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1987 Kickoff Classic program cover

The 1987 Kickoff Classic represented Iowa's first appearance ever in the New York City area.

When the Iowa football team plays in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Wednesday, it actually will mark the third time through the years that the Hawkeyes have played in the New York City area.

Some of us are old enough to remember the Kickoff Classic, a sort of preseason bowl game that was played at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey, in late August.

Iowa appeared in the game twice, losing to Tennessee 23-22 in 1987 and to North Carolina State 24-14 in 1992.

Some of us who were there remember almost nothing about the games themselves. My memories mostly relate to going to old Yankee Stadium for a Yankees-Mariners game the night before the 1987 Kickoff Classic and to old Shea Stadium for a Mets-Reds doubleheader on the eve of the 1992 game.

I also have vague recollections of getting lost navigating the New York City subway system going from Shea back out to New Jersey and passing rows of people sleeping on the sidewalk in cardboard boxes in the area around Penn Station.

The only thing about the games that was remotely memorable was a play in the second quarter of the 1987 game in which Iowa quarterback Chuck Hartlieb made an errant pitchout on an option play that was returned 96 yards for a touchdown by Tennessee’s Darrin Miller.

Iowa coach Hayden Fry played Hartlieb, Dan McGwire and Tom Poholsky almost equally in the first few games of the season in an open audition for the starting QB job. The 6-foot-7 McGwire, younger brother of baseball slugger Mark McGwire, had a howitzer arm and was the overwhelming favorite to win the job, but Hartlieb somehow prevailed, in spite of his big mistake in the Kickoff Classic.

He went on to pass for 6,830 yards over the next two years, including a school record 3,738 in 1988.

***

Iowa’s football players receive a ring every time they play in a bowl game, but running back Akrum Wadley admits he doesn’t even have the rings he got from playing in the Outback Bowl, the Rose Bowl and the TaxSlayer Bowl the past three years.

He figures they’re pretty meaningless since the Hawkeyes lost all three games.

"I give them to my mother or father," Wadley said. "They’ve got the rings."

But if the Hawkeyes manage to beat Boston College on Wednesday, that will be different.

"If we win this game, it’s going to be my ring," Wadley said.

***

Wadley, by the way, is on track to receive his degree from Iowa in the spring. He needs to take just two more classes, one of which is Swahili. He didn’t begin fulfilling his foreign language requirements until late in college and still has that one hanging out there.

Asked if it’s a class he’s greatly interested in, Wadley scrunched his face into an expression similar to what it will be if the Hawkeyes lose to Boston College.

"Negative," he said.

***

When St. Louis traded former Quad-City River Bandits outfielder Stephen Piscotty to the Oakland A’s recently, it was widely depicted as a humanitarian gesture by the Cardinals. Piscotty’s mother back in Pleasonton, California, has been diagnosed with ALS, and this gets him close to home.

That is nice, but it’s not as though the Cardinals just gave him away out of the kindness of their hearts. With the acquisition of Marcell Ozuna, Piscotty was very expendable, and they received two very good prospects in return.

Shortstop Yairo Munoz batted .300 and stole 22 bases while splitting last season between Class AA and AAA. And second baseman Max Schrock hit .321 in AA after batting .308 and .331 in his two previous minor league seasons.

***

The Iowa basketball team played Colorado on Friday night in a game played on a neutral court in Sioux Falls. It’s the first time in 117 years of basketball competition that the Hawkeyes have played a game in South Dakota, but they still have a dozen more states to cross off their list.

In all those years, they never have played a game in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Delaware, West Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Idaho or Montana.

***

There are rumblings — probably rooted in nothing more than wishful thinking — that Jon Gruden could be a candidate to be the next coach of the Chicago Bears.

That would be entertaining, and Gruden might even do a decent job. He did win a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay in 2002 although his career record (95-81) isn’t as fantastic as you might imagine.

But he’s been out of coaching for nine years and is comfortably entrenched in one of the best broadcasting gigs around. If he is leaves that for the headaches and volatility of being a head coach, he might not be as smart as we thought.

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