Small College Football: A Love Story

Everyone knows about Iowa and Iowa State, but have you… (Wartburg Circuit)

It’s hard to believe that we’re 10 days away from the annual Iowa/ISU game.  Around this time every year, everyone starts talking about the Hawks and the Cyclones, planning tailgates, and having big events to celebrate this yearly clash.

I’ve been fortunate to go with my friends to watch Iowa and ISU.  But when I try and encourage them to go see a small college football game, they scoff at the notion, simply because it’s not Iowa or ISU.

…considered watching Central, Coe, and Wartburg this year?

The Iowa Conference is one of the most premier leagues in NCAA Division III and plays the best football in this state.  To be quite honest, sitting in a stadium with 7,000  fans is a little less frightening that being packed like sardines in a 70,585 seat Kinnick Stadium.  Going to a small college game is special and quite foreign for the average big-name Division I-A football fan.

But, as many of you Cyclones and Hawkeyes fans will ask:  why should we care about schools like Wartburg, Coe, and Loras? Here are my reasons that you should experience a small college game.

Luther (blue) vs. Central (white)
  • You could spend up to $100 to nab two tickets to see a game at Kinnick or Jack Trice Stadium.  It’s only $7 a piece to sit in picturesque venues like Carlson Stadium, J. Leslie Rollins Stadium, or The Rock Bowl.
  • Game-day in Iowa City and Ames isn’t the same as it it in Indianola, Waverly, or Mt. Vernon.  I love the smaller atmosphere, intimacy, and the charm that small college athletics offer.
  • Tailgating is smaller and more intimate.  You’re not weaving through a crowd of over 35,000 to get to your tailgate site.  We party and celebrate as much as the big schools do, but you’ll never have to feel crushed in a crowd to have fun.
Coe (white) vs. Cornell (red), the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi River.

If Iowa and ISU wins 6 games, they get to go to a bowl game.  In the IIAC, whoever wins the conference title is the only one from the league to go to the playoffs.  Nine teams fighting for one spot in the post-season.  No one takes a week off during the season.

In the “Neil Suckow” Bowl in 2006, Wartburg students made up these shirts to poke fun at Coe. Suckow transferred from Coe to Wartburg the previous winter.

Why do I love small college football?  Because it’s not Division I-A, where coaches have to run their programs like CEOs, face the pressure of “win now”, and players don’t leave early for the NFL.  You’ll never see that in Division III, Division II, and NAIA.  Coaches get to coach, the players play for their school and for each other, and fans support it because they believe in small colleges and the value they provide to a community, a student body, and to its alumni.

If writing a 550-word post about this isn’t good enough, well, this video should hopefully do the trick.  This clip represents every school in the Iowa Conference and why it’s special to those who graduated from these member schools.

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