Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sooners Insight Bowl Champions

A 21-0 deficit was too much to overcome for the Iowa Hawkeyes against the #19 team in the nation, but they didn't quit falling 31-14. The Hawkeyes finish 2011 at 7-6.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Game Day

The field is painted, banners are hung and the stadium is ready for the 2011 Insight Bowl. Iowa and Oklahoma will face off at 9pm CT on ESPN from Sun Devil Stadium. The Hawkeyes will be in their road whites against the Big 12 representative.
The Iowa Video Staff on picture day

Thursday, December 29, 2011

ESPN's Pre Game Sit Down

After Matt Millen had a chance to watch some Iowa Video to get better acquainted with the Hawkeys, the entire broadcasting crew from ESPN sat down with Head Coach Kirk Ferentz, Coordinators, Norm Parker and Ken O'Keefe as well as various headline players. These meetings intend to give better insight into the broadcast. The ESPN crew of Sean McDonough, Heather Cox and Millen has already worked three Oklahoma games in 2011 and already had these same discussions via phone.

The Insight Bowl kicks off at 8pm mountain time on ESPN.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Team Night at the Suns Game

The Insight Bowl has many activities for the players during their time in Phoenix. One optional opportunity is a game at U.S. Airways Arena and the Phoenix Suns. Tonight, as well as the Hawkeyes, their opponent, the Sooners of Oklahoma were in attendance, as well as Fiesta Bowl teams, Oklahoma State and Stanford. Phoenix took on the Philadelphia 76ers in what turned out to be a blow out. The visiting Sixers won 103-83, but that was the closest the score got shortly after the half time resumption.

That was the last time the Insight Bowl teams will have any organized activities prior to Friday night's game at Sun Devil Stadium.

Millen on the ESPN Call

A day closer to Friday night's game is Iowa's typical Thursday practice. And on those days is typically when the ESPN game announcers show up for a closer look at the teams they are broadcasting. On this Wednesday, Matt Millen took time to make that visit. Millen who has covered a couple of Oklahoma games this season hasn't seen the Hawkeyes since the 2010 Insight Bowl. And as we all know, many things have changed.

Millen's preparation begins early. Before attending practice at Chapparal High School, he stopped by the Hawkeye's team hotel to get in a video session on the 2011 Iowa team. After getting a close up look while at practice, Millen returned to the hotel for more in-depth review, and will return on Thursday to continue his game prep. Also on Thursday, he and Sean McDonough will spend time with the Iowa Head Coach, as well as coordinators and a few players for more insight into their broadcast.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dinner at the Biltmore

The original resort in Arizona played host to the Insight Bowl Welcome dinner for the staffs of Iowa and Oklahoma. Members of Insight Corporation, Tempe Diablos, and the Fiesta Bowl organization joined the two schools to welcome them to the Valley of the Sun. Here Iowa Coach, Kirk Ferentz and Oklahoma Coach, Bob Stoops stand next to the trophy awarded to the winner of the Insight Bowl. Stoops a former Hawkeye player and assistant coach is the head coach of the Sooners and spoke of his days wearing the black and gold. This will be the first time he has been on the opposite sideline of his alma mater. It will also be the second meeting between the two schools, and the fist since 1979, Hayden Fry's first season at Iowa. Fry is had a hand in the development of each coach by hiring each to his staff during his twenty year tenure at Iowa.

Media Day for the Hawks

Members of the media were allowed access to a portion of the Iowa Football practice today. Those in town covering the Insight Bowl for either Oklahoma or Iowa, as well as the local college football writers gained an inside look to the Hawkeyes under the bright Arizona sun.

After one final press conference on Wednesday morning, the media will be closed to each team and each team's focus is on the Friday night game in the desert.

Iowa and Oklahoma kick off at 8pm in the mountain time zone on ESPN

Night Out on the Town

Any place that is open for Christmas dinner earns a place on my blog. With many places being closed for the holiday, it was tough to find a place to eat in the Scottsdale area. There were a few places near our hotel, but those were already busy with people from our travel party. Instead we headed south on Scottsdale Blvd to the outskirts of Old Towne and found Loco Patron.

Now I don't try to post about chain restaurants, but I could only find two in the area, and that may be the only ones. And although the sign says Mexican Grill, it offers much more than food found south of the border. Burgers, mac and cheese and other northern traditional meals were on the menu, including a few varieties of chicken strips, which was a big hit for my son.

