IOWA CITY– It’s time to take a break from covering the current Hawkeyes and flash back to the year 1975.
I was in my second year of being a student manager for the Hawkeye football team and Bob Commings was in his second year of being head coach.
Top assistants included offensive coordinator Howard Vernon, who became principal at City High, Bernie Wyatt, who also coached under Hayden Fry and helped Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl plus Dennis Green, who coached the Minnesota Vikings and the Arizona Cardinals in pro football.
Lute Olsen was also in his second year of leading the basketball team, and Dan Gable was in his third year as assistant wrestling coach.
I lived in a house on Fifth Street in Coralville next to the old Wagon Wheel bar. Both are torn down and were replaced by a strip mall with Charlie’s bar and grill in the middle.
I had three pretty good roommates; Rick Brown, who is a sports writer for the Des Moines Register, Brad Fish, who is an accountant and Rick Long, who is an insurance agent in Huron,S,D.. Of course all of us were Hawkeye fans.
Gerald Ford was president after replacing Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974.
“Jaws” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” were the top movies “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” by Elton John, was one of the top hits.
In sports Oklahoma was the top college football team with an 11-1 record, and Archie Griffin of Ohio State won his second Heisman. No one has ever done that since.
The Pittsburg Steelers beat the Minnesota Vikings 16-9 in Super Bowl IX, and the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series in seven drama filled games over the Boston Red Sox.
I remember watching the walk off home run by Carlton Fisk to win game six for Boston, with my roommates in Coralville.
Golden State, led by Rick Barry, swept the Washington Bullets 4-0 to win the NBA title.
Once again I thank the late Al Grady, longtime sports writer for the Press Citizen, for writing the book \25 Years with the Fighting Hawkeye.\ He does a great job of breaking down the Iowa football teams from 1964-1989.
There was a buzz of excitement around the football team that finished 3-8 the year before.
The Hawkeyes had 44 letterman returning, including eight on offense and seven on defense.
The offense was led by All Big Ten candidates - guard Joe Devlin and tackle Rod Walters.
Joe and Rod lived in the SAE fraternity house a half block from Currier Hall where I lived as a junior, and I got to know them as well as Jim Jensen, senior running back from Davenport. Jim was 6-4, 222, which was huge for a running back at that time, and he had good speed.
The Hawkeyes had great depth in the offensive backfield with Rodney Wellington, Bobby Holmes, Mark Fetter, Dave Schick and Eddie Donavan, who prepped in Solon.
The o-line had Jim Hilgenberg, Bruce Davis and Aaron “Big Monk” Leonard in the two-deep.
I’m still good friends with Bruce and “Big Monk” who both live in North Liberty.
The defense was led by four year starter Andre Jackson, who played linebacker, Lester Washington and Tyron Dye, defensive tackles and some great defensive backs.
They included Bobby Elliot, who later coached at Iowa, Iowa State and Kansas State, Jimmy Caldwell, who is the new head coach for the Indianapolis Colts, Rick Penney and Shanty Burks, who was my roommate in 1981.
Nick Quartaro, another good friend, was the place kicker.
Sophomore Tom McLaughlin, who prepped in Dubuque, started at quarterback in Iowa’s home opener against Illinois.
The Hawkeyes came out flat, Tom was only 1-12 in passing and Iowa lost 27-12.
Iowa traveled to Syracuse the next week and lost again 10-7 in poring rain. Rodney Wellington scored the only touchdown for the Hawks to tie the game at seven. Syracuse kicked a field goal with 22 seconds left for the win.
Penn State, ranked 7th in the nation and wasn’t in the Big Ten at the time, came to Kinnick the following week and handed Iowa its third straight loss 30-10. Tom McLaughlin and Butch Caldwell combined 0-12 in the passing game.
Can you imagine what the Hawk fans of today would be saying,especially in the chat rooms?
Another interesting note…every game that year started at 1:30.
Third ranked USC came to Iowa City, and Iowa went down for the forth time 27-10.
I don’t remember the first couple of games very well, but I do remember this one.
The Hawkeyes kicked off to the Trojans, and John Lazar, from Tama, smacked down the USC return man,; he fumbled, Iowa recovered and scored pounding the ball over Joe Devlin and Rod Walters. Nick Quartaro kicked the extra point, and the Hawks led 7-0.
The Hawks kicked off again and this time USC fumbled on its first play from scrimmage. Nick kicked a field goal, and Iowa was up 10-0!
Andre Jackson got hurt in the third quarter, and Ricky Bell, USC’s all American running back, pounded the Hawkeyes; the Trojans scored 27 unanswered points and went on to win 27-16.
A fight broke out in the second half on the field and, since I was on the sideline as a manager, I got ready to run into the stands. I didn’t want any part of big football players with helmets and pads coming after me!
Rick Brown, my roommate, went to Columbus the following week to watch Iowa take on the No. 1 rated Ohio State Buckeyes. Rick got to stay in a fraternity that golfing legend Jack Nicolas stayed in.
That was the highlight of his trip as the Buckeyes rolled 49-0.
Archie Griffin, who would win his second Heisman that year, rushed for 120 yards and Cornelius Greene was 8-8 in passing.
Ohio State brought in a freshman quarterback named Rod Gerald who ran the ball twice, one for a 49 yard touchdown , the other a 27 yard score.
The Hawkeyes fell to 0-5.
This is the first of a two part story on 1975. Next week I’ll look at the rest of the football season, the first winning basketball season in three years and the wrestlers winning their second straight Big Ten and NCAA championship.