Even if you don’t pay terribly close attention to Iowa football (and let’s face it, if you’re here you probably do), chances are pretty good you’ve heard of The Wave. It’s college football’s newest and best tradition that’s taken the nation by storm.
What started as a grass roots effort to recognize the children and their families in the new UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital has spread from Iowa City throughout the nation, with a number of Iowa’s opponents feeling the need to wave when the Hawkeyes are in town and sportscasters doing the same, even when not covering the Hawkeyes.
It’s universally recognized as a good thing and the full impact is still evolving. While it seems like a small gesture, as a child or family member receiving treatment or recovering in the Children’s Hospital, knowing that there are 70,000+ people thinking about you can go a long way. But the goodness doesn’t end there. The recognition The Wave has garnered has also brought with it the opportunity for apparel sales - t-shirts, hats and the like - much of which has given the vast majority or all of the profit to the Children’s Hospital through donations.
Beyond that, the attention being paid to the Children’s Hospital and the stories being told on social media and through the jumbotron and elsewhere has no doubt had an impact on donations.
Note: If you’ve ever considered a donation to the UI Children’s Hospital, I strongly encourage it. Every dollar has an impact and the cumulative impact of Hawkeye fans’ compassion can be tremendous. You can donate here.
These are all very good things and they should not go overlooked. They’re at the heart of the feel-good story. But the most amazing part as a fan may perhaps be the impact The Wave is having on the recruiting trail.
It seems odd to say and perhaps feels a bit wrong at first glance. Is benefiting in the recruiting world akin to profiting from apparel? The Iowa coaching staff has found a way as organic as the The Wave itself to utilize it to demonstrate the values the staff seeks out in their recruits.
While we don’t know all the things the Iowa coaches are searching for, after two decades in Iowa City, it’s become clear Kirk Ferentz values hard-working athletes who buy in to the program, put the team first and who strive to be good human beings above simply being good football players. It’s not always the case, but this search has frequently led to a self-fulfilling cycle of Iowa seeking out players with those traits and players with those traits choosing Iowa at a high rate.
It should come as no surprise, then, that a new addition to the unofficial and official visit days in Iowa City is a wave over to the Children’s Hospital from the turf inside Kinnick Stadium. Players from around the country have heard about the wave and want to participate. The Iowa staff is happy to oblige.
From there, things have tended to end quite well. The types of young men who make the trek to Iowa City and want to participate are the same types of young men who connect with the symbolism of the wave and the close-knit, family feel of the Iowa program. Several recent visitors have made mention of the impact.
Tomari Fox is a three-star defensive end from Georgia who, as you may recall, was the only uncommitted visitor on Iowa’s big official recruiting weekend to leave without pledging to the Hawkeyes. That doesn’t mean he didn’t enjoy himself, The Wave or the work the program does in their partnership with the Children’s Hospital. Speaking with HawkeyeReport.com, Fox had the following to say:
“With the Children’s Hospital, everybody is so invested in it and goes there to help the kids, not because they have to, but because they want to. It’s right across from the stadium, so that’s really cool.”
Fox is far from the only recruit to make the trip to Iowa City and leave impressed with the type of people inside the program. And more and more of those types of people are signing up to join the program.
Iowa’s most recent commitment, 3-star RB Tyler Goodson, also of Georgia, exemplifies this nearly perfectly. In a lengthy essay on his commitment story, Goodson shared some intimate details with Rivals.com. Here’s a snippet, emphasis added.
I visited tons of schools... However, I went back to those words my mom gave me, “When you find home, you will know.” I felt at home the moment I arrived in Iowa City. It’s a special place, and they offered everything I was looking for, and so much more. If you follow me on social media, you know that an organization close to my heart is Happy Feat so, when I learned about the relationship with the University of Iowa and the Children’s Hospital, I immediately connected with that... I am looking forward to playing on Saturday’s in Kinnick for something bigger than myself. I am so blessed to be able to play Big 10 football with an incredible coaching staff that can make me both a better player and person. I am excited to walk out of that tunnel to the sound of more than 70,000 Hawkeye fans, surrounded by black and gold, all while lighting up some kid’s day.
That’s the type of young man Kirk Ferentz and his staff are searching for to fill out their roster. Young men who strive to be more than just good football players, who have a sense of family and community. Those type of young men tend to also be willing to work hard, take constructive criticism and put other before themselves.
That hasn’t changed over the last 20 years. The type of program Kirk Ferentz run has also been self-selecting for some time. But now the coaching staff has some serious national publicity to help spread the word. Coupled with the new rules allowing earlier official visits, The Wave has helped spread the word far beyond the historical Iowa footprint to attract high level talent and high quality people.
It’s been less than a year since The Wave was born and we’re still learning the reaches of its goodness. The tremendous outpouring of support from the Iowa fanbase to the Children’s Hospital and the sunshine 70,000 Hawkeyes bring to its occupants 7 Saturdays a year are remarkable. The newfound benefit of helping attract talented athletes from around the country who share the values the program is built upon is just the newest. It surely won’t be the last.
Happy Monday. Wave goodbye to last week and we’ll get through this one together. Go Hawks.