Barta: Let's Be at Our Best on Game Days

Oct. 6, 2009

It’s always “Great to be a Hawkeye,” but the start of the 2009 football season at the University of Iowa has been an extra special time to be a friend of the UI and a fan of the Hawkeyes. I’m so proud of, and excited for, our coaches and student-athletes. They are truly on a roll.

This week, the excitement and energy increases. Saturday will be a fun (albeit long) day for fans of the Hawkeyes. Electricity will be in the air and with good reason. It’s Homecoming, it’s prime-time national television….and, it’s the Michigan Wolverines.

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As I enjoy my fourth season as athletics director at the UI, I appreciate more than ever before the special feel of “Kinnick Magic.” I continue to be amazed and appreciative of the passion shown by Hawkeye fans. We truly enjoy a special game-day environment.

With that said, there is something that has bothered me and that I’ve wanted to address for some time. It’s something about which everyone is aware, but seems taboo to discuss. Among the tens of thousands of Hawkeye fans who “do it right” on game days, I am discouraged, and sometimes downright disgusted, by a small minority of alcohol abusers who ruin the game-day experience and give Hawkeye tailgating a bad name.

Each week, we deal with hundreds of fans who abuse alcohol to the point of embarrassment – and in many cases endanger themselves and others around them. We eject from Kinnick Stadium, and sometimes have to place under arrest, dozens of people who drink so much they can’t stand on their own, pass-out, are under age, throw up on the fans around them, urinate in public, etc.

While I apologize for my graphic descriptions, these scenarios occur with far too much frequency and simply aren’t acceptable.

Again, I am a huge fan of tailgating. I believe it is a special part of the college football tradition. I am also very comfortable with the safe, legal, and responsible use of alcohol. But I am not comfortable with allowing those who abuse this privilege to ruin the experience for the rest of us.

In advance of Saturday’s Homecoming game, I want to thank the overwhelming majority of Hawkeye fans who tailgate responsibly, cheer appropriately in the stands, respect their neighbor in the parking lots, respect our campus, and respect the private property of our friends in the neighborhoods that are adjacent to our wonderful football stadium.

I want to thank the hundreds of volunteers who wake up very early each Sunday morning and, in a few short hours, return Kinnick and the area around the stadium to normal.

I want to thank the fans who use the complimentary garbage bag they are provided when entering a University of Iowa parking lot (I assume the volunteers I just mentioned want to thank these fans, too!)

I want to thank the volunteers who operate the Hawkeye Express and the more than 4,000-plus fans who ride the Express each week because their efforts mean there are approximately 1,300 fewer vehicles involved in traffic and parking around the stadium.

I want to thank everyone who contributes in a positive way to the game-day experience at historic Kinnick Stadium. I know you share our goal to have the best tailgate, game-day, and post-game college football environment in the country. I would argue we already do….and I don’t want the actions of a very small minority to ruin it.

I also want to be so bold to ask that – if you are going to the game on Saturday – you assist the UI in our efforts to maintain the family atmosphere that makes a day at Kinnick so very special. If you see a fan engaging in inappropriate behavior, please don’t hesitate to call UI Police. If a friend of yours is having difficulty, please be a good companion and keep them out of trouble and safe. Of course, if anyone appears to be in distress, call UI Police or 911 for medical assistance. And, remember, this week – because of the late start of the game – tailgating after the game in UI parking lots is prohibited.

Our staff will be doubling its efforts this weekend to make certain everyone at Kinnick Stadium and in the areas that surround it have the very best game-day experience possible. However, we can’t be everywhere and would appreciate your assistance if and when it’s needed.

Lastly, I want to ask that very small number of fans who choose to not behave in a responsible, positive way on game days to consider raising their personal standards. I guarantee you will enjoy your game day and the game itself much, much more.

As always, Go Hawks!

Gary Barta
Director of Athletics
The University of Iowa

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