The news that Iowa’s football team would hold an open practice in West Des Moines on April 20 tells us this:
The Hawkeyes are wide-awake to the realization they can no longer take anything or anyone for granted.
Yes, Kinnick Stadium will be sold out (or close to it) for the unforeseeable future. Game Day at Kinnick is still the social event of the season for tens of thousands of Iowans. But after you’ve gone 4-8, slippage is always a distinct possibility. And the Hawkeyes need to start winning consistently again before they can assume they’re the frontrunners for the best high school players in the state, especially from central Iowa.
Iowa State has a football program, you know, and it has been to a bowl game more recently than Iowa. Not a great bowl game, mind you, but a bowl game. Plus, it isn’t as if out-of-state schools haven’t been sending recruiters into Greater Des Moines.
There’s also the matter of fans from outside Eastern Iowa, and their donations and ticket-buying. It’s one thing to make the relatively short trip to Kinnick from Cedar Rapids or the Quad Cities. It’s more of a commitment from Des Moines, and I imagine it could start to seem like a chore during a season like the last one.
So, the Hawkeyes are trying to stir up some buzz and goodwill in Des Moines. They will load up their team and equipment and roll into Des Moines. For the first time, they’re coming to the people instead of the people coming to them. There’s no taking you for granted, central Iowans. The Hawkeyes need you, they love you, they want you to know how much you mean to them.
It’s a smart play.
The fact the date of this appearance is the same as Iowa State’s spring game may not be the shot to the Cyclones’ bow that some assume. There are only so many Saturdays available in the spring practice period, and Iowa’s own open scrimmage at Kinnick was already penciled in for the following Saturday.
Plus, how many fans would actually skip ISU’s spring game to attend an Iowa practice? However, Des Moines media (and the follow-every-Hawkeyes-move from other places) will be there, and it will divert attention from the Cyclone in print and in that evening’s sportscasts.
However, if Iowa State is given to some sort of counter-promotion, it has ample time to come up with something. It’s not as if ISU Athletic Director Jamie Pollard is hesitant to play that game.
This may be something certain individuals within the Iowa program had kicked around for some time. But I wonder if the Hawkeyes would be hitting the road in April had they gone 9-4 last season. They have selling to do. To fans and high school players.