My Gazette/Gazetteonline.com column for Friday:
Northwestern and Iowa have a history of football animosity for each other, and this week just aggravated it.
Maybe the rivalry began in earnest in 1995 when Northwestern center Rob Johnson said “I don’t want to just beat that team, I want to hurt Iowa.”
That wasn’t nice. It also was just before the Hawkeyes’ 21-game win streak over the Wildcats ended, so you could see how some of the purple guys may have had their fill of all things Iowa.
Gary Barnett supposedly chose Iowa as his model when he took over the Northwestern program in 1992. His guys beat the Hawkeyes in 1995 and went on to the Rose Bowl that season.
While the Wildcats have had just four winning records since that 1995 season, they’ve won seven of their last 12 games against the Hawkeyes.
Harsh feelings cropped up again last December when Iowa got the Big Ten’s Outback Bowl slot instead of Northwestern even though the Hawkeyes were 8-4, the Wildcats were 9-3, and Northwestern beat Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa fans laughed, Northwestern fans griped, and snarky Internet wars of words between the two weren’t hard to locate.
Why bring this up in March? Because there’s a fresh diss to discuss, one that came from the Hawkeyes’ camp.
Iowa announced its football ticket prices for 2009. Season tickets, wisely, are being held at $339. Single-game tickets for the Oct. 10 Michigan game will go for $70. Single-game seats for the Sept. 9 Arizona game will go for $65. All others will be $52. The Nov. 7 Northwestern contest is among the others.
Is that such an insult? Absolutely.
Michigan went 3-9 last season. Northwestern was 9-4. But the Iowa organization deemed Hawkeye fans’ interest in seeing a rebuilding Wolverines program is higher than watching a Wildcats team that beat Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2008!
You would think Iowa might at least consider jacking up the price of the Northwestern game instead of the Sept. 19 meeting with Arizona.
Arizona? Iowa and Arizona don’t have a rivalry. The don’t share a climate, let alone a conference. They haven’t met in 11 years. It’s just a game.
Other than the fact the Arizona game is a lot more likely to be played in nicer weather than the Northwestern clash two months later, what’s the hook?
With Northwestern, it’s a ready-made sale. Those smarty-pants from Evanston got us here last year, the promotions could say. But this time it’s personal.
OK, it’s not an original line. Still, it will be personal. For both sides.
Those Iowa hicks took our Outback Bowl spot, Northwestern can say. Those Wildcats didn’t beat us, we beat ourselves with turnovers, the Iowa side can say.
Run a reverse, Iowa ticket office. Sell $70 tickets for the Northwestern game, and $52 seats for Michigan.
Seventy bucks for Michigan is overpriced nostalgia, like charging $70 to see the remnants of ‘70s rock bands. People may pay it, but that doesn’t make it right.
Folks, Michigan lost to Toledo last season. It got flattened by Notre Dame and Illinois. It got outscored by 104 points over the season.
Some year, the Wolverines may be powerful once more. That year isn’t likely to be this year.
Michigan is Iowa’s “premium” game? It’s more like unleaded.
If the Northwestern men’s basketball team wins at Ohio State Sunday and other games this weekend break the right way, Northwestern could have the seventh seed in next week’s Big Ten tourney and meet 10th-seed Iowa in Thursday’s first round.
With is “premium game” snub in football, the Wildcats basketballers may carry the water for their insulted football brothers, and take it out against the Hawkeyes in Indianapolis.
See what you’ve done, Iowa ticket office. It’s like a pebble in a lake. Even the fish feel it.