By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The annual showdown between Iowa and Iowa State in football is under attack again from those who feel the series should be discontinued, or at least not played every year.
It comes as part of the fallout from this past Saturday’s game in Ames that has since been tarnished by the alleged mistreatment of members of the Iowa Marching Band.
Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta and Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard issued a joint statement on Wednesday in which they asked fans from both schools to show more respect to each other.
Unfortunately, that is much easier said than done when you factor in alcohol consumption, late-afternoon kickoffs, cramped conditions and that both fan bases don’t really like each other.
Combine all of those things with high humidity and two weather delays that last for nearly three rain-soaked hours, as were the circumstances in Ames this past Saturday, and you have a recipe for trouble.
The presence of ESPN GameDay also added to the unrest because fans reportedly were allowed to start tailgating at 5 a.m. in preparation for the 3:05 p.m. kickoff.
It seems almost inevitable that trouble would occur when you allow fans from both schools to start tailgating, which is another word for consuming alcohol, 10 hours before kickoff on a steamy late-summer day.
But instead of over-reacting and pushing for the series to end, just have the game start no later than noon, assuming that would be possible in this age when television contracts seem to determine everything.
And though it would dramatically reduce the amount of time to tailgate, it would also reduce the amount of time for trouble and mishap to occur.
Most of the fans from both schools who attend the game, or who just tailgate before and after the game, are well-behaved and can handle their alcohol consumption.
But it only takes a tiny minority to disrupt the peace and to turn something fun into something dangerous and unacceptable.
Telling fans from your instate rival that their team stinks is one thing, but assaulting fans from your instate rival is beyond any acceptable behavior under any circumstance.
Those who cross that line should be punished or charged depending on the extent of their behavior.
I strongly believe that Iowa and Iowa State should play on an annual basis because the state of Iowa should be proud to have two power five programs from two different conferences, especially considering Iowa’s low population.
Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Missouri can’t make that claim.
But on the other hand, the game can’t be a reason for fans to lash out at each other.
There has to be some civility and restraint, or you risk having chaos in a crowd.
It’s unfortunate that Iowa’s hard-fought 18-17 victory this past Saturday will be overshadowed by the weather delays and by the controversy involving the Iowa Marching Band.
Because it was an exciting game between two pretty good teams that have fans optimistic about their potential.
But trouble was bound to happen once the kickoff to this game started to get pushed back to later in the afternoon to appease television.
An earlier kickoff certainly wouldn't fix everything, and would shorten the time to tailgate.
But starting the game no later than noon would reduce the alcohol-related risks that occur whenever these teams meets.
Those who would prefer that the series be discontinued, or just not played every year, say they're bored with the game, and some Iowa fans still believe it's a no-win situation for the Hawkeyes, even with Iowa State on the rise under head coach Matt Campbell.
There is also this belief that if Iowa stopped playing Iowa State every year that other power five teams would line up at the door of Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta to schedule a series with the Hawkeyes.
That thinking seems naive and presumptuous, and it would have to be a home-away series in almost every case. But it seems highly unlikely that Kirk Ferentz would want to owe any power five program from out of state a nonconference road game at this stage of his career.
What happened this past Saturday in Ames was unfortuante and disturbing, but not a reason to stop the series, or to even take a break in the series, which has contract through the 2024 season.
It's just time to recognize that the later this game starts in the day, trouble is more likely to occur.