There's almost an aura about the Hawkeyes this year. If Hayden Fry brought the team out here and put them in a tunnel until the game, the fans would say OK. They believe in Fry and think he should do whatever it takes to win the Rose Bowl.
--Tom Smallwood, University of Iowa, Class of 1963
Although he now lives in Milwaukee, Tom Smallwood is not likely to forget the drubbing his Hawkeyes took when they played the University of Washington in the 1982 Rose Bowl. Neither is any other Iowa football fan. It was Washington 28, Iowa 0.
To make matters worse, 1982 was the first time Iowa had been the Big Ten conference's representative here on New Year's Day in 23 years, and the shutout disconcerted team, school and state.
But, today, against UCLA, Iowa has a chance to rectify that loss, and this time, Hawkeye fans say, things will be different.
"I think the Iowa players were somewhat embarrassed out here in January, '82," said Smallwood, a Milwaukee attorney. "Particularly Hayden Fry. I think they felt sort of like hayseeds being exposed to the glitter and not being able to handle it. That really wasn't the case, but the perception of them was as farm boys. So, they're taking a different approach this time. They're a better team this year, too."
Coach Hayden Fry's 1985 road to the Rose Bowl has been a no-nonsense one.
He brought the Iowa team to Los Angeles only a week before the game, instead of coming for the customary two weeks, and has kept his players under lock and key at the Industry Hills Sheraton in what he called "Operation No Frills." Pre-Rose Bowl, the media was granted only one interview session, for 30 minutes last Friday.
Smallwood called Hayden Fry "a great psychologist" in his approach to football at the University of Iowa. "He's got the boys on a different mental tack now," he said. "And the fans, too. No Iowa fan I've spoken to thinks Hayden Fry does anything wrong. He could run for governor and win. It's kind of like (the late) Bear Bryant was in Alabama, only Bryant had competition from other colleges. As far as Iowans are concerned there's only the Hawkeyes. Iowa State's football is mediocre."
On a more serious note, Smallwood said that the Hawkeyes winning season (10-1) and berth at the Rose Bowl is serving as a bright spot for the entire state, plagued by numerous farm foreclosures in the past few years.
"The team is like an antidote for a very sick state," Smallwood said. "It's like the Depression in the 1980s. Thousands of people have lost their farms. And the team is a bright spot for them to look at. There's a sense of pride for the state. Almost a sense of ownership in the team for the people."
"We understand what Hayden Fry wants to do," said Elaine Mulherin, a high school English teacher from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who came for the Rose Bowl with her sister, Mary, a retired executive secretary. The Mulherins brought a big box of Iowa cookies with them to hand out at the game. Each cookie was decorated with slogans, "Go Hawks" or "We're Long on Iowa." The latter refers to All-America Iowa quarterback Chuck Long, who turned down a professional football contract to play one more year of football at Iowa.
'It Was Terrible'
"The last time the Hawks were here, they didn't concentrate on football," Mulherin added. "They just had a good time. Everybody remembers that. I wasn't here at the game, but if I had been, I would have been embarrassed. It was terrible."
Mulherin said that Coach Fry was so serious about keeping the team under wraps until kickoff time that he wouldn't permit Iowa sportscasters to interview the players at the airport in Cedar Rapids before they left for California.
Other Iowa fans seem to share Fry's view as well.
"Hayden Fry can do just about anything he wants in Iowa, I suspect," said Iowa alumnus Bryan Bailey, who now lives in Brandon, S.D., and works for the U.S. Geological Survey. Bailey came for the Rose Bowl with his wife, JoAnn, also a graduate of the university, and sons Chad, 8, and Jonathan, 6.
"I respect Fry, and he's got his head together," Bailey said. "It's been said by others that the team is kind of a rallying point for the state, and I think it is."
"We're out here to win a football game and we mean business," said Bob Laughrige, an Ottumwa, Iowa, banker here for his first Rose Bowl game. "Coach Fry thinks the players should have their minds on football and winning. They can go to Disneyland later."
The Only Game in Town
Laughrige and his wife Joan pointed out that for Iowans, Hawkeye football "is the only game in town."
"You have to remember that University of Iowa football is the only thing going in Iowa as far as sports are concerned," said Laughrige. "We don't have any professional teams."
"We were embarrassed four years ago," said Dr. Richard Dohrmann, an oral surgeon in Sioux City, Iowa, who flew to California for the Rose Bowl with a dozen friends. "If Fry thinks that's what it takes to win, then we're all with him. Economically things are absolutely the pits in Iowa. I don't pretend to know all of the farmers' problems, but you can see guys every day losing the farm that's been in their families since the turn of the century. It's a bad situation, so the team is a real boost for Iowa.
"Chuck Long turned down a million dollars to stay at Iowa and come to the Rose Bowl," Dohrmann continued. "I think the team is with him. And the fans certainly are."