116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Editor’s note: This is 50th in a series counting down the Top 50 moments in Iowa Hawkeyes women’s athletics history in the 50 days leading up to the 50th anniversary of Title IX in June.
When Christine Grant first came to the United States, she heard people say women “are not interested in sport.”
In 1985, Iowa’s women’s athletics director proved those people wrong in a big, record-breaking way.
Just 13 years after Title IX became law, Iowa had a record-shattering crowd of 22,157 people for a women’s basketball game.
“I wish I could turn out the lights and freeze that moment in time,” former Iowa coach C. Vivian Stringer told The Gazette in 2010.
The crowd for the Iowa-Ohio State game on Feb. 3, 1985 — much larger than Carver-Hawkeye Arena’s seating capacity — was everywhere.
“There were people who probably didn’t even see the court,” longtime Iowa athletics official Paula Jantz said. “We had at least six deep on the concourse. We had people sitting in every stairway.”
Gazette reporter Jeff Linder, who was a junior in high school and went to the game with two of his buddies, was among the luckier of the 22,157 people.
“A security guy ushered us down to the floor where they were putting folding chairs behind the baskets and we got some seats about five rows back, on the floor, not far from the Ohio State bench,” Linder said.
Traffic went as far back as Interstate 80. When opposing coach Tara VanDerveer saw all the traffic on the way, she asked an assistant, “What, church just let out?”
“My assistant said, ‘Tara, these people, everyone’s coming to the game,’“ VanDerveer said in a phone call with The Gazette. ”I’m like, ‘Whoa.’“
At the arena, VanDerveer and Stringer — two future Hall of Famers — “had our arms around each other and just said, ‘Holy cow, look at this. This is amazing.’”
Grant later received a letter of reprimand from the fire department. She framed it.
“She obviously took it very serious,” Jantz said of the Title IX pioneer’s reaction when opening the letter. “But she had a big grin on her face.”
The previous NCAA record was 12,336 at Madison Square Garden, according to the Daily Iowan archives.
The game didn’t go Iowa’s way. The Buckeyes left with a 56-47 win. But Grant and Iowa’s crowd made a statement about the interest level in women’s athletics.
“That was eye-opening for people across the country that there were so many people who wanted to be there and be a part of that special day,” Jantz said.
After the season, improved crowds around the country came up at the women’s basketball coaches’ convention.
“They said, ‘Coaches, everybody stand up,’” VanDerveer said. “’Stay standing if you had a crowd of 1,000 people.’ And then it went to 5,000, 7,000 and when it got over 20,000, that was just Vivian and I still standing.”
Thirty-seven years later, VanDerveer can still remember the exact attendance number, and it wasn’t even her team’s fans — 22,157.
Comments: (319) 398-8394; email@example.com