A look back at nearly 30 years of covering the Hawkeyes and some moments that stand out

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By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa – One thing I've learned about dealing with a global pandemic and the isolation, boredom and fear that comes with it is that you have a lot of time to think about the past.

That was the inspiration for this column in which I look back at some of the most memorable and light-hearted moments during nearly 30 years of covering University of Iowa athletics.

These moments are unique to me, so there is no mention of Tate to Holloway or how it felt to cover the Iowa football team's incredible goal-line stand at Syracuse in 2006, or how fun it was to cover the Iowa men's basketball team's improbable march to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1999 under Tom Davis.

There is also no mention of Chris Street's tragic death in 1993 even though that is probably what stands out the most to me.

Hopefully, some of these moments will make you smile because we need something to smile about right now. And some of the moments come at my expense because I've always found it easy to laugh at myself because sometimes I can be idiot.

So here we go with a trip down memory lane.

*****

There was the time when I opened the wrong door to the Iowa football team’s inflatable bubble, which used to serve as the indoor practice facility, and it started to deflate right before my eyes.

If not for the strength and determination of several Iowa players, including former tight end Scott Slutzker and offensive lineman Ross Verba, I would have been known as the media moron who caused the Bubble to deflate.

I remember saying a prayer as the players struggled to get the door closed despite a tremendous amount of air pressure working against them.

They finally succeeded in getting the door closed, and concern quickly turned to laughter at my expense, and deservedly so.

There was a huge sign above the door that said do not enter in big red letters, so I had no excuse. The joke was on me as former Iowa Sports Information Director Phil Haddy so often let me know in the weeks that followed.

*****

There was the time in 1992 when I tried to hide in the back of the room where Hayden Fry held his weekly press conferences in the early 1990s because I had been warned that he planned to lash out at me for having written a column about former Iowa receiver Willie Guy that Fry felt was unfair and inaccurate.

I had insinuated in the column that Fry was being less than truthful about why Guy, a former star recruit from Memphis, Tenn., was reportedly serving a six-game suspension.

Guy already had missed the 1990 and 1991 seasons after failing to meet the entrance requirements for incoming recruits, but he finally was put on scholarship prior to the 1992 season and allowed to practice.

Guy wasn’t allowed to play in the first six games, however, for reasons that were unclear. 

So I accused Fry of playing hide and seek after it was reported that Guy had missed several practices after getting some teeth pulled, and after losing a contact lens. I wrote that Guy’s story had gone beyond absurd and that Iowa fans deserved an explanation.

I will never forget Fry saying, “Pat, where is Pat,” because I usually sat near the front of the room, but this time I sat as far back as possible, so maybe he wouldn’t see me.

I reluctantly said, “back here coach,” and slowly raised my hand.

Fry then let me have it in true Hayden Fry fashion.

It also probably didn't help that Iowa was 1-3 at the time.

“Son,” Fry said to me, “when you start insinuating that I’m lying about not having his wisdom teeth worked on, or when you insinuate he didn’t lose his contact lens and have to get them replaced, son, you’re way off base. You’re questioning my integrity and my honesty, and I won’t put up with that.”

Fry insisted that he couldn’t comment on Guy’s status, citing the Buckley Amendment and student privacy.

It had been reported the previous week that Guy was serving a six-game suspension, but school officials would neither confirm nor deny.

In this case, I was wrong to have insinuated that Fry was lying. It was my first year on the beat, and I had a lot to learn.

My older brother had played for Fry at Iowa, and he also felt that I had crossed the line by questioning Fry’s integrity.

And my older brother was right.

So I apologized to Fry, and to Guy, and neither held a grudge, which says a lot about them.

Guy never became a star at Iowa, but he finished his career in 1995, and then eventually settled in Cedar Rapids where he and his wife have raised a family and still live to this day.

*****

There was the time, I believe in 1996, when I saw Fry at the annual Big Ten media day event in Chicago and he looked at me and said, “Patty, I don’t know what you did over the summer, but it wasn’t sit-ups.”

That was Fry’s way of telling me that I had gained a few pounds since we last saw each other at the end of spring practice.

Back then, we didn’t have any contact with Fry during the summer, so Big Ten media day was sort of our time to catch up and to get reacquainted.

I remember my father bursting into laughter after I told him what Fry said.

*****

There was the time when I mistakenly tried to gain entrance to what I believed was my hotel room in Bloomington, Ind., and the people in the room called the front desk and said that a trashy looking white guy wearing sweat pants and a Grateful Dead shirt was trying to break into their room.

I told the story to my mother, and she agreed that I was a trashy looking white guy.

*****

There was the time when my friend, fueled by having had too many free beers in the media hospitality suite at Big Ten Football Media Day in Chicago, kept trying to pick a fight with a former television studio host who was much bigger, and I’m assuming much tougher than my friend.

Fortunately, it never escalated beyond my friend yelling from across the room and making a fool of himself and embarassing me.

*****

There was the time when Bobby Knight unloaded on the media during the post-game press conference following Steve Alford’s much-anticipated return to his alma mater as the Iowa head coach.

I had seen Knight insult and intimidate the media before, but this was excessive even for him. I felt bad for the media members who were at the center of Knight’s rage, and I even felt bad for Alford, because at that point, I didn’t realize that Alford was also insufferable.

This was before the Pierre Pierce sexual assault controversy, and before Alford had shown a pattern of blaming his players when things had gone wrong.

*****

There was the time when Alford called me at the Iowa City Press-Citizen to complain about a column I had written in which I didn’t shower him with praise.

In fact, I had called him out for being a self-absorbed narcissist who was failing to deliver as head coach.

Alford told me that I was evil and that I needed to strengthen my faith and get closer to Jesus, and I responded by saying that my relationship with Jesus was just fine, and that it was really none of his business.

Alford was outraged because he wasn’t used to being criticized and he felt the media, especially the local media, was there to serve him and to push his narrative.

That column was the first of many that I wrote about Alford in a negative light. And he deserved every word.

*****

There was the time when I went to a Denny's near my hotel in Miami Beach long after midnight in the days leading up to the 2003 Orange Bowl and was accompanied by two members from a college newspaper who I won’t identify for the sake of privacy.

One of the college kids, much to my disgust, put sour cream on his omelette, scarfed it down and then puked a few minutes later in the bathroom.

*****

There was the time when an Iowa reporter ordered an appetizer at an expensive steak house in Tampa while covering the Outback Bowl, but did so without checking the price.

All it said on the menu next to the appetizer, which I believe was crab legs, was market price. And in this case, market price was slightly more than $200.

The reaction from the reporter when given his tab is something I’ll never forget. I remembering him calmly saying, “Oh, that’s a little more than I had expected.”

*****

There was the time when I couldn’t get my story to send through the computer system at the Press-Citizen while covering the Iowa men’s basketball team’s victory over Connecticut on Nov. 11, 1999 at Madison Square Garden.

It was close to midnight and a member of the cleaning crew was yelling at me to hurry up because he didn’t want to be there all night.

I had to dictate the story to a news assistant back in the office in Iowa City with a vacuum roaring in the background, and regrettably, I took out some of my frustration out on him.

But I later apologized for being a jerk.

*****

There was the time in 2010 when our flight from Denver to Cedar Rapids was cancelled on Sunday after having covered the Iowa football team’s loss at Arizona the previous night. I was among three Press-Citizen staff members who had covered the game and we were eager to get home.

But then we learned that the earliest flight would be on Monday afternoon, so we decided to rent a car instead and former reporter Andy Hamilton drove the entire way from Denver to Iowa City without stopping, while I slept all the way through Nebraska.

It was the most fun I've ever had in Nebraska.