Dec. 31, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. -- - So what exactly is a bowl game "Hawkeye Huddle"?
Is it a pep rally?
Is it a big-time black-and-gold thank you?
Is it a celebration of a body of (college football) work well done?
The answer is rather easy: It's all of the above.
"It's an investment made by the UI Athletics Department, the National I-Club, and the UI Alumni Association to create an opportunity for fans of the Hawkeyes and friends of the UI to gather as one and celebrate another great year of Iowa football," said Matt Henderson, executive director of the National I-Club and one of the individuals responsible for the planning and execution of the 2014 Outback Bowl Hawkeye Huddle successfully staged Tuesday night at the Tampa Convention Center.
"(The Hawkeye Huddle is) an investment made by the UI Athletics Department, the National I-Club, and the UI Alumni Association to create an opportunity for fans of the Hawkeyes to gather as one and celebrate another great year of Iowa football."
Matt Henderson, executive director of the National I -Club
"We enjoy the opportunity to say `thank you' to our fans, particularly when that opportunity occurs during the holidays at a locale that is warm. In fact, the warmer the better, the closer to New Year's Day the better, and, of course, the larger the group of Hawk fans that gather for the celebration, the better."
Henderson estimated the crowd that gathered for the celebration of Kirk Ferentz's 15th Iowa football team - the squad that will square off against LSU in the 2014 Outback Bowl tomorrow afternoon - to be in the neighborhood of 8,000 based on the capacity of the space the UI rented inside the convention center.
"It's a group like many others. They are very excited and enthusiastic and supportive of our student-athletes and our coaching staff," said Henderson, who noted that the fact that the UI had arranged for the Iowa men's basketball team's 2014 Big Ten Conference season opener against Nebraska to be available live for viewing boosted the event's "environment."
"The bowl game Hawkeye Huddle is always a special event. Being in Tampa for another great Outback Bowl and gathering on the last day of the year only adds to the fun for everyone. The opportunity to also cheer Fran's team is a special bonus that our fans - and our staff and their family members - really appreciate," said Henderson.
As always, in addition to a performance by the Hawkeye Marching Band and brief comments from UI President Sally Mason and UI Director of Athletics Gary Barta, the Huddle was highlighted by the introduction of the parents of the student-athletes in attendance including many of the seniors who will be playing their final game as an Iowa Hawkeye on Wednesday.
Sixteen Hawkeyes will make the 27th bowl game in UI history their final game as a student-athlete at the UI. Linebacker Christian Kirksey is among those 16 and it was his mother, Patrice, who stole the show when Huddle emcee Gary Dolphin worked down a line that also included Lisa and Brian Meyer, parents of Mike Meyer, Iowa's record-setting all-Big Ten placekicker. It was Brian who gave everyone a reason to chuckle -- including himself - when Dad introduced himself as "the son of Mike Meyer."
"It's always a great piece of the event. Our fans genuinely appreciate the commitment and dedication of our players. The bowl game Huddle ranks second only to Senior Day at Kinnick Stadium as an opportunity for the fans to show their appreciation," said Henderson.
The Huddle is also used by the staff of the UI Athletics Department to estimate total "Hawkeye Nation" attendance at a bowl game. The rule of thumb? For every fan of the Hawkeyes who made their way to the Huddle, there is at least another who will be at the game cheering the black and gold. So, based on that calculation, UI officials expect as many as 16,000 fans of the UI to be in Raymond James Stadium at kickoff.
Lastly, this year's Hawkeye Huddle was also the "big stage" for the acknowledgement of a retiring big guy on the UI campus: Vince Nelson, long-time executive director of the UI Alumni Association. Nelson was presented a souvenir No. 1 Iowa football jersey by Mason and Barta in recognition of his 25 years of service to the UI and its thousands of alumni worldwide. Nelson will retire in 2014.