CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s President Donald Trump’s fault there will be no Cy-Hawk football game for the first time since 1976.
Or, that depends on who you ask.
“This game means a lot to the state of Iowa. It’s one of the great annual celebrations or the people of the state,” former Maquoketa High School, Iowa State Cyclone and NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels said Thursday during a virtual news conference organized by former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. “It’s a huge loss for Iowans. Especially those in Ames and Iowa City.”
Matt Whitaker, who played for the University of Iowa about 10 years before Rosenfels was at ISU, is “heartbroken” the Hawkeyes won’t be playing on Saturdays this fall.
“But Sage is absolutely wrong,” Whitaker said during a Trump bus tour stop in Cedar Rapids on Thursday.
Whitaker, a tight end for the Hawkeyes during the Hayden Fry era, hopes Iowa and the Big Ten will reconsider its decision not to play football this fall.
“I can’t see any difference between Iowa State playing football and Iowa playing football,” he said. “I hope that the Big Ten can reverse course because if other schools can play, then there’s no reason the University of Iowa can’t play along with its fellow Big Ten institutions.”
ISU will play Saturday, but there won’t be any fans in the stands. The lack of fans in Ames and Iowa City has huge consequences for those communities — one point of agreement between Rosenfels and Whitaker.
“The economic fallout of not having 70,000 fans in Iowa City and 62,000 fans in Ames will have dramatic negative consequences to businesses and Iowa workers who profit from the sport of college football every year,” said Rosenfels, who played professionally with Washington, Miami, Minnesota and Houston from 2001 to 2012.
Already, Iowa has cut salaries, laid off athletics department employees and eliminated some sports programs.
“If the Big Ten doesn’t reverse course and start up again, I think it’s going to have a dramatic negative impact on all Big Ten institutions, including University of Iowa,” Whitaker said. The loss of the football season is expected to have a $100 million impact at UI.
The saddest part, Rosenfels said, is that it didn’t have to happen.
“Rather than listen to America’s top scientists as to how they would best minimize the fallout of a coming pandemic, Trump instead chose to ignore it and hope for the best,” he said.
Rosenfels said the best coaches he played for “always had a plan for success. They also always prepared for the worst. His plan was to have no plan.”
However, Whitaker, who briefly served as acting attorney general in the Trump administration, and other Trump surrogates on the bus threw a flag on that comment.
“No one has been fighting harder to get Big Ten to play than the president,” campaign spokeswoman Erin Perrine said. “The president was on the phone with the Big Ten commissioner trying to get them to play football.”
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