40 Years Ago, Hawkeyes Were Celebrating Final Four Run
Steve Waite started the party in Philadelphia, and it lasted all the way back to Iowa City.
It was Waite's three-point play with five seconds to go on March 16, 1980, that lifted Iowa to an 81-80 win over Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament East Regional final at the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
The "Fabulous Few," as they were known, were off to the Final Four in Indianapolis.
It was the last Final Four trip for the Hawkeyes, who have come close a few times since then.
"FABULOUS FEW IN FINAL FOUR" was the headline in the Des Moines Register's sports section on the following day.
Iowa trailed by 14 points in the second half, but shot 70 percent from the field
The Hawkeyes held the ball for almost two minutes before Ronnie Lester passed the ball to Kevin Boyle, who then passed to Waite. Waite drove to the basket and was fouled by Georgetown's Craig Shelton.
After a timeout, Waite made the free throw to put Iowa up by three.
"I'm only a 60 percent free thrower statistically, but I'm 100 percent sure I'd make this one," Waite said in the Register story.
Waite was perfect on that day — 4-for-4 from the field and 7-for-7 in free throws.
Vince Brookins led Iowa with 22 points, one of four Hawkeyes in double figures.
At 10 p.m. that night, Iowa's Fieldhouse was jammed for a pep rally to honor the Hawkeyes' NCAA championship wrestling team, and the Hawkeyes who were going to the Final Four.
The wrestling team arrived first, and more than an hour later Lute Olson's team would arrive.
"Don't you people know it's a quarter to midnight," Olson said to the cheering crowd. "We said all along that Iowa fans were the greatest in the world."
Iowa defeated VCU and North Carolina State in the opening weekend of the tournament, then handed Syracuse an 88-77 defeat in the regional semifinals.
The win over Georgetown would be the last that season for the Hawkeyes. They lost to eventual national champion Louisville on March 22 in the national semifinals, then lost, 75-58, to Purdue in the third-place game.
Iowa reached the regional semifinals in 1983, losing to Villanova in Olson's last game.
Their best chance at making it to the Final Four after that came in 1987, in Tom Davis' first year as coach, when the Hawkeyes reached the West Regional final, losing to UNLV. They would make it to the regional semifinals the next season, losing to Arizona. That was the deepest run until Davis' 1999 team, his last at Iowa, reached the regional semifinals before losing to Connecticut.
Notes from the 1980 Final Four run:
• