 10-or-more victories, including an 11-2 mark in 2002. From 2002-04, Iowa was 31-7 overall, 20-4 in the Big Ten Conference.

“This is something to be proud of as a university,” UI sophomore linebacker Jeff Tarpinian said. “It shows that our hard work does pay off.”

Iowa is 8-4 in all regular-season games this season, 5-3 in Big Ten play.

Fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes who live in the Heartland or in the Sunshine State or in all points between should note that the UI Athletics Ticket Office is accepting ticket orders for the 2009 Outback Bowl. Click here to purchase your tickets online. Fans can also purchase over the phone by calling 1-800 IA-HAWKS or over-the-counter at the UI Athletics Ticket Office in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.