1953

October 24
In its premier televised football appearance, Iowa defeated the Indiana Hoosiers, 19-13, before a Homecoming crowd in Iowa City. Fans couldn’t tune in to all the action, however, as NBC had devised a program format called “Panorama.” Switching back and forth among four different regional games, the network could only telecast the highlights of each contest.

November 14
A GAME OF DROPSY
Because of the scouting prowess of one of Iowa’s defensive coaches, Henry “Whitey” Piro, a pack of butterfinger Hawkeyes were able to stop Minnesota’s Paul Giel on their home turf. The rub was simple. Piro had noticed that whenever Giel was going to run, he’d fake a pass, and vice versa.

Armed with that knowledge, the Hawks scrambled for the 27-0 victory, playing a game of dropsy that became comic. Going for his first of three touchdowns, Dusty Rice jumped in the air to try to pass, but had to come down with the ball when he saw all the receivers covered.

As Rice landed, he rammed him knee into the football, squirting it out of his hands and ahead of him onto the turf. The Gophers veered off to the right expecting a pass, so Rice picked up the misdirected ball and sprinted into the end zone.

Hawkeye fans howled their good-humored approval, and Evy later played along as Rice’s straight man. “It’s one of the hardest plays I’ve ever coached a back to do,” he told the press after the game.

Iowa vs Notre Dame

November 21
TRICKED BY A FAINTHEARTED NOTRE DAME
After their glorious victory over Minnesota, the Iowa team just barely emerged in the top 20 as ranked by the national wire service polls. They would garner more national attention after meeting Notre Dame, the No. 1 team in the nation.

With the Hawkeyes ahead by a touchdown as the last seconds of the first half ticked away, Notre Dame quarterback Ralph Guglielmi tried to pass for a score. He was unable to find an open receiver and it looked like the clock would run out, when suddenly one of the Fighting Irish screamed and fell to the ground, apparently in pain. The officials stopped the clock with two seconds showing and the Irish came back to score.

Pretty much the same thing happened at the end of the fourth period, only that time two of the Irish hit the dust simultaneously to stop the clock. In the end, Notre Dame tied Iowa 14-14, but lost respect across the country. The win-at-all-costs tactics apparent in the “Fainting Game” angered many.

Speaking to the New York Football Writers Association, sportswriter Grantland Rice was unequivocal: “I considered it a complete violation of the spirit and ethics of the game and was sorry to see Notre Dame, of all teams, using this method. Why…was it allowed? If this violates neither the rules nor the coaching code, let’s throw them both out the window. Some people are calling it smart playing. I think it was disgraceful playing.”

Back in Iowa, Evashevski was telling fans to celebrate a victory, not a tie. He even parodied a popular poem, saying “When the Great Scorer comes to write against our name, He won’t write whether we won or lost, But how come we got gypped by Notre Dame.”

Iowa officials couldn’t tolerate that kind of sportsmanship and apparently asked Evy to apologize. The coach did at least use the word “sorry” in a statement released by the sports information office:

“I surely don’t want to take any credit from this team [Notre Dame], for all afternoon they were able to move the ball well against us. They showed a powerful and balanced attack and the men played with terrific determination.

“I have no complaint. Of course, I am sorry that we did not win after we came so close to doing so.”

As Brian and Mike Chapman put it, “The bullish Iowa coach didn’t bend to the whip easily.”

The Fainting Game ended the season for the Hawkeyes, whom sportswriters voted into ninth place in the national rankings. Only the 1939 Ironmen had earned a top ten spot before. Evashevski was named Coach of the Year by the Detroit Times, got a new ten-year contract at Iowa, and enjoyed the post-season acclaim his players were garnering.

Copyright 2009

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