Hawkeye invasion includes DM practice, billboards

First was Des Moines, now Herky is saying hello in Minneapolis

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First, there is the April 20 practice at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines.

Now, there are Herky "Hawkeye Way" billboards in Minneapolis. I've seen a few snapshots of the "Hawkeye Way" outdoor ads in Minneapolis and had one e-mailed to me this morning.

Maybe Iowa has done the billboard thing. I know that Iowa has never done the Des Moines spring game.

The UI hasn't nailed down official time and location, but the open practice will be at West Des Moines Valley Stadium. I'm guessing the practice would begin at noon with the gates opening at 10 a.m. Valley Stadium is the largest high school stadium in Iowa at 8,000 (make that the largest outdoor high school stadium, I forgot about Cedar Falls and the UNI-Dome). That isn't official, just what I've heard.

The Minneapolis billboards are likely more about enrollment than sports (even though that is Herky front and center and the football rivalry is as alive as it's been in 10 years). Here's a link to a Gazette story on Iowa seeing an increase in transfer students. (The kid in the picture is a Kirkwood student, but he is wearing a Gophers sweatshirt, so that's kinda apropos.)

The fact that the Des Moines practice is on the same day as Iowa State's spring game (April 20, 2 p.m.) has two reads, and, of course, those are viewed through whatever color the jersey is in your heart (or for real).

Iowa State can claim this as desperation. In 2012, Iowa State's home attendance records were smashed.  The Cyclones set new marks for the highest attended game (56,800), average attendance per game (55,274) and total attendance (386,918) in program history.  The 2012 campaign marked the second-consecutive season Iowa State has broken its average-attendance-per-game mark, eclipsing last season's record of 53,647.

Iowa State fans have bought into Paul Rhoads and that has reverberated through the Des Moines metro.

Kinnick Stadium is bigger and Iowa averaged 70,474 in seven home games last season, ranking No. 21 in the country in average attendance. Jack Trice Stadium has a capacity of 55,000. ISU ranked 36th here with 55,247 per home game.

In attendance sorted by capacity, ISU ranked No. 18, and Iowa was 22nd.

But here's what has Iowa's attention and this is why you could translate spring in Des Moines as an act of aggression: In 2012, the Hawkeyes lost out on West Des Moines Dowling wide receiver Amara Darboh, who played 10 games as a true freshman last season at Michigan. West Des Moines Valley offensive tackle Jake Campos picked Missouri, but switched to Iowa State. Rivals ranked Campos as the No. 1 recruit in the state last season. He also had an Iowa offer. Iowa also offered West Des Moines Valley defensive tackle Sam Raridon, who committed to Wisconsin and will be a grayshirt recruit going on scholarship in 2014.

West Des Moines Dowling tight end Jon Wisnieski signed with Iowa. Iowa also had a commitment from Des Moines Lincoln defensive end Trevon Young, but the school pulled the offer after Young had two legal run-ins.

“The state of Iowa is a priority for us,” ISU coach Paul Rhoads said last fall. “I think what you find in Iowa’s largest city is no different than what you find in a lot of metropolitan areas throughout the United States is those guys have a little bit broader picture and look at some things that maybe a young man from Cherokee doesn’t necessarily. We make the same commitment to the Des Moines schools, the metro schools, as we do to the rural schools in this state and won’t ever change that philosophy.

“If we’re comparing two players that are relatively similar and one’s 1,000 miles away and one’s 10 miles away, I promise you we’re going with the one 10 miles away right here in the state of Iowa.”

If Kingston Stadium (5,300 capacity) in Cedar Rapids were a little bigger, I could see Iowa State having a spring practice there followed by Iowa. Or vice versa.

The Cy-Hawk rivalry has gone to the road. No matter how you look at it, this is escalation and I dig it.

[EDIT: This billboard also is on 294 toward O'Hare in Chicago.]

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