This Throwback Football Video is a Perfect Hawkeyes Time Capsule

By Josh O'Leary
Travel back to 1980 Iowa City with this recruiting film preserved in UI Special Collections.

Hayden Fry had the swagger. He just needed the players.

When the larger-than-life Texan arrived in Iowa City in 1979, the Hawkeyes' new coach faced a tall task: rebuilding and rebranding a football program that hadn't enjoyed a winning season since 1961. But how would he draw elite players to a team with its fourth head coach in a decade? The answer, at least in part, came in this 13-minute recruiting film, produced by the Iowa Athletics Department in 1980.

The film, archived at UI Libraries' Special Collections and the Iowa Digital Library's Athletics Film Collection, is a nostalgic look at the birth of Fry-era Hawkeye football and a trip back in time to early-'80s Iowa City. There's the original Hancher Auditorium in its heyday. The newly renovated pedestrian mall. Some Urban Cowboy-era dancing downtown. And Hayden chowing down with his team at the training table.

University Archivist David McCartney says the film harnessed a "feeling of long-shot optimism" that Fry brought to the program. "One of the selling points in the recruiting film was the loyal Iowa fan base, that fans kept coming to the games even after 17 consecutive losing seasons," McCartney says. "It was a drawing card for Fry when he accepted the offer to coach, plus he knew Bump Elliott, the athletic director, even though Fry hadn't spent much time in Iowa before."

Fry's recruiting efforts were more than effective. He soon lured future greats like Chuck Long (85BBA), Larry Station (87BBA), and Andre Tippett to Iowa. The team made an improbable run to the Rose Bowl in 1981, and the rest is Hawkeye history.

Join our email list
Get the latest news and information for alumni, fans, and friends of the University of Iowa.
Iowa Stories
Iowa Magazine
Explore the Fall 2019 edition of the Iowa Magazine.