LOS ANGELES — New University of Iowa president Bruce Harreld’s attempt at humor may have been as flat as the overpriced beers Wednesday at the Hawkeye Huddle, but nobody seemed to mind.
Around 15,000 Iowa football fans filled a 340,000-square foot room at the Los Angeles Convention Center to celebrate the Hawkeyes’ Rose Bowl season.
They cheered the introduction of former players and parents of current players, posed for pictures with team mascot Herky and sang along to the Iowa Fight Song with the Hawkeye Marching Band.
“Is there anybody left back home?’’ wondered Bruce Younger, a Sioux City native who now lives in Palmdale, Calif. “This is crazy — for all the right reasons.’’
The crowd seemed a little perplexed when Harreld tried to suggest that Stanford’s school song, “Hail! Stanford,’’ would become “Hail Mary Stanford” by late Friday afternoon and fans loved it when entertainer Tom Arnold, an Ottumwa, Iowa, native, suggested that Hayden Fry changed his life.
“He won football games,’’ Arnold said.
From cornheads and beads to black-and-gold sweaters and striped bib overalls, there was no question about the loyalty of fans in attendance at the two-hour late-afternoon event.
Nick Bell, Iowa’s leading rusher in its most recent Rose Bowl appearance in 1991, wasn’t surprised.
“This is what makes the Hawkeyes so special,’’ Bell said. “It’s the people. I’m an old guy now but in the fall, I still get letters almost every week from Iowa fans. I have no idea how they found my address, but they want to share a memory or say thanks. It still feels good to be part of something like that.’’
Bell called the huddle “a family reunion,’’ a chance for former teammates to renew acquaintances.
He talked Wednesday with the quarterback on that 1991 Rose Bowl team, Matt Rodgers, spent time chatting with former Hawkeye Ed Podolak and a running back of a more recent vintage, Davenport North alum Marques Simmons.
The rushing leader in Iowa’s 2005 Capital One Bowl win over LSU sees a lot of similarities between that Iowa team and the 12-1 team that faces Stanford in Pasadena on Friday.
“We found ways to win and this team does that, too. It’s been great watching them compete,’’ said Simmons, now the director of youth sports at the Detroit Arsenal. “The way they play, they make us all proud.’’