But there was plenty on the menu if you wanted some Mexican flare. I can't pass up on any kind of seafood tacos, and while my wife beat me to order the lobster tacos, I enjoyed ahi ahi tacos. My only complaint was I could've eaten another one or so, although they were completely filled with fish, lettuce and guacomole.
Something I like about restaurants and bars in Arizona is how the bar area is open to those sitting inside and out. Loco was filled with people of all types. Families were mixed in with a younger "out of college" crowd that enjoyed the outdoor patio until the cooler temperatures drove them inside. Televisions could be found throughout the restaurant, and while it was the Bulls and Lakers on, I didn't know if I was in Phoenix or Iowa City when the Bulls blocked a Kobe shot to win, the bar cheered. It wasn't for the Bulls, but against the Lakers.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Day in Arizona

Not typical of previous Iowa bowl trips, Christmas fell on the players off-day. After a morning lifting session and meetings for coaches, the afternoon was free for all to enjoy. Many took the opportunity of the many golfing options around the Valley of the Sun. Camelback Mountain, a landmark of the Scottsdale area was the setting for many who hit the links.
After golf I took the opportunity to visit some of the sporting venues of the area. The San Francisco Giants facility is located in Scottsdale, not far from my golf course of choice. And also close was HoHoKam in Mesa, the Winter Home to the future World Series Champions, Chicago Cubs.
 Downtown, within blocks of each other is the home to the Diamondbacks and Suns. Chase Field (Above) is home to MLB's D'Backs and one time home of the Insight Bowl. The retractable roof stadium was open on this clear day.
And nearby is the US. Airways Center home to the NBA's  Phoenix Suns. One outing for the team while in Arizona is the Suns - Philadelphia 76ers basketball game.

Is this Iowa? No, It's Arizona

Driving down the Arizona freeway outside Phoenix I wouldn't expect to see a billboard that is common on I-380 outside of Cedar Rapids. However this is located outside Tempe, near Sun Devil Stadium, the home of the 2011 Insight Bowl. The Oklahoma team arrived on Christmas Night and fans are beginning to invade the Valley of the Sun.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Practice in the Sun

Bright Arizona skies greeted the Hawkeyes during their first two days of practice in Scottsdale. And after two days of practice in preparation for the Insight Bowl appearance with Oklahoma on the 30th, Christmas Day finds a day of limited action for the team. A morning lift gives way to an afternoon of free time for players to relax or explore the local area. This free day is not tied to Christmas, rather it is their "Monday" of game week, which is always an off day during the season.

The team came together with coaches and staff on Christmas Eve for dinner together. Optional services were also available for players to attend and hear the message of Christmas. Transportation was also available for players to attend local church services.

It has become an annual tradition at Hawkeye Football practices for the Hawkeye Head Coach to adorn a black and gold Santa hat. Kirk Ferentz walks around the fields coaching with the festive hat.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

An Insight Welcome

Upon arriving at their hotel the Iowa Hawkeyes met with the locals to get an insight into the rules of the land. After a welcome by the bowl staff, local law enforcement and staff security briefed the team on how to avoid trouble in the Scottsdale area.

Other local dignitaries spoke on tips to make this bowl experience one of the team's best. Highlights included areas of town team members would enjoy during their down time, how to get around town and the different ways to have fun.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Night Out on the Town

Away from the high class, big money of Scottsdale is Old Towne with its shops and restaurants in a wild west flavor. Boots, cowboy hats and jeans are found in many of the stores, but the food is immersed in black beans, rice and guacamole. Off the main drag of Scottsdale Road is the most popular Mexican restaurant, Cien Agaves.
Cien Agaves is known for its tacos and tequila. The tacos are the main dish as one page in its menu is devoted to the main course. And the staff is proud of every one. You can buy the individually or group the different varieties into an entree served with rice and black beans. They have tacos to fit anyone's liking. Lobster, ahi ahi and pulled pork are just a few of the examples. Mine with the lobster were truly a treat.
Then comes the tequila and the best margaritas in the Valley as proclaimed by the Arizona Republic. It was the house variety that won the honor, but like the tacos, a page is devoted to the many different combinations of margaritas. One they recommend has a cucumber as the main ingredient.
Cien Agaves isn't the largest place to find tacos and tequila in the area as the lunch crowd fight for the small number of tables and spots at the bar in the downstairs area. But in the weekend it opens up the patio and upstairs to get the place hoppin'.
Another definite spot to stop while in town for spring training or over the holidays for the Insight Bowl.

The Hawkeyes have arrived in Scottsdale

A cool but sunny day greeted the Iowa Hawkeyes to their temporary home in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch will be their home in preparation for the 2011 Insight Bowl.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Good Morning in Scottsdale

The sun rises in Scottsdale, Arizona and preparations are in full swing for the Hawkeye Football team's arrival in the Insight Bowl. Mike Riggan pulled the Hawkeye Semi through all types of weather but arrived close to 10pm Tuesday night.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hawkeyes turn Focus to Insight

Above fans and families congregate for the annual Iowa Football Awards Banquet over the weekend. That followed a week of finals and graduation. Now the attention of the team turns to practice for the Oklahoma Sooners in the Insight Bowl. Practice continues to take place in the indoor football facility of the Jacobson Athletic Complex daily until the team departs on the 22nd.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hawks on the Move

A large semi trailer provided by Mike Riggan of TanTara Transportation of Muscatine was loaded over the weekend and left at noon Monday for Scottsdale, Arizona. It is here the Iowa Football team will call home while preparing for the 2011 Insight Bowl against Oklahoma.

