Dec. 25, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. -- Most families have holiday traditions and the University of Iowa football family is no different.
It's an annual event whenever the Hawkeyes work out on Christmas Day that head coach Kirk Ferentz conducts the entire practice while wearing a Santa's hat.
But just because the head elf...um...coach is wearing a festive cap doesn't mean it's play time or that the day is all treats and sweets.
"It's a work day and that's one thing we try to explain to our players," Ferentz said Wednesday after the Hawkeyes' practice at Jesuit High School. "If you're a college football player or a college coach, it's not good to be sitting home on Christmas."
But it is still Christmas, a day that focuses heavily on relaxation and family gatherings, so Ferentz relies on his jolly side to get his gang charged for the daily grind.
"It's a little bit different, but for the players it's a small window of their lives. They still get to call home and touch base with their families. I want to lighten it up a little bit."
UI football coach
And the Hawkeye student-athetes notice.
"I think they get a kick out of it," Ferentz said. "Ho Ho Ho."
The first time Ferentz donned the festive apparel was 2001 when the Hawkeyes were preparing for the Alamo Bowl; Iowa defeated Texas Tech 19-16.
"I don't know how we got it or how we stumbled upon it," Ferentz admits.
The original Santa's hat was not Hawkeye-themed, like model No. 2 Ferentz wore Wednesday.
"I can't even remember the first one, but it wasn't Hawkeye black and gold," he said.
The offseason caretaker of the hat is Terry Armstrong, assistant coach's secretary in the football office. Like Santa's list of those naughty and nice, the hat shows up for Ferentz every Dec. 25 before the Hawkeyes board a bus for practice.
"Terry Armstrong has done a great job of keeping the tradition alive, she even dry-cleaned it this year," Ferentz said. "It is well-rested unfortunately; it didn't get used last year."
Last postseason was rare for the UI football team, which has been bowl-eligible 12 of the 13 seasons since the 2001 Alamo Bowl. The Hawkeyes are 6-4 in bowl games under Ferentz, including a 2-1 mark in the Outback Bowl.
Iowa returns to practice Thursday, but Santa's hat will be packed away for the season.
The Hawkeyes (8-4 overall) play No. 14 LSU on Jan. 1, 2014 in the Outback Bowl in Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon (CT).