Iowa's first Rose Bowl in 25 years is a dream fulfilled
The Iowa football team arrives for Media Day at The L.A. Downtown Hotel in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015. Iowa is scheduled to play Stanford in the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game on New Year's Day. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Rose Bowl has a lavish list of cool pregame traditions, and the Iowa Hawkeyes are embracing them all during their school's long-awaited week in the sun.
The Hawkeyes have explored Disneyland, taken in Hollywood night life and eaten disturbing amounts of prime rib at Lawry's in Beverly Hills. Yet they also practiced on Christmas, showing they haven't forgotten the serious side of this trip to Southern California after a quarter-century away.
"The game means so much after what we had to go through to get here," running back Jordan Canzeri said Tuesday. "We understand this is something that we'll never forget. We've been saying to each other, 'Do you want to come back to Kinnick (Stadium) 25 years from now and say we just played in the Rose Bowl, or do you want to say we won it?'"
Iowa (12-1) will face Stanford (11-2) on Friday in the 102nd edition of the Granddaddy of Them All. This is nothing new to the Cardinal, who are in Pasadena for the third time in four postseasons, but it's a dream fulfilled for the Hawkeyes and coach Kirk Ferentz, who is capping his 17th season in charge with his first Rose Bowl trip as a head coach.
"What's enjoyable about coaching is watching a lot of people that have worked hard, that have earned the right to be rewarded in a nice way, be rewarded in the nicest way possible," Ferentz said.
Nobody on the current Iowa roster had been born when the Hawkeyes made their last appearance in Pasadena on Jan. 1, 1991, losing to Washington. Yet eight current Hawkeyes have fathers who were on Iowa teams that played in the Rose Bowl during the 1980s, a reflection of the family connections and loyalty prized at Iowa.
That tradition has required patience at times, but that makes the payoff even sweeter for Iowa.
"You have to think you're going to get to the Rose Bowl if you're in the Big Ten, because that's the goal," defensive back Jordan Lomax said. "But to actually be here, that's the greatest part. That's the achievement that we all want and we work on for so long. It feels great to reach it."
Iowa is back because of its remarkable 12-0 regular season, an achievement that reserves a spot in Hawkeye history for this team no matter what happens this week. A heartbreaking loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game didn't knock the Hawkeyes out of the Pasadena picture, but the pain has been a motivational tool for the past month.
"That was very disappointing to all of us, but we've got a great opportunity and great challenge in front of us, and that's a lot more important than looking back," Ferentz said. "You spend your whole life looking back, and you miss a lot of life. Our focus after we got over the mourning stage, if you will, we've moved on and excited to be part of such a great game."
Ferentz made the trip to Pasadena twice as an assistant coach at Iowa in the 1980s under Hayden Fry, but the Hawkeyes haven't won the Rose Bowl since the 1959 game. Ferentz and Iowa nearly got here 13 years ago, even meeting with Rose Bowl officials about the idea, but they ended up at the Orange Bowl thanks to the machinations of the Bowl Championship Series.
While many traditions haven't changed since the 1980s, other parts of this trip are new: Iowa is staying in revitalized downtown Los Angeles, which wasn't exactly the coolest place to hang out when Ferentz and the 1980s Hawkeyes were in town.
"My memories are so distant of the Rose Bowl, and it was a whole different experience," Ferentz said. "We stayed in a little bit more remote areas."