On the truck is everything needed to operate while away from Iowa City. Video equipment for 12 meeting rooms as well as the video office is included with items used at practice by managers and trainers as well as office supplies used by the staff to prepare the game plan against the Sooners. The Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch is the facility for meetings and offices while the team practices at local Chapparal High School.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bowl Preparations

Preparations continue for the Hawkeyes travels to the Valley of the Sun and the Insight Bowl. Classes officially closed last Friday, but the focus is on Finals this week. Once the last exam is issued this Friday at 7pm, the football team's full attention turns towards Oklahoma, Iowa's bowl opponent.

Here the sun sets on the mountains that lie as a backdrop to the Hawkeye's Scottsdale temporary residence. A year ago Iowa called Chandler, Arizona home, but now as the visiting squad operations move to the north and the Scottsdale area. Practice takes place at Chapparal High School with the team's meeting room, video offices and day to day operations will be set up at nearby Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch. The visiting team in the Insight Bowl uses these facilities while the home team sets up to the south.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Night Out on the Town

For the second straight season the Iowa Hawkeyes will play in the Insight Bowl held in Tempe, Arizona. And near Sun Devil Stadium is popular Mill Avenue, home to restaurants, bars and shopping on the Arizona State University campus. As we found out a year ago Mill Avenue is a popular place for fans to congregate before the game, but one place that fans need to visit is an historical marker called Monti's. The first and still standing building is home to some of the finer steaks in the Valley and some of the most original dishes.

History of Monti's is fascinating and worth a read. What you need to know is Monti's is the home to the first ever building in Tempe. So original that every address in town is based off Monti's. Throughout time different businesses have occupied the current site, but today it is home to Monti's, whose manager, Michael Monti is busy running for Mayor of Tempe. If Michael is as popular as his restaurant, he shouldn't have any worries on winning.

It has some of the better steaks in the area, but it also has different seafoods, sandwiches and salads. The prime rib is one thing they are most proud of and some of the dressings are made on site with ingredients grown in different parts of the world.

Monti's is a definite treat. If you attend the Insight Bowl, Monti's is worth the trip one of the nights leading up to the game. But a building this old has its own twists and turns to it. Make sure you leave time to find your way out of these twists and turns to get to the game on time.

The Insight Bowl

The announcement has been made and the Hawkeyes are heading back to the Valley of the Sun. The preparations continue for the bowl operating staff, but for the members of Iowa's and Oklahoma's staff they just begin. And this past week members of each staff journeyed to Scottsdale, Arizona the site of the Insight Bowl to learn more about their temporary home while preparing for the 2011 event.

Those preparations began in full when the staffs met the Insight Bowl organizing committee at the Fiesta Bowl offices in downtown Scottsdale. The Fiesta Bowl also run game operations for the Insight Bowl at the former Fiesta site of Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. These meetings between the bowl and team staffs go over everything from hotel and practice site details to all of the different events wrapped up in game week as well as the what will be expected on game day. It is one of the more thorough bowl staffs in the country.
The Fiesta Bowl Offices in Scottsdale

Besides being the headquarters of the Fiesta and Insight Bowls, the office is home to a mini-hall of fame of the games. Jerseys of teams that have participated along with pictures and stories on all of the games. The Fiesta Bowl has had a proud history and what has made it a successful event has been the volunteers. That can be found in an adjacent corner of the building where pictures hang of former volunteer heads or notable people who have pushed the Fiesta Bowl to the national stage. Highlights constantly run showing all of their old games.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Site of the Insight Bowl

More posts to come but this is outside the Hawkeye Gameday Locker Room

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Championship Weekend in Indianapolis

The first Big Ten Football Championship set a high bar that will be tough to reach. However the folks in Indianapolis are eager to top this performance. The game on the field matched the level of hospitality by the locals. It was an outstanding weekend for fans of football and those of the Big Ten as their game took center stage.

In the massive Indiana Convention Center the conference held Fan Fest in association with the game at nearby Lucas Oil Stadium. On display was a over sized replica of the trophy Michigan State and Wisconsin were fighting for. Many took the opportunity to get their picture with it as it rotated behind ropes.

It was a corporate sponsor heaven. Dr. Pepper had a major presence as it does at many of the conference championship games. Samples were being distributed by an army of interns.

