UI students adjusting to fan-less Hawkeye football season

Per Big Ten Conference protocol, all fans – including students – will not be allowed in Kinnick Stadium this season.


Shivansh Ahuja

Kinnick Stadium is seen fom the north end zone at Iowa Football Media Day on Friday, August 9, 2019.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

Football is back in the Big Ten Conference, but fans are not. Per league protocol, grandstands at all 14 member institutions’ stadiums will remain empty.

As a result, students will have to find other ways to cheer on the Hawkeyes this fall — and public health officials are encouraging Iowans do so safely.

“I was really upset because I am pre-nursing, so I am not in the nursing program yet and not guaranteed to be at Iowa next year,” said Jordan Finnegan, a sophomore from Council Bluffs, Iowa. “This might have been the last year that I was going to be a student going to those games, so I am hoping for next year, but it stinks that it is up in the air.”

As the daughter of two Iowa alum, Finnegan said she bought student season tickets to watch Iowa play last year.

“I easily would have gotten [season tickets] this year,” Finnegan said. “I grew up going to these games with my parents, they have taken me to Iowa games ever since I was a little kid.”

Lauren Peters, a sophomore from Shorewood, Illinois, said that she has heard about students using game days as an opportunity to go home and watch the Hawkeyes with their families. Finnegan used last weekend’s game to do just that, as she went home to watch Iowa take on Purdue with her parents.

This Saturday, Iowa is set to play Northwestern at 2:30 p.m. in an empty Kinnick Stadium.

The University of Iowa has been encouraging game day safety throughout the last two weeks, sending emails to students and setting up street signs that say parking lots won’t be available for RV or tailgate parking.

“I had never seen a tailgate before last year, and it was something so different to me and very fun to do,” Peters said. “Last weekend without the tailgate was super laid back and kind of sad, but we made the best of it.”

Both Finnegan and Peters said they are likely to attend a small gathering to watch the game on TV Saturday, but Finnegan expects a lot of UI students to go to bars and restaurants in downtown Iowa City to watch.

“I know some people will probably do small gatherings like what we’re doing this weekend, but for the most part, I would say that people are going to bars,” Finnegan said.

While bars and restaurants are not allowed to fill up to maximum capacity, they did see an influx of students and Iowa fans coming in to watch the game last weekend, putting the businesses’ COVID-19 prevention protocols to the test.

Brock Dixon, the general manager of Vine Tavern and Eatery in Iowa City, said that the Vine filled up all the seats they could for the game against Purdue.

“We have 20 sections available for people to sit at, booths and tables, and we had all except for one sold out,” Dixon said.

Dixon also noted that students typically tend to hop from bar to bar on game days in a regular year. However, Dixon said he believes that has not been the case this year as most bars are limited to 50 percent capacity or less.

While the scene is different at bars this year, Dixson said it is nice to have Iowa fans spaced out rather than packed in tightly.

“It actually felt really special and not chaotic,” Dixon said. “It was busy, there were people having a good time, we had the music going during commercials, we had a great atmosphere going, and it was actually game day but a little more pleasant.”