In 2002 the opportunity to play in the Orange Bowl seemed distant. Many Iowa fans were had their bags packed for Pasadena following a Big Ten Co-Championship with Ohio State. The Buckeyes each went 8-0 in conference play, did not play each other and the Buckeyes were awarded the opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl due to a better overall record (OSU was undefeated while the Hawkeyes lost to Iowa State). Being undefeated the Buckeyes were chosen to play in the BCS Title Game and the Orange Bowl used an obscure rule to their advantage and chose Iowa.
Following the 2003 loss to Southern California on a humid night in South Florida, an opportunity to re-visit South Beach seemed yet again distant, but the Hawkeyes will play the ACC Champion, Georgia Tech in the 2010 game and Hawkeye Nation will once again travel to Land Shark Stadium. It may be fitting that I find myself participating in this bowl game yet again.
Before I was a year old, my family escaped the Iowa winter and visited relatives located in Miami. My Dad, along with one of the relatives, bought tickets in conjuction with his local home town bank with the help of the parent branch in Miami for the National Championship match-up between Nebraska and LSU. The game was played in the stadium that bore the name of the bowl game, the Orange Bowl. Not located in the best of neighborhoods, my dad would recall the story of the drive to the game. Once parked in a stadium parking lot, he began the walk to the stadium. A young African - American boy came up to him and offered for $10 to watch his hub caps. A strange request for the Iowa High School Principal, he was told by a local on their way to the stadium it was a wise investment--otherwise they may not be there after the game.
Once inside the seats the bank provided would make many a fan jealous. His view was in the upper deck at the 45 yard line. In front of him and five seats over was the newly signed coach of the Miami Dolphins, Don Shula. On that night the Huskers went on to win their first of two consecutive national championships for Head Coach Bob Devaney.
My first trip to the Orange Bowl Stadium was in 1990. Game 3 of the Hawkeye football schedule was against the Miami Hurricane. My first time on a road trip to a culture of fans other than Big Ten. After arriving at the stadium on Friday and getting the locker room set up for Saturday night's affair, we were advised to hire a security guard and lock him into the locker room protecting the equipment. Game day had many similarities to what I was accustomed to--fans taunting you with the typical farmer stereotypes. However the atmosphere was much different.
My first opportunity to shoot from the press box opened my eyes to the world. With a great view of downtown Miami as well as the playing field, armed policeman flanked us watching for any trouble that may break out. The only team I have ever shot a game with such security.
The Hawkeyes played the defending national champions score for score trailing 24-21 midway through the 3rd quarter. However a Doug Buch fumble returning a punt switched the momentum over to the Hurricanes and they game slowly slipped away. National respect started to be earned as well as that of the Miami squad. With the three point deficit the Miami video coordinator asked us, "Just what are you guys rated?" We said, "We aren't." At the end of the night Miami won 48-21, but the score wasn't a true representative of how much the Hawkeyes battled.
In over a week I will once again travel to South Beach for the Hawkeye's second Orange Bowl appearance, seeking my first win in South Florida.