And on the exhibition field Dr. Pepper set up large cans for fans to throw football through. The night before couches were brought in for the Award Gala. Student-athletes from all conference schools who won awards were paired with the individuals those awards were named after. Clark and Butkus were among the notable athletes as the different player of the year awards were handed out.
 Sports Illustrated also played major role in the fan interaction area. Fans were allowed to test out the football knowledge and compete against fans from other teams to see who knew more. The Heisman display has travelled across the country in 2011.
 Bowl reps were frequently found promoting their games and local area. Representatives of the Insight, Fiesta, Orange and Rose were those making themselves available during their time in Indianapolis. But then there were those who walked around wearing orange jackets with ironed on patches as seen above from Ray Gilmore of Iowa City.
Wisconsin Red and Michigan State Green were the dominant colors trolling through the streets this Christmas season. The Indiana Convention Center also hosted pre-game alumni and fan parties for both the Spartans and the Badgers.
 And Indianapolis rolled out the red carpets for the VIPs. A pregame party for those representing the different conference schools was found above the Fan Fest entrance with outstanding food, dessert and drinks. Another opportunity for bowl reps to promote their destinations and school administrators to explain why their school is the only option to those same bowl reps.
The home to the Big Ten Championship through 2015 is Lucas Oil Stadium. It will also be the home to NFL's Super Bowl and Combine in 2012.
 The Big Ten Network is also owned by Fox Corporation. The Big Ten Football Championship was found on Fox as part of the agreement. Gus Johnson and Charles Davis had the call, but former Minnesota football coach, Tim Brewster was on the sideline. In one of Brewster's final game as head coach of the Gophers, he and Wisconsin Head Coach, Bret Bielema had a verbal disagreement at mid-field. But at the Championship game the two spent time with Brewster remaining on the Michigan State sidelines, reporting from there.
A thing of the past is for the Big Ten Championship to be secured on a team's home field. Now trophies will be presented at Indianapolis at the conclusion of the game. Here Wisconsin accepts their trophy and invitation to the Rose Bowl

Iowa Oklahoma in the Insight

This will be a similar sight late December in Tempe, Arizona. Today the Iowa Hawkeyes accepted the invitation to play in the 23rd annual Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium on the campus of Arizona State. It will be the second time in a row the Hawkeyes will appear in the pre-New Year's Day bowl game. The opponent will be the Oklahoma Sooners of the Big 12 who the Hawkeyes haven't played since losing in Norman 21-6 in 1979, the only meeting in the series.

This year's game will be on Friday, December 30th beginning at 9pm CT on ESPN. Announcing the game will be Sean McDonough, Matt Millen and Heather Cox.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A true Big Ten Champion

The inaugural Big Ten Football Championship lived up to the hype as Wisconsin came back to defeat Michigan State 42-39. This was the first year of the championship game and will eliminate any type of co-championship. Wisconsin goes on to the Rose Bowl as the representative of the Big Ten Conference.

Game Time in Indianapolis

B1G Fan Fest

Next to Lucas Oil Stadium is the Indiana Convention Center, this week home to the Big Ten Football Championship Fan Fest. The Big Ten Network has set up a studio for many live shows featuring the many faces of football in the conference. Marvin McNutt of Iowa took time with the BTN crew.

Fans of all BigTen schools attended but it had a Christmas look to it. Wisconsin fans clad in red blended in with the Michigan State green. Dr. Pepper, Allstate, and Sports Illustrated have a prominent presence too. Fans were also able to enjoy many interactive games and meet many memorable student-athletes.

Big Ten Championship

The day fans have waited for since before Nebraska joined the conference, Wisconsin plays Michigan State for the Big Ten Championship. The game will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium (adjacent) in Indianapolis. Kickoff is at 8:17 pm et on FOX.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bowl Talk

Will the Insight be Iowa's bowl destination again?
Isn't all of this bowl talk fun? It sure keeps twitter, message boards and talk shows busy. Opinions constantly change and where one team goes may be dependent on an outcome from a game in a conference few had given attention to until the last few days.

Then there is speculation from bowl reps who get interviewed by a media outlet of a local school. I have yet to hear a bowl rep speak negatively of one school. As bowl talk goes, they'd love to have each and everyone of the teams that are qualified. And in turn the school sees every bowl opportunity as being the best thing that could happen to their athletic department. Yes, everyone has their preferences. Bowls are about selling tickets and providing a good match-up for sponsors and televisions. Bowls are also for football teams who are looking for extra practice time, prestige and of course the gifts that each participating student-athlete has earned for a long season of preparation.

All of this talk means very little until we know the outcomes of many games on Saturday. Then the discussions within each bowl office get a little more heated and the announcements are made. Its fun to talk about it, but I'm ready to talk about the match-up.