Come Saturday, when the Iowa football team again takes the field at Legendary Historic Kinnick Stadium, you'll probably notice something a little different. No, it's not the red no-contact shirts the running backs will be wearing and that Ball State has agreed to respect (it's the least they could do for the $800,000 they're pocketing for the game). Nor is it the slight sense of melancholy that's descended upon the fanbase in the wake of Iowa's latest disaster in the desert. It's the jerseys, stupid. The Hawks will still be clad in black and gold, but it won't be quite the same black-and-gold that Iowa fans have grown accustomed to over the past thirty years. The black and gold unis Iowa will be wearing Saturday are intended to honor the Forest Evashevski Era of the 1950s (and, in particular, the 1958 team that recorded Iowa's last Rose Bowl victory), one of the most successful runs in the history of Iowa football.
KCRG9 provided a bit of background info on the unis and the decision to wear them:
The BTN also produced a nice retrospective on the 1958 squad a few years ago:
And if you want more info on the excellent '58 team, you could check out FOTP Fight For Iowa's piece on the team or check out the history pieces that have been running on Hawkeye Sports (here, here, and here), though they technically document the 1956 team. They're worth reading for the great Evy stories, like the one about his motivational tactics before the 1956 game with Minnesota, or his immortal quote before that year's game against Ohio State:
"You have sixty minutes to play -- and the rest of your life to remember it."
There's a certain sense that Iowa football success began with Hayden Fry's arrival; this is, quite frankly, wrong. Hayden lifted Iowa football out of the doldrums of the '60s and '70s and produced some of Iowa's greatest successes and fondest memories, but he wasn't the first to win at Iowa. For that matter, neither was Evy -- no one talks about the Howard Jones teams of the 1910s, even though he has the best winning percentage of any Iowa coach that lasted longer than a couple years. Still, this is a weekend to celebrate Evy and his great teams. As The Artist Formerly Known As Hawkeye Stated noted last fall, when Evy was in declining health, Evy was a legend for good reason:
To Forest. Forest Evashevski, 91, arguably the greatest coach in the history of Iowa football, has liver cancer and is in failing health. He is rarely mentioned, and it is a shame: The guy's biography reads like a Dos Equis ad. Evashevski, a former Michigan quarterback, once lit a victory cigar with 30 seconds left in a game against Ohio State while he was playing, and ordered his college coach, Fritz Crisler, to run a lap for arriving at practice late. Before becoming a coach, he taught -- I kid you not -- hand-to-hand combat to WWII-bound Navy pilots. He briefly made his way to the west coast, but left Washington State in 1952 to return to the Big Ten and coach the Hawkeyes. He ran up a 52-27-4 record in 9 seasons before becoming athletic director in 1960. He coached Iowa to a 14-14 tie in the infamous 1953 game with the "Fainting Irish" of Notre Dame. He went 24-3-2 from 1956-58, winning two Rose Bowls in the process (Iowa hasn't won one since). His final team took a portion of the national championship. Iowa went through five coaches in the two decades after his retirement from coaching, never finishing with a winning record (due in no small part to his mismanagement of the Black Boycott, but we'll save that for later). He is a legend, and he is criminally neglected, and he is now 91, and Iowa City and the Big Ten and the world will be a lesser place without him.
So while the main goals this weekend are still firmly focused on the present-day -- regroup after last weekend's disappointing loss to Arizona, find (a) running back(s) to complement A-Rob, and get ready to navigate the perils of the Big Ten season -- be sure to set a little time aside to celebrate the excellent Evy era and remember some of the great Iowa teams of the past. And don't worry -- the beloved tigerhawk will be back where it belongs on the side of the helmet next week.