One of the fallouts from Iowa’s 4-8 football record in 2012 was getting no night games the following season.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz used that lack of primetime respect as a motivating point with his team.
“It’s simple, it’s a level playing field,” Ferentz told his team last spring about no night games on the schedule. “When you lose, it’s not good. Go win.”
The Hawkeyes rebounded with an 8-5 last season, which included a berth in the Outback Bowl. But there was no primetime reward when both ESPN/ABC and the Big Ten Network announced their six night schedules last month.
“I guess we’ve got to win nine,” Ferentz quipped Tuesday before his appearance at the Polk County I-Club in West Des Moines.
Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue are the only Big Ten schools without a 2014 primetime appearance during the regular season. Ohio State and Nebraska lead the way with four each, and Michigan and Penn State have three.
“The only way I can describe it to you is that we’d love to play a night game or two a year,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said. “We don’t control it. We don’t get to select. It’s a little disappointing. But at the end of the day, we play when they ask us to play. There’s still a chance to play some late-afternoon games, depending on how that all shakes out.”
Ferentz loves night games at Kinnick Stadium. He isn’t as wild about them on the road.
“But it’s always a good environment,” Ferentz said. “There’s a lot of electricity. That’s just the way it panned out this year. We don’t make those decisions. We’ll play the schedule we’ve got. We’ll have our fans, and they’ll be enthusiastic.”
Ferentz acknowledged that an Ohio State may have a recruiting advantage with four primetime appearances, but added that the Buckeyes’ tradition makes it a small bump at best.
“The exposure can be good,” Ferentz said. “But it can be bad if you don’t play well.”
Last season was the first time Iowa didn’t have at least one night game on the schedule since 2008, following a 6-6 record the previous season. That was also Iowa’s last bowl-free season until 2012.
Barta said he’s received feedback from fans about the lack of night games, and geography is usually at the heart of the discussion.
“A lot of our fans enjoy a night game or two, and I’m there with them,” Barta said. “But no matter when we play, there’s always a group that’s upset. Fans in Iowa City love the 11 a.m. start because they have the whole evening. People from Sioux City, a long way away, they prefer a night game because it’s easier for them to get there.”