Hayden Fry was going on and on, hailing the virtues of San Diego weather and San Diego activities and San Diego people, and even San Diego State football.
This man was sounding very much like the president of the Chamber of Commerce.
Fry, of course, is football coach at the University of Iowa, which arrives in town Tuesday to begin preparation for a second consecutive visit to the Holiday Bowl.
"We've got to get out there where it's 80 degrees," Fry said. "It was 1 degree here last night. We haven't gotten outside to practice yet."
Well, he was advised, it was 50 and raining in San Diego.
"Good," he said. "You're getting it out of the way before we get there."
No raining on this parade of compliments.
Fry was simply cooking with them. If the Hawkeyes couldn't get to the Rose Bowl, the Holiday Bowl was such a delightful alternative. Heaven, one step from heaven.
These good ol' boys from the cornfields of the Midwest will be coming out here with their bathing suits and cameras and sunglasses. And Ol' Hayden is going to turn 'em loose.
That's what he said.
What? Big 10 teams, by reputation, are big, brooding herds, with tempestuous coaches who whip them into corrals behind barriers the size of the Berlin Wall. These guys come out on game day and wonder what town they've been in.
Not Hayden's boys. Not according to Hayden's rules.
"Rules?" Fry said, as if mystified. "I have three of them. Have fun. Don't get into trouble. And watch your weight. They do have a time I want them to be in every night, but other than that, most things are optional."
Gad. Even breakfast is optional.
"They can sleep in if they want," Fry said.
This did not sound like a coach from the Big 10. Usually, the only thing optional for those teams is offense.
"My players can lie on the beach or sleep or read a book," he said. "Whatever they want to do. These Iowa boys will see and do everything imaginable. They'll be all over the boats down in the marinas. They'll check out all the animals in the zoo. They'll know the prices of all the goods in Tijuana. I'm not worried about my guys."
Obviously, the 1986 Holiday Bowl must have made a rather favorable impression.
"I personally think that other than the Rose Bowl, which is the ultimate, this is the most enjoyable bowl I've ever been to," Fry said. "It's unusual to go to the same bowl two consecutive years, but the total environment is just super out there."
Indeed, it sounds as if all of Iowa will be here for the holidays.
"We sold our 10,000 tickets right away and hoped we could get some more," he said. "Our people will come early and stay late and get around and spend money."
Somewhere in the midst of all this frivolity, I imagine, the Hawkeyes will practice for a few minutes a day. Practices, presumably, are not optional. The game itself, scheduled for Dec. 30 if the Hawkeyes can find time, will fit nicely between parades and New Year's Eve.
In spite of Fry's assurances that his boys will have fun, the suspicion is that considerable time will be spent focusing their physical and mental energies on the young men from the University of Wyoming, who will be on the other side of the ball at game time.
To hear Fry tell it, Wyoming will be coming to town with a BYU passing attack, an Oklahoma ground game and the defense the Chicago Bears wish they'd had Monday night against San Francisco.
Iowa's players have been asked to sit down and watch some Wyoming film, but that was back in Iowa City, where there wasn't anything better to do.
"We do a good job of educating our people about the opposition," Fry said. "Heck, all they have to do is think back to last year, when we played San Diego State and we had to score on the last play of the game with a field goal to win, 39-38."
That was truly an exciting finish. Of course, the Holiday Bowl is always exciting. It never seems to make any difference who is playing. It is as if the game is scripted rather than played. The fourth quarter has always been a crescendo capped by the final gun.
What will it take to win this game?
"About four touchdowns," Fry said. "Or more."
Or more may be more like it.
"I hope so," Fry said. "I don't mean to belittle our defense or Wyoming's defense, but high-scoring games seem to be what fans enjoy most over the holidays. To me, a 7-3 or 14-7 game would be kind of dull."
And nothing about the Hawkeyes' stay in San Diego is going to be dull. That's what Hayden Fry assures us.
The weather will have to be a little more cooperative than it has been, however. We wouldn't want the Hawkeyes to get here and think they'd landed in Ann Arbor by mistake.
Hayden Fry would have to resign from the Chamber of Commerce.