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Wine Online: The Beach To Turn Black and Gold
Hawkeyes, Steelers in Miami same weekend
Ricky Stanzi and the Iowa Hawkeyes will square off against Georgia Tech in the 2010 FedEx Orange Bowl.
Ricky Stanzi and the Iowa Hawkeyes will square off against Georgia Tech in the 2010 FedEx Orange Bowl.
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Dec. 7, 2009

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  • IOWA CITY, Iowa - When Hayden Fry took over an ailing Iowa football program in 1979, he had a lot of things to change, including the image. One way to do that was to change the uniform.

    The best football team on the planet at the time was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were winning Super Bowl championships in the NFL, and their colors happened to be black and gold, the same as Iowa's.


    Hayden contacted Steelers' officials and asked permission to copy their uniforms. They gave it to him, and when Iowa lined up to play Indiana in the opening game of the 1979 season they looked just like the Steelers.

    "Until the ball was snapped," Hayden recalls with a chuckle.

    That changed two years later when Iowa won a Big Ten championship and started going to bowl games on an annual basis. When watching TV on Saturday you'd see the Hawkeyes, on Sunday you'd see the Steelers. They looked alike -- except for helmet decals -- and they were both winning.

    Now, 30 years after Hayden made the change, two teams that wear the same uniform will be in the same town at the same time. On the first week of the New Year, they will both be in Miami to play football on the same field in the same stadium, two days apart.

    The Steelers will be in town to play the Miami Dolphins at Land Shark Stadium Jan. 3 in their final game of the regular season. The Hawkeyes will be there to play Georgia Tech Jan. 5 for the Orange Bowl championship.

    The Hawkeyes and Steelers will bring with them their legion of fans, so count on it that there will be an abundance of black and gold, all the way from West Palm Beach to South Beach, and all the beaches in between.





    "First, it gives the team extra time to prepare for Georgia Tech's offense, which features the option. It's something a defense seldom sees, and Norm Parker and his staff are probably happy to have a month to prepare.

    "Second, a lot of players are banged up, especially on offense. They can use the extra time to heal injuries. Hopefully Kirk's team will go into the bowl game 100 percent healthy."

    Former Iowa Head Coach Hayden Fry


    When I learned of this coincidence from my son Steve, a sports writer in Miami, I got on the phone and called Hayden to do some fact checking.

    "You've got it right," said the man who won 143 games and took Iowa to 14 bowl games in his 20 years as head coach. "The Steelers were Super Bowl champs and had good-looking uniforms. They were very cooperative in giving their approval for us to copy them. Their equipment manager sent me quarterback Terry Bradshaw's jersey and pants so we would get accurate measurements on the numbers, lettering and trim."

    Hayden and his wife Shirley now live in Mesquite, Nev., and he was hoping the Hawkeyes would play in the Fiesta Bowl at Phoenix, which is not far away. He would have attended that game, but now he'll likely stay home and watch the Orange Bowl on one of the three large flat-screen television sets in his TV room.

    "On football Saturdays I have a different game on each one." he said. "Sometimes I've got former coaches or players involved in different games and I get whiplash trying to keep up," he joked.

    Several of coaches who were mentored by Hayden have teams involved in bowl games. The Holiday Bowl has two, Mike Stoops of Arizona and Bo Pelini of Nebraska. "I'll have to remain neutral in that one." he says.

    Another is Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, who was on Hayden's staff at a time when the Hawkeyes won two Big Ten championships and had the best record in the Big Ten (1981 through 1987). Facilities were lagging and there was no indoor practice facility the first three years. "Our bowl preparation was very difficult in those days," recalls Hayden.

    Iowa's facilities are now state-of-the-art and the Hawkeyes will hit the ground running when they arrive in Miami a week or so before meeting Georgia Tech. One factor that concerns coaches is the long layoff between the end of the regular season and January bowl games, but Hayden thinks that might work in Iowa`s favor for two reasons.

    "First, it gives the team extra time to prepare for Georgia Tech's offense, which features the option. It's something a defense seldom sees, and Norm Parker and his staff are probably happy to have a month to prepare.

    "Second, a lot of players are banged up, especially on offense. They can use the extra time to heal injuries. Hopefully Kirk's team will go into the bowl game 100 percent healthy."

    If he doesn't attend the game, Hayden will be home watching on TV and perhaps thinking back to 30 years ago when he got the idea to dress Iowa's football team like the Pittsburgh Steelers. But only one of his three TV sets will be on. The Orange Bowl is the only game in the country that night.

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