Register reporter Rick Brown attended I-Club banquets this spring in Boone, Burlington, Cedar Falls, Clear Lake, Clive, Council Bluffs, Fort Dodge, Manchester, Marshalltown and Newton. He visited with Hawkeye fans for their insight into the current state of the football and men’s basketball programs. Here’s a sample of what he found.
Vicky Bergstrom, Swedesburg
Vicky, 90, has been going to Iowa football games since 1948. Her late husband’s brother, Wally Bergstrom, was a member of Iowa’s famed 1939 Ironmen and was a teammate of Nile Kinnick.
Now she doesn’t miss a game at Kinnick Stadium, including a 2012 season that saw the Hawkeyes win just twice at home.
“It was hard,” Bergstrom said. “But you know, if you’re a good fan you don’t get all that upset.”
After all, Bergstrom survived that stretch of 19 consecutive non-winning seasons between 1962 and 1980.
“We went through them all,” she said. “We’d just stand up and say, ‘Oh, well, another game.’ If my husband was here he’d tell you one thing. We went to two Rose Bowls, and we won them both. Evy’s teams.”
The Bergstroms were close friends with Forest Evashevski, who coached the Hawkeyes to victories in the 1957 and 1959 Rose Bowls.
“We knew the man, and really enjoyed the Evashevskis,” Bergstrom said.
She heard some grumbling from the stands last season, but could care less.
“We don’t pay attention,” she said.
Dick Elliott, Harpers Ferry
After putting 190,000 miles on his Honda in six years, Dick Elliott, 76, traded it in for a Ford Fusion last December. He logged 10,000 miles on that in just five months.
Elliott can tell you it’s 138.4 miles from his home to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. He makes the drive for every home game.
He started Elliott Jewelers in Waukon in 1961, and still dabbles in the business in his spare time. The first time he met Fran McCaffery, Elliott showed him a Hawkeye watch. It said “Go Hawks” on the buckle, and read “Northeast Iowa’s No. 1 fan” on the back.
“I told (McCaffery), you find me another guy who is 74 years old (at the time) and drives to every basketball game, 3 hours one way,” Elliott said.
Elliott loves to attend the basketball games, and he’s been doing it since Lute Olson was coach. But that’s not enough. He records the games and watches them again when he gets home. He also travels to Iowa City for the season-ending team banquet, and to North Liberty to see the Hawkeyes play in the Prime Time League each summer.
“I think they’re going to be really good,” Elliott said. “They’re fun to watch.”
Barb Ellis, Newton
She crossed her arms and did a spot-on Fran McCaffery impression.
“I like it when he stands there like this and gets red in the face,” said Ellis, 85.
Ellis is a basketball fan, with a keen eye for the sport. She played in high school at Schaller, and in AAU competition as well. Last year, she made 49 consecutive free throws at the Newton Y while sharpening her touch for the Iowa Games. So watching Hawkeye players miss free throws on television drives her crazy.
“When those guys miss, you ought to hear me,” she said. “I just go crazy. Do the math. Some of those games they lost were by three or four points, and they missed five or six free throws. He (McCaffery) should have them out there until midnight (shooting free throws).”
As for football coach Kirk Ferentz, Barb said most fans still approve of the job he’s doing.
“Maybe he could do a few things on his approach to different subjects,” she said. “Like last year, when he wouldn’t put anybody else in at quarterback, and people were a little bit upset. But I’m not much of a football guru. They probably had a good reason for not doing that.”
Gene Grimsley, Council Bluffs
Ferentz has coached 174 games at Iowa. Grimsley has been to 170 of them.
A marketing representative for a crop insurance company, Grimsley plans his work travel around football weekends – with the blessing of his bosses. His territory is everything east of Council Bluffs, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Grimsley drives 50,000 to 60,000 miles a year. That includes the 242 miles from his driveway to Kinnick Stadium.
Ironically, the shortest Big Ten drive isn’t in his territory – Lincoln, Neb.
Grimsley said he likes Ferentz because he does things the right way. He hears the critics, but isn’t one of them.
“I’m realistic,” Grimsley said. “I think in Iowa, it’s a little harder to recruit. Even look at coach (Hayden) Fry. We’ve always had a little bit of this (up and down). I just know we’re going to be better again. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
Marilyn Rhodes, Marshalltown
Iowa’s bowl-free 2012 season took Rhodes out of her routine.
“I was so disappointed, because I’ve been to the last 10 bowl games, and there wasn’t one and I didn’t know what to do,” Rhodes said. “I went nuts. I had to clean my house. So I told Ferentz (at the spring game), ‘OK, that’s the only year I’m not going to a bowl game.’ He said, ‘OK.’ ”
Rhodes, who has been executive secretary to the superintendent of schools in Marshalltown for the past 61 years, is a Ferentz fan.
“I think he’s honest, and I think his rapport with the team is wonderful. He’s a good family man. He’s a good football coach, and I like him very much,” she said.
Rhodes also gives McCaffery her Hawkeye seal of approval.
“His passion is just tremendous,” she said. “And he’s such an improvement over some of our former coaches. I’m just glad we don’t have them anymore. That Lickliter guy, when they called timeout he wasn’t even talking to the players. He just never worked out.”
Richard Max Thomas, Council Bluffs
The Johnson County I-Club holds a Friday breakfast before every home football game. The morning includes a drawing for a football.
On the morning before Ferentz made his debut, against Nebraska in 1999, Thomas’s wife, Joyce, won the drawing. Ferentz signed the ball: “To great Hawkeye fans, Joyce and Richard.”
Joyce and Richard have since moved from Iowa City to Council Bluffs, but remain Ferentz fans.
“He’s such a down-to-earth guy, real pleasant,” Richard said.
Steve Alford was the basketball coach when they lived in Iowa City. Joyce was in Bible study fellowship with Steve’s mother, Sharon, and wife, Tanya.
“We liked Alford awfully well, there were just too many things against him,” Joyce said.
Richard is excited about where the program is headed under McCaffery.
“I like it up and down the court,” Richard said. “I didn’t like, what was the other guy’s name? (Todd Lickliter). I didn’t care for that slowdown game at all.”
After answering a reporter’s questions, Richard asked one of his own.
“Who do you think the quarterback will be?”