The University of Iowa Hawkeyes is one of the oldest teams in the NCAA. They hail from the West division of what is now known as the Big Ten and have competed in college football since the year 1900. If that isn’t impressive enough for history, the Hawkeyes also have the longest-tenured head coach in NCAA Division I FBS, Kirk Ferentz, who is in his 21st year at the helm.
Iowa Hawkeyes: The Forgotten Giant
Under the leadership of Howard Jones in the 1920s, Iowa won 20 straight games, including consecutive Big Ten titles in 1921 and 1922. However, after being accused of ethics violations and subsequently being kicked out of the conference, the Hawkeyes were not the caliber of team they had been in the following years.
When Head Coach Eddie Anderson stepped in, the teams he led catapulted into the national spotlight, with Nile Kinnick winning nearly every major national award, including the coveted Heisman. There was another change in coaching staff in the early 50s when Forest Evashevski was hired. Evashevski led the Hawkeyes to four top-five finishes in the national rankings, three Big Ten Conference titles, two Rose Bowl wins, and the FWAA National Championship. Not to mention, he also recruited Calvin Jones to Iowa, who later became the first African American to take home the Outland Trophy in 1955.
During this time, Iowa was on top of the world of college football. Going into the 1960 season, the Hawkeyes retained their No. 1 ranking by defeating teams such as Ohio State, Michigan State, and Purdue. In the same season, they lost to rival Minnesota and ended up sharing the Big Ten title with the Golden Gophers. What later became known as the “Forgotten Season”, the Hawkeyes ended the season with No. 2 Coaches’ Poll and No. 3 AP Poll rankings, despite not making it to the Rose Bowl.
For the next several years, the Hawkeyes had a carousel of coaches, as well as wins and losses, and lost their momentum in the rankings. For a stretch of two decades, Iowa failed to have a winning season, and the program turned abysmal. In 1979, Iowa hired Hayden Fry, and within a few seasons, the Hawkeyes returned to glory yet again with a winning season, the share of another Big Ten title, and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. The Hawkeyes went on to win three more Big Ten titles and 14 bowl games in the following years. In the mid-80s, Iowa was ranked No. 1, a 10-game winning season, and a Big Ten title.
When Kirk Ferentz, Fry’s former assistant coach, took over after his retirement, Iowa rolled on to have three consecutive Top 10 finishes and two Big Ten titles. Ferentz has led his team to numerous bowl games and has broken into the Top 25 several times in his 20 years as head coach.
Can the Hawkeyes gain a National Championship title?
It has been 16 years since the Hawkeyes have even won a Big Ten title (five years since a divisional title). With the last Natty trophy dating back to 1960, is it possible for the Iowa Hawkeyes to ever make it back to a National Championship title again?
For the 2021 season, their lineup includes Maryland, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Northwestern; their schedule is no cupcake, and the team tends to be written off. While it is no easy feat in the current gridiron, it is not impossible for the Hawkeyes to return to glory, to win a Big Ten title, to make an appearance in the National Championship game, or even to bring home the hardware.
If Iowa can find their offensive identity again and play to the players’ strengths as they have in the past, they could make their way up the rankings. Coach Ferentz has navigated this team long enough to know what their strengths and weaknesses are; to know what works and what doesn’t. Ferentz and the Hawkeyes can restore Iowa to its place in gridiron notoriety.
Iowa’s sports culture
The Hawkeyes home base is well known for their sports culture despite having no professional major league sports teams. However, they’re still a state who is enthusiastic about sports which led to the state legalizing online sports betting activities for their citizens in 2019. This meant that on major sporting events whether that be their own local teams or major sport teams from a different state.
Sportsbooks operating in Iowa have also begun to utilize local sports teams such as the Hawkeyes into their betting promotions and offers. In January, customers who placed a bet over $25 on the Iowa Hawkeyes vs Rutgers game received a betting $1 credit for each point that Iowa scores, encouraging citizens to back their local team!
With this being said, is it possible that we may see the Iowa Hawkeyes collaborate with a sportsbook for sponsorship? With the backing of a gambling provider, the team may get the much-needed funding and push to become a National Champion again.