By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – With the life-changing announcement that a tiger hawk finally would be painted on the water tower that is located near the northeast corner of Kinnick Stadium, Iowa fans have one less thing to complain about.
But while you scratch the great water tower conspiracy off the list of grievances, others remain and here are 10 of them.
Here are 10 things that still irritate, annoy and disappoint Hawkeye fans, or at least they should. The list is based mostly on feedback from fans over the years and partly on my feelings.
1. The atmosphere at Carver-Hawkeye Arena: This didn’t become a critical issue until after Tom Davis was forced to resign in 1999, because until then, Iowa had sustained enough success in men’s basketball to offset the arena’s built-in deficiencies.
It wasn’t until Steve Alford replaced Davis and then mishandled the Pierre Pierce controversy did Carver-Hawkeye Arena start to be exposed. Alford didn’t win enough games to compensate for his lack of character and some fans showed their disapproval and disgust by not attending the home games.
A bad situation became worse after Todd Lickliter was hired to replace Alford in 2007. Lickliter never seemed comfortable at Iowa, nor did his players and that’s why many of them left the program prematurely under his watch.
The combination of losing, player defections and Lickliter’s unwillingness to embrace the Hawkeye culture led to his demise and dismissal after just three seasons.
The Iowa student section has been gutted by the lack of success, but UI officials seem oblivious to it, or they believe that winning is the only cure for apathy. Winning would certainly help, but so would moving the students to courtside where they could have a bigger impact on the game-day atmosphere.
2. No Big Ten regular-season title in men's basketball since 1979: To help put this drought in perspective, Hayden Fry had yet to make his Iowa coaching debut when the Iowa men’s basketball team last won a Big Ten regular-season title in 1979.
Iowa’s last outright title in men’s basketball dates back even further to 1970, or in other words, nearly a half century ago.
That’s incredible, but for all the wrong seasons.
The Hawkeyes have come close to ending the drought a few times, but more times than not, Iowa hasn’t been a factor in the Big Ten regular-season title chase.
3. The Iowa State football series: While I feel strongly that Iowa and Iowa State should play every year in football, many Hawkeye fans disagree and let me know about it on a regular basis.
Those who are against the game being played every year say it prevents Iowa from scheduling quality nonconference opponents, and they also believe it’s a no-win situation for the Hawkeyes because they suffer greatly from losing the game, but gain little from winning it.
4. Men’s basketball nonconference schedule: What do Chicago State, Alabama State, Grambling State, Southern, Southern Utah and Northern Illinois all have in common in men’s basketball?
They were all part of Iowa’s nonconference home schedule this past season. And to say the games weren’t popular with fans despite Iowa winning all of them in convincing fashion would be an understatement.
The Big Ten will expand to 20 conference games next season, so that should eliminate two of these miserable mismatches, but not all of them.
5. Garty Barta’s contractual buyouts: Kirk Ferentz and Fran McCaffery both have contracts that include rather hefty buyouts that give them too much leverage according to some fans. There is some truth to that, but Iowa isn’t alone in this case.
Buyouts seem to be one area in the negotiation process where agents are out-maneuvering athletic directors.
6. No beer at Kinnick Stadium: This is sort of misleading because there is beer served at Kinnick Stadium during games, while the area around the stadium is also knee-deep in alcohol on game day.
The problem is that beer is only available in certain areas of the stadium and isn’t served to the general public. Some fans would like that to change and are pretty vocal about it.
7. No spring game/tailgating: These two go hand-in-hand and sort of continue with the alcohol theme. Fans have come to accept that Iowa doesn’t play a true spring game under Kirk Ferentz, but they don’t understand, or they refuse to understand, why tailgating is prohibited before the final spring practice.
8. In-state softball recruiting: The Iowa softball program has fallen on hard times under head coach Marla Looper whose inability or refusal to recruit in-state players is largely to blame.
That was exposed last week as Minnesota pitcher Amber Fiser allowed just two hits during an 8-0 victory over Iowa. A former star pitcher from Benton Community High School, Fiser never heard from Iowa during the recruiting process.
Minnesota catcher and Ankeny native Kendyl Lindaman also smacked a two-run home run in last week’s victory over Iowa. It was her 14th home run this season.
Lindaman barely heard from Iowa despite setting the state record for home runs with 71.
Former Solon star Emily Ira also led Western Illinois to a 2-1 victory over Iowa in eight innings this past Tuesday in Iowa City. Ira pitched all eight innings and allowed just three hits.
Iowa also reportedly showed little to no interest in her during the recruiting process.
9. Television's negative impact: This mostly pertains to Iowa men's basketball games, which are now played on every day of the week and with starting times that range from late in the morning to late at night. The Big Ten Tournament also was played at Madison Square Garden in New York City this past season due mostly to television's influence.
Gone are the days when Iowa played most of its games on Thursday and Saturday, either at 1 p.m. or 7 p.m., and with almost all of them televised on the same network. Iowa's two exhibition games and its first three nonconference home games weren't televised this past season, but instead were shown on BTN Plus.
10. No hockey: This is one of the newer complaints and it's probably due partly to the new arena being built in Coralville. The Big Ten also has some of the best college hockey teams in the nation and it's only natural for hockey enthusiasts in Iowa to want to be involved.
However, the problem with adding a men's hockey team would be the enormous cost because you'd almost certainly have to add a women's team in order to meet gender equity requirements, and having just one hockey team would be expensive enough.