Hlas: Putting a different color on Kinnick's pink locker room

Earle Murphy, 92, shares many a Hawkeye story in book

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The reason the visitors’ locker room at Kinnick Stadium was painted pink?

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. So it was that former Iowa football coach and psychology major Hayden Fry is quoted as saying the following in “A High Porch Picnic,” his 1999 autobiography:

“One thing we didn’t paint black and gold was the stadium’s visitors locker room, which we painted pink. It’s a passive color, and we hoped it would put our opponents in a passive mood.”

For over three decades, the pink locker room in Kinnick has been famous.

But in a new book by a Hawkeye fan of over eight decades, a different version of the pink locker room story is told.

“My conversation with Bump Elliott gives a different insight,” wrote 92-year-old Earle “Murph” Murphy of Iowa City, as big a fan and supporter of Hawkeye sports as has ever been.


“Bump, who was the Iowa Athletic Director, wanted to paint the east locker room in Kinnick Stadium, the opponent’s dressing room,” Murphy wrote. “He asked (then-assistant AD) Gary Kurdelmeier to go to the general store and buy some paint. When Gary arrived at the store he discovered that the only paint they had in stock was PINK! Gary called Bump and explained the situation. Bump said, ‘If pink is all they’ve got, we’ll put that on!’

“So it was painted pink.”

That’s just one of many stories in Murphy’s book, “A Hawk For All Seasons,” a 162-page collection of short essays, profiles, photos, clippings, and more that covers Hawkeye sports from the 1930s to the present. It is available at Iowa Book Store, Lenoch & Cilek Ace Hardware and Paul’s Discount in Iowa City, the Black & Gold Shop and Hy-Vee in Coralville, and the Hy-Vee in Marion.

The book has lots of interesting insights. Just leafing through it takes you to a different time in college sports, when things were retail, not wholesale. Which is appropriate, because Murphy worked at and later owned Bremers clothing store in downtown Iowa City. He was with the store for 56 years.

For a long time, Bremers was a focal point for Hawkeye fans, athletic department employees, and the athletes themselves.

“Everybody came there,” Murphy said. “Doctors, lawyers, students ... it was a wonderful meeting place for sports lovers.”

Murphy became hooked on Hawkeye sports as an 11-year-old who had polio. Hawkeye football player Ozzie Simmons, a first-team All-American in 1935, lived a block from the boy.

Simmons was one of the first star college football players who was black. He was targeted by several opposing players, and was knocked out of a game against Minnesota three times because of injuries.

Simmons saw young Murphy had physical limitations and would carry him to a few of the players’ “private practices,” as Murphy called them.

From then forward, Murphy was hooked on the Hawkeyes. Over the years, he was the National I-Club’s “Hawk of the Year,” and was named an honorary letterman by the Iowa Varsity Club. He was a founding member of the Johnson County I-Club,

He pretty much single-handedly got “The Hawk” statue moved to its current site across the street from Carver-Hawkeye Arena in 1990 and dedicated it to Elliott.

But mostly, Murphy’s impact was from friendships to people in Iowa City.

“It’s about relationships,” he said.

People kept telling him he should write a book with all his stories about the Hawkeyes. With help from son John Murphy of Iowa City and daughter Ann Murphy Pearson of Alaska, he has done just that.

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