No. 4 Michigan football thrives in Kinnick Stadium’s hostile environment

The Wolverines embraced the visiting pink locker room at Kinnick Stadium, along with jeers from Iowa fans.


Jerod Ringwald

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy throws a pass during a football game between Iowa and No. 4 Michigan at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. McCarthy averaged 6.5 yards per pass. The Wolverines defeated the Hawkeyes, 27-14.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

Michigan football had no problem going on the road for the first time in the 2022 season.

The Wolverines played their first four games at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, easily taking down Colorado State, Hawaii, UConn, and Maryland. 

The No. 4 Wolverines’ first stop on the road was Kinnick Stadium — somewhere Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh dubbed “the place where top-five teams go to die.” Before Iowa and Michigan played Saturday, the Hawkeyes were 5-1 in their last six home games against top-five teams. 

But Michigan’s top-five status prevailed on Saturday afternoon. The Wolverines took down the Hawkeyes, 27-14, in a convincing victory.

“I love The Big House, but away games are definitely my favorite,” Michigan defensive edge Mike Morris said. “I love the crowd chiming in. I love the crowd right on top of us, and I love the hostile environment.”

Ahead of the game, Michigan ran out on to Duke Slater Field to raucous boos from Iowa’s fans.

Even with hostility on the field, the fans, players, and coaches came together for The Wave to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital at the end of the first quarter.

“Just great environments here in the Big Ten,” Michigan tight end Luke Schoonmaker said. “I know we were all excited for this one. This one was so fun, being able to wave up at the children’s hospital like such a great experience.”

Michigan opened the scoring, piecing a 75-yard opening touchdown drive together to take an early, 7-0, lead on Iowa. The Wolverines scored five separate times — three field goals, two touchdowns — for their first win at Kinnick Stadium since 2005.

RELATED: No. 4 Michigan thumps Iowa at Kinnick Stadium

“It’s kind of cool,” Harbaugh said. “You know, we looked at that and know we haven’t won here since 2005. … We keep track of those things. Yeah, it feels good. It’s a great thrill, great thrill victory. It’ll be the best win of the week.”

Coming into Iowa City, the 2022 Wolverines weren’t threatened by a staple of Kinnick Stadium: the pink visitors’ locker room.

Former Iowa head coach Hayden Fry, who majored in psychology, painted the visiting locker room pink in 1979 in an effort to get in opponents’ heads. Fry thought looking at the pink walls, ceilings, bathrooms, and lockers would give opponents a psychological disadvantage.

The last time the Wolverines came to Kinnick Stadium in 2016, they thought covering up the pink walls would give them the upper hand.


Iowa still upset then-No. 3 Michigan, 14-13, on a last-second field goal.

This season, Michigan took a different approach. During Iowa’s opening kickoff, Michigan players stood on a bench facing the Iowa sideline, waving pink towels in the air.

“Let them know that we don’t care,” quarterback J.J. McCarthy said. “The pink locker room, we’ll bring it right out onto the field. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t faze us.” 

Offensive lineman Trevor Keegan said Michigan’s coaching staff prepares for visual barriers like Iowa’s pink locker rooms during the offseason — the Wolverines’ strength and conditioning coaches make it a priority for players to have a strong mentality.

“Obstacles like this during the season, it doesn’t really faze us,” Michigan offensive lineman Trevor Keegan said. “We come in here. We know that we’re gonna play as a team. We’re gonna play together. We’re gonna trust each other will be successful.”

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