By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Bill Bramley is living high on the hog and it has to do with being a fan of University of Iowa athletics.
A pork producer from Cylinder, Iowa, Bramley began supporting Hawkeye football in the 1980s, listening to Jim Zabel call action on the radio. For the past 10 years he has hosted the football team and staff with a summer barbeque affectionately known as the Hawkeye Feed.
“We have a special bunch of coaches and what they do for these players is pretty special,” Bramley said. “We see what kind of person Kirk Ferentz is and he cares about these kids and does everything to protect them. He dedicates everything to them, and I’m impressed with that.”
Bramley has insider knowledge, thanks to his efforts with the annual summer barbeque. It came about because of a chance meeting with Paul Federici, director of football operations, in the Fontainebleau Hotel prior to the 2010 Orange Bowl. Bramley informed Federici that he was part of a competitive barbeque team known as Beach Bums BBQ that competed throughout the Midwest. Federici invited Bramley to cook for the Hawkeyes during the teams’ volunteer workout period in June.
If anyone goes away hungry from that feast, it’s not Bramley’s fault. The menu includes 375 pounds of pork shoulder for pulled pork, 200 pounds of chicken hind quarters, beans, corn, cheesy potatoes and macaroni and cheese.
The highlight for Bramley is when former players stop in to visit his tailgate in the Dental Lot on football game days. Their designated area, that includes four recreational vehicles, is known as Compound W because when the tailgate began, all of its members sat in a section of Kinnick Stadium that yelled “W” during the I-O-W-A cheer.
“It is fun seeing the different people you draw into our tailgate,” Bramley said. “We have had a lot of past players stop by to say hi. Some you don’t recognize because you’re used to seeing them in a practice situation and it’s hard to pick them out when they pop in on their own.”
“We have a special bunch of coaches and what they do for these players is pretty special. We see what kind of person Kirk Ferentz is and he cares about these kids and does everything to protect them. He dedicates everything to them, and I’m impressed with that.”Bill Bramley
The families that form Compound W bring their own game day delicacies. As an added bonus, Bramley’s RV includes a popcorn machine and shot machine that never fails to get a party started.
“You go to a class reunion because you miss the people and our reunion happens every fall,” Bramley said. “You’re so excited to see that first game and go there and you’re thinking about the menu.”
Although Bramley, 61, became a Hawkeye fan while Fry was coaching, he didn’t see his first game in person until Ferentz took over. Part of the reason was his work schedule on the farm in Palo Alto County, four hours from Iowa City. Bramley has been an I-Club member the past 11 years and his current work situation allows him more free time to travel.
It has been an especially challenging offseason for Bramley. His wife, Deb Weir, who provided the organizational backbone for the Hawkeye Feed, passed away from cancer July 10. Fittingly, her obituary contained information about trips in the RV, being an avid Hawkeye fan, being part of Compound W and receiving a surprise phone call from Ferentz on her 60th birthday.
“It will be a different ballgame from everyone at the tailgate,” Bramley said.
Bramley has no intention of discontinuing the lengthy weekend fall trips and long hours preparing for a football Saturday.
“I keep saying it is going to be our last time bringing the mobile home, but we’re still here,” he said.