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.
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.
- 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.
- Rivalries are intense and have more meaning beyond the game. Central and Simpson hate each other. Wartburg and Luther hate each other, but for more hilarious and juvenile reasons. Coe and Cornell (who have since returned to the Midwest Conference) have squared off against each other since 1891, making them the oldest college football rivalry west of the Mississippi River. The Dubuque Spartans loathes trekking across town and playing the Loras Duhawks at the famed Rock Bowl. Buena Vista considers everyone their rivals.
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.
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.