IOWA CITY — It was a history-making day for Iowa football, and one schools officials hope does not occur again.
For the first time in generations and possibly ever, weather issues forced Iowa to delay part of a football game. Midway through Saturday’s home opener against Tennessee Tech, the game was delayed for 1 hour, 24 minutes because of lightning in the Iowa City area.
A rainstorm engulfed Kinnick Stadium late morning and early afternoon, but the teams continued to play through it until 3 minutes, 37 seconds were left in the third quarter. Iowa officials saw lightning within “10 or 20 miles” from the stadium and decided to pull the teams off the field and the fans out of the stands.
“There was a significant storm heading right toward the stadium,” Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said. “First and foremost is the safety of the student-athletes and the fans. We made the decision to pull the teams off the field. We also had to evacuate the stadium.”
Barta said the teams cannot re-take the field until 30 minutes after the last lightning strike in the area. He said Iowa officials had discussed the weather situation as a precaution the last few days and monitored the radar throughout the game.
Barta said around 40,000 people can fit in the Kinnick Stadium concourses. The stadium was half-full at that point, in part because of the weather and Iowa’s 34-point lead.
Had the game started in a later television window, it might have been postponed. Kinnick Stadium does not have lights, which might have prevented the game from continuing. Barta told SourceMedia Group earlier this week that the athletics department has discussed adding permanent stadium lights.
“I think if the would have been a later afternoon game, it would have made the discussion whether or not we would be able to finish the game a little bit more critical,” Barta said. “When we play late-afternoon games, most of the time in preparation we bring in lights.
“I don’t think this changes the discussion; I think certainly it adds to the equation of whether or not we add lights to put in.”
It was a tough game for the players and coaches because of the weather. Tennessee Tech had its 2010 opener shortened to 25 minutes after rain and lightning against Lane College. Tennessee Tech Coach Watson Brown said it might have rained harder in his 2010 opener than it did on Saturday.
“I said immediately, ‘We’re not going home until we finish this,’” Brown said. “This wasn’t our first rodeo with this.
“They said they didn’t have lights, so we might have been playing with a glowing ball.”
Iowa’s players tried to stay focused and semi-relaxed in the locker room while waiting out the delay. Even before the players were pulled off the field, Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg chatted about the weather with the officials.
“It got really dark there for a minute, and I joked to the head umpire, I said, ‘Man, we really need lights in this place, huh?’” Vandenberg said. “And he goes, ‘Huh? Lightning where?’ I was like, ‘No never mind.’
“We could see the whole time. It was driving rain there for a little bit, but you’ve got be able to run the ball and we did a nice job of that.”
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