This is Pepin/Rood Stadium, the home of the University of Tampa Spartans and the Outback Bowl practice site for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
It’s not really spartan. The field’s nice enough and the facilities seem adequate. Although, it was a little unusual to see Iowa players wearing nothing but towels in the most appropriate of places as they walked from their dressing room to the shower area.
To get from Point A to Point B, they had to go outside. Luckily, it was about 80 degrees out.
“It’s Florida. I guess you can run around,” said U of I assistant sports information director Steve Roe. “Why the shower’s not connected to the locker room, I don’t know.”
While the towel act was unusual, it was same old Iowa otherwise. Media members were kept across the street from the practice field. I like to get chased away from a Hawkeye practice once per decade, and this decade is running out. So I walked up to the fence and stared straight at the field where Iowa players were, I don’t know, working on plays or something.
Ron Stewart, the retired deputy sheriff who has been the Hawkeye football team chief of security since early in the Hayden Fry era, got up to the fence in his motorized cart in about 3.2 seconds.
I’ve been on friendly terms with Ron for a long time. He seems like a good guy to me. But security is security.
I said “Ron, I just wanted to get away from that pack of sportswriters.” A reasonable point, to be sure.
But Ron replied “You made that bed, you’ve got to sleep in it.”
He had me there.
If any of you are on your way to Tampa for a few days of fun and a certain bowl game named after a certain steakhouse franchise, I encourage you to visit a certain Irish pub in downtown Tampa and tell Ron he’s doing a great job keeping riff-raff from spying on the Hawks.
That would be Four Green Fields. As you can see if you go to the link below, Ron and his wife Cara are said to be the temporary hosts at the pub. The second photo at this site has a photo of the couple, but I see no proof they’re doing actual hosting. Ron doesn’t leave his post long enough on these bowl trips for that sort of thing. The guess here is he was a good guest and left a favorable impression on the pub’s staff.
There is an 8-story residence hall next to the stadium Iowa is using, David A. Straz Jr. Hall, to be precise.
Now, I wouldn’t suggest South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier would stoop to such shenanigans, but shouldn’t the Hawkeyes have all those rooms searched for video equipment all the same?
Speaking of South Carolina … the Hawkeyes have four team buses for the entire week to take them to practices, bowl functions, and wherever they need to go. The bus company isn’t from Florida, but from none other than South Carolina. Greenville, to be exact.
I talked to a couple of the drivers — very nice men — and they assured me they are not Gamecock fans. One said he was a follower of the Georgia Bulldogs, and the other said he had no favorite team.
But he liked Clemson better than South Carolina.
If you’re into omens, the bus company is called Champion Coach.