Hlas: Iowa Hawkeyes' bowl destination? They don't know

San Diego, Nashville or New York awaits Iowa

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IOWA CITY — I conducted a poll on Twitter Friday and Saturday, asking Iowa football fans to choose their preference between these two possible bowl game opponents for the Hawkeyes:

Stanford

SEC mediocrity

That was assuming Stanford would be the Pac-12’s team in San Diego’s Holiday Bowl, which may have been a bad assumption. It could be Washington, too. Either way, it will be a strong, ranked squad.

The SEC mediocrity would be the Big Ten team’s foe in Nashville’s Music City Bowl. Maybe it’s 7-5 Kentucky or 7-5 Missouri or 7-5 Texas A&M. None of them are Stanford or Washington.

By 7 p.m. on Saturday, 1,287 votes had been cast. The SEC mediocrity got 72 percent. Wow.

After five straight beatings in bowls and getting outscored by a total of 108-10 in their first-halves, and after having Stanford punk them two years ago in the Rose Bowl, it seems as if Hawkeye fans just want a better chance to beat someone. Anyone.

In fact, an Iowa fan from Nevada (the state, not the city in Iowa State’s backyard) told me point-blank Friday he wanted a bowl the Hawkeyes can win. He said they need it.

The business of hoping for the toughest challenge available apparently has been temporarily shelved in place of “Let’s close the season with a win for a change.”

As for which bowl selects the Hawkeyes Sunday afternoon, that remains a mystery. So said none other than Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta Saturday night after he watched his school’s men’s basketball team make us turn our thoughts back to football following its 77-73 home loss to Penn State.

“Honestly, no,” Barta said when asked if he knew where the football team would be headed in a few weeks. He said he’ll know when a bowl official calls him Sunday.

The pick won’t be made until the New Year’s Six bowls are all announced during ESPN’s College Football Playoff Selection Show Sunday afternoon.

What Iowa wants matters only to a degree, Barta said, “less than what the bowl wants and what the seasons look like, who won and who lost.

“We definitely get to tell them what our preferences are.”

The choices are the Holiday Bowl, which would have to jump Iowa over a Big Ten team with a better record (like 9-3 Northwestern), the Music City Bowl, or New York’s Pinstripe Bowl. If the Holiday doesn’t reach for Iowa, the Hawkeyes and Purdue would be headed to the Music City and Pinstripe, or vice versa.

Barta said he talked to representatives of those three bowls repeatedly over the last couple week, “just about every day.”

“They’re talking to their boards, they’re talking to their TV partners, they’re talking to their sponsors. What I do is I make sure they have every data point you can possibly have. TV ratings throughout the year, attendance throughout the year, past bowl ticket sales, alumni living in a particular area.

“I make sure all three bowls have all that information, our TV ratings against common opponents. We spend a week or two just making sure no stone is unturned.”

But what does Iowa want? Their AD isn’t telling. He said he sold his case to all three bowls, and called all of them “exciting.”

That may be a stretch.

“First on my list is what’s best for the Iowa Hawkeyes,” said Barta. “At the same time, the bowls take who they want to take, they have that ability. We’ll see where it shakes out.”

If you’re the Holiday Bowl, do you want 9-3 Northwestern or 7-5 Iowa? If you’re the Music City Bowl, wouldn’t you want thousands of fans driving to Nashville from Iowa to attend a bowl that’s new and fun to them?

If you’re the Pinstripe Bowl? You just don’t want snow on the day of the game.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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