IOWA CITY — Iowa concludes spring football practice this year April 21 with a Friday night venture at Kinnick Stadium.
That’s right, Friday night football in Iowa City in the spring.
“Kirk (Ferentz) is constantly trying to think of ways that are fun and exciting,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said while speaking Tuesday at the monthly Presidential Committee on Athletics. “Maybe he just wanted a weekend off. Just trying something different.”
Iowa traditionally ends its spring campaign with a pseudo-game that features a complicated scoring system and pits the offense against the defense. And it was always played on Saturday afternoon in the past. But this is a different era, one in which Barta hopes reaches new fans.
The department doesn’t charge admission to the spring game, and the event generates goodwill among the fans. Usually there are an autograph session, poster booths and other carnival-like events outside of Kinnick Stadium before the spring event.
“A lot of times I find either the spring game or the kids day that we put on in the fall, it matters for people who can’t come to a full-blown game,” Barta said. “Maybe they don’t have access. Maybe they have kids who can’t sit through a whole game. So it matters from a standpoint of having fun and exposing the team to maybe a different audience.
“But we don’t focus on ‘last year we had this many and we need increase by 10 percent.’ We don’t pay that much attention to it. If we did, we would probably run it differently. We would run more game environment. We’d probably do things that are of fan interest.
“Kirk wants to make sure he gets through spring ball evaluating those who are healthy enough to be out there. He wants to make sure he gets through spring ball with everybody not getting injured. Then if we can build some fan excitement, especially maybe fans who don’t always come to the seven home games, that’s really what it’s all about.”
Big Ten West Division rival Wisconsin also has its spring finale set for April 21.
Iowa brass is in discussions with BTN officials about airing the spring conclusion on either the television network or online. The time remains undetermined, but it’s likely to be either 7 or 8 p.m. That will help alleviate traffic in downtown Iowa City, especially leaving University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, which is located across the street from Kinnick Stadium.
“One of the things that won’t work as well is if it’s at 5 p.m.,” Barta said. “But if by 5:30, it’s pretty well cleared out; we don’t live in inner-city.”
As always, weather will dictate crowd size.
“If it’s a nice evening, I think we’ll have a nice crowd,” Barta said. “If it’s cold and rainy, it probably won’t be as big.”
Iowa opens spring practice on March 22. It will stage an open practice at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines on April 7.