Moving students closer to courtside in Carver-Hawkeye Arena should be high on Beth Goetz’s to-do list
By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Beth Goetz almost certainly has a priority to-do list as the permanent Iowa Athletic Director, and let’s hope it includes moving the student section in Carver-Hawkeye Arena closer to courtside.
Goetz has said that she plans to look for ways to improve the game-day atmosphere inside the 40-year old arena, and that moving the students section closer to courtside would be under consideration.
The Iowa Athletic Department has conducted a feasibility study for Carver-Hawkeye Arena as part of the next phase in facility upgrades.
Goetz’s willingness to even consider moving the student section is progress since her predecessor, former Iowa Athletic Director, Gary Barta, never would consider it.
When packed full of fans, Carver-Hawkeye Arena can be an electric environment as is shown each time Caitlin Clark and the second-ranked Iowa women’s basketball team plays at home.
But Clark is also a generational talent, one of the greatest players in the history of women’s collegiate basketball, so it makes sense that she would play before sellouts at home.
The problem is that generational players are few and far between and they can’t be relied on to fill the arena for an extended period.
While many of the Big Ten schools have their student section near courtside, and in some cases, directly behind the visitor’s bench, the Iowa student section is located well behind the baseline and across the court from the visitor’s bench.
The seats are also arranged more vertical than horizontal, meaning the students are seated more from top to bottom than from side to side in the lower half of the arena bowl.
There are times when the student section isn’t even half full for a men’s game, and it used to be the same with the women before Clark arrived.
So, perhaps the students are sending a message about where their section is located since the Iowa men have finished in the upper division of the Big Ten in each of the past four seasons, and have won at least 20 games and led the Big Ten in scoring in each of the past four seasons.
The Iowa men, even without a Sweet 16 appearance since 1999, still have performed at pretty high level under Fran McCaffery and have been a regular participant in the NCAA Tournament, and yet, the student section is often more than half empty for games, even some Big Ten games.
Iowa announced on Thursday that Goetz has been hired as the permanent athletic director after having served on an interim basis since August when Barta retired.
Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery spoke highly of Goetz on Thursday, and he expressed confidence that she will help to improve the setup at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“I think some changes have to made,” Fran McCaffery said. “I think she’s thinking that through and looking at options. And yet, that’s going to require a great deal of fundraising and a lot of people have to think about what’s going on right now. We’re finishing up some other projects, so I feel confident that we’ll get that done moving forward. Exactly what it’s going to look like, I’m not sure yet.
“But she’s on top of that.”
The Iowa men’s basketball (11-6, 3-3) team has won three straight games and will face second-ranked Purdue on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The men haven’t drawn nearly as many fans as the women have, but Fran McCaffery’s team has given fans reason for optimism with this current surge.
A raucous home crowd on Saturday afternoon could go a long way in helping his team pull off the upset.
“The crowds have gotten better as the season has gone on,” said Iowa freshman point guard Brock Harding. “We’ve gotten into Big Ten play. The Nebraska game obviously doesn’t count because of the snow. But there’s been a lot of buzz on campus and people are excited with how well we’re playing.
“So, we’re going to expect a pretty packed crowd, a lot of students here. So, we’re just going to try to keep the energy going for the whole game.”
Moving the student section is obviously much easier said than done.
In addition to money, it’ll take the willingness of some fans to move their seats for the good of the program.
Fans are being pulled in all sorts of different directions from a financial standpoint with name, image and likeness and facility upgrades such a key part of being competitive.
But the problems with Carver-Hawkeye Arena have festered for far too long.
The arena needs a serious upgrade, and it should start with moving the student section closer to courtside because the students deserve it, and so do the teams.