New research has emerged in recent weeks indicating the 1939 Iowa football team, nicknamed the Ironmen, may have broken NCAA rules and used non-regulation equipment during their famed 6-1-1 run. A University of Iowa graduate student discovered the possible violations during unrelated research into fan behavior during the Great Depression.
"I wasn't even looking for anything like this," says sociology doctoral candidate Wendy Schreck. "I was researching Depression-era sporting crowd behavior, namely the pre-1970 existence of the so-called "Wave", in the Big Ten in the 1930s, but then I stumbled on the most amazing cache of photographs."
The photographs, which were found stuck to the bottom of a pile of unrelated photographs from the 1939 student yearbook, appear to show some of the 1939 football team wearing non-regulation equipment. "The most damning photo shows what I believe to be Nile Kinnick bursting through the line while wearing a suit made entirely of metal, including a full metal helmet," said Shreck. "I can't be sure, but I that's also [tackle] Mike Ennich clearing the way for Kinnick in a similar metal suit. And of course, there is the mysterious floating man in the background of the picture, who I believe is [end] Jens Norgaard."
The use of these illegal suits would, according to Shreck, explain a great deal of the team's famed endurance, as well as some previously confusing media coverage the team received. In particular, she cites an article in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette following Iowa's 7-6 victory over Notre Dame. The article reads: "These Hawkeyes have truly earned their nickname as Ironmen, with several players never leaving the field and opposing tacklers bouncing off their gleaming athletic equipage as so many gnats off the grille of a Packard coupé." Although Shreck admits that this sentence could refer to the shiny helmets the players wore, but believes a sentence later on in the article clearly demonstrates that there was something unusual about the team's gear: "And as Kinnick flew fifty yards above the field powered by flaming green jets which emanated from the soles of his massive iron boots, the Irish defenders gazed on helplessly as he earned yet another easy first down."
"That's really the smoking gun, right there," said Shreck. Further evidence in support of her theory is the work done by coach Dr. Eddie Anderson in biomechanical research earlier in the decade. "We know Anderson eventually left Iowa because the school refused to grant him a professorship in medicine," said Schreck. "My theory is that they had ethical qualms about his research goals in human-cyborg augmentation, which he had begun in secret in his student days in Chicago and continued at Iowa with a young graduate student in the physics department named James Van Allen."
When asked how any team could have defeated such a technologically superior team, Schreck has a theory. "The one team to take down the Ironmen that year was Michigan, led by Tom Harmon. The Wolverines, as they were known, may have been the first team to try to fight fire with fire, as it were, and also use cybernetic augmentations." Schreck cites as evidence the following account of the game from the Michigan Daily.
"Time and time again, the Wolverines' adamantine claws gashed through the previously steely Iowa defenses, leaving Ironmen disabled and spewing sparks as Har-mon, in his jet-propelled mechanized armor, shot through the line for another touchdown, all the while shooting bolts of glowing blue flame from his eyes and cackling demonically."
"I mean, what more evidence do you need" asked Shreck.
When reached for comment, Iowa athletic director Gary Barta denied knowledge of any irregularities with the 1939 football team, and prevented this reporter from gaining access to a previously unremarked-upon door in the new Iowa football facility marked "special operations research." "There is nothing to see behind that door," said Barta, "and if you happen to see a man displaying a remarkable resemblance to a revivified Eddie Anderson, well that's probably your eyes playing tricks on you."