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Hawkeyes weigh more games at neutral sites

[ 0 ] August 25, 2012 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. — The crowd for Saturday’s Iowa-Northern Illinois football game at Chicago’s Soldier Field isn’t likely to be as large as the last time the teams met. However, it will be bigger than the throng that attended the previous college football game at the Chicago Bears’ stadium.

Just more than 45,000 tickets had been sold late last week for the 2:30 p.m. game that will be televised on ESPNU. That’s well ahead of the 41,098 fans who attended last year’s Soldier Field game between Northern Illinois and Wisconsin.

The crowd for the 2007 Iowa-Northern Illinois game at Soldier Field was announced at 61,500.

“We’ll be well-represented in Chicago,” athletic director Gary Barta said. “Our fans have told us they like experiences like this.”

That’s one of the reasons Barta listens when others inquire about additional neutral-site, regular-season football games.

“We don’t have another neutral-site game under contract, but we’ve had some discussion with people, not just about games at Soldier Field, but at other venues,” Barta said last week. “We have some interest.”

With Big Ten-Pac 12 scheduling out the window, there may be an opportunity.

“We thought we were going down path of Big Ten-Pac-12, but with that changing, we have to recalibrate,” Barta said.

SMG Marketing Group organized Saturday’s game. That event-planning company based in West Conshohocken, Pa., will pay each school $1 million, and for Iowa, it’s part of the between $5.8 million and $7.3 million the athletic department will bank for its non-conference games — three at home and one in Chicago.

Therefore, playing in Chicago, or at another neutral site — and not paying a non-conference guarantee of around $800,000 — could be appealing.

“But if it doesn’t have fan appeal, it loses my motivation to do it,” Barta said. “I like the concept — it’s fun and exciting, but if it doesn’t appeal to our fans, it’s shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Speaking of appeal …

Running back Jordan Canzeri, foreground, receiver Maurice Fleming, right, and defensive back Micah Hyde wear gold helmets during practice. They’ll be work Sept. 8 against Iowa State. (HawkeyeSports.com)

Don’t get too worked up — yet — about the gold helmets that showed up on Iowa’s football website recently.

The photo, snapped by HawkeyeSports.com staffer Darren Miller, shows Jordan Canzeri, Maurice Fleming and Micah Hyde wearing gold during a recent workout.

The team will wear the customary black helmets Saturday, then switch to gold for its Sept. 8 game against Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium.

The normal black helmets are striped and include an America Needs Farmers logo. The gold helmets likely will be without stripes or logos.

Iowa will wear silver helmets Nov. 10 against Purdue as part of its Nike combat uniform.

Back to the Windy City

In the department of information that will have no effect on the outcome of Saturday’s game:

Hawkeye offensive line coach Brian Ferentz has a 1-0 record as a coach in games at Soldier Field — he was an assistant when the New England Patriots beat the Bears 36-7 there in 2010.

His dad is 1-0 at Soldier Field as a head coach, <JU>leading Iowa to a 16-3 victory against Northern Illinois in the 2007 season opener.

He’s 1-1 overall, losing against the Bears when he was a Baltimore Ravens assistant in 1998.

Nike bonus at stake

Saturday could be the first step toward meeting a Nike financial bonus with the university.

The contract between the apparel giant and the Hawkeyes says Nike owes Iowa $5,000 if the football team wins at least seven games.

Already, the university has received $30,000 for reaching that incentive since the contract started in 2004.

The Ferentz bunch

Back to the Ferentz clan, of which there are many.

“It’s been a blast having all of us in one building,” center James Ferentz said, not only about his father and position coach/brother, but also about his other brother, Steve, a freshman walk-on tight end.

“Steve is hands down the smartest of all of us,” James said, presumably including pops.

“We get better as a football team with him around. It’s fun.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Randy Peterson: Randy Peterson covers college football, college basketball and the Iowa Cubs for the Des Moines Register. Randy can be reached at randypeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter via @RandyPete View author profile.

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