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Touring the State to Say Thanks

UI head men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery loves doing the I-Club circuit and getting a chance to meet and interact with Hawkeye fans.

UI head men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery loves doing the I-Club circuit and getting a chance to meet and interact with Hawkeye fans.

June 17, 2011

Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The seasons changing from spring to summer means the end of athletic seasons on campus at the University of Iowa. It also signals the end of another season for the UI Department of Athletics; the I-Club Banquet circuit.

Wednesday was the final stop for UI coaches and staff on a three-month tour across the state of Iowa and the Midwest for I-Club banquets. The first banquet was held April 18 in Mason City and the tour concluded Wednesday in Iowa Falls.

Members of coaching staffs for many of the Hawkeye athletic teams, along with administrators, support staff and members of the UI Foundation, made a total of 26 stops in Iowa, Omaha, Milwaukee and Kansas City. I-Club banquets give fans a chance to hear their favorite Hawkeye coaches talk about the previous season, preview the upcoming year and provide an opportunity to talk one-on-one with members of the staff.

"I love doing the I-Club circuit and meeting Hawkeye fans across the state," UI head men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery said. "I'm meeting fans everywhere and every place we go is packed. It's very personal. You get a chance to meet families, young and old fans. It's not just a quick conversation; you can sit down and spend quality time with Hawkeye fans."

UI head wrestling coach Tom Brands says the I-Club banquet tour is important because it allows the coaches to say thanks for the outstanding support that Hawkeye fans provide during the season.

"When you travel, people are almost apologetic because they think they are wearing you out," Brands said. "But I love it. You get to see people and catch up with them. Relationships are built over time. The position that we are in is to win wrestling matches. When you win, you draw more fans in.

"Now it's time to develop those relationships and let them give their two cents. It's actually a break from Iowa City and it serves a purpose. You want to do a good job when you are out here. These fans make it easy to do a good job."

Fan support in the stands isn't the only reason coaches and staff tour the state to say thanks. Hawkeye fans that join the I-Club also help the UI Department of Athletics financially. Donation dollars help build facilities, fund scholarships and allow Hawkeye athletes to have the best experience possible during their stay in Iowa City.

Matt Henderson, executive director of development for intercollegiate athletics, is never surprised at the level of support Hawkeye fans show throughout the year.

"The I-Club banquets are held to say thank-you to the Iowa fans for making that drive to support our teams," Henderson said. "It really goes back to the passion of the Iowa fan base. There is tremendous passion from our fans to follow the Hawkeyes, whether it's during the athletic seasons or during the I-Club banquets."

I-Club banquets take on many different shapes and sizes. Some, including the final gathering at Highland Country Club in Iowa Falls, start with a four-person best shot golf tournament in the early afternoon. Hawkeye athletes, coaches and radio broadcasters take part in the golf outing and fans have the opportunity to play a round of golf with members of the UI Department of Athletics.

Football and basketball play-by-play voice Gary Dolphin serves as emcee at the majority of banquets, and takes part in the golf side of some of the outings. Like Henderson, Dolphin loves to see the passion of Hawkeye fans across the Midwest.

"Through thick and thin, Iowa fans are there for you," Dolphin said. "To have people like Tom Brands, Fran McCaffery and Kirk Ferentz shake hands and have conversations, you have won over another 300 Hawkeye fans for life.

"Iowans are the same, whether it's the east coast or west coast of this great state. They want to meet the coaches and connect with them. Iowa fans love to hear that their support doesn't go unnoticed and the coaches make sure to tell them that."

Whether it's a Saturday morning football game, a Wednesday night basketball game or a Sunday afternoon baseball game, Iowa fans take time out of their schedules to support Hawkeye athletics. Henderson says this is a chance for the Hawkeyes to meet Iowa fans and repay the favor.

"The banquets give our fans a chance to meet with the coaches, one-on-one, in a small setting," Henderson said. "We want to make sure that fans understand these banquets are a chance for us to say thank you for the support. We really hope the fans realize how much we appreciate the support and we don't take it for granted."

Pam Mott, president of the North Central Iowa I-Club in Iowa Falls, knows that fans across the state appreciate the effort that coaches and staff members make to meet the Hawkeye faithful during the I-Club circuit.

"It's nice when high profile Hawkeye athletes and coaches can come to smaller towns and meet the fans," Mott said. "The fans really love it. It gives them a chance to meet their favorite Hawkeye players and coaches and have personal talks with them."

Even though the spring I-Club tour is complete, fans can still sign up for the end-of-the-year Golden Harvest I-Club outing. This year's Golden Harvest will be held July 30 in Iowa City, with a four-person best shot golf tournament held at Finkbine Golf Course. The banquet will be held later that night and features Kirk Ferentz and various other Hawkeye staff members.

Visit hawkeyesports.com and click on the I-Club tab for more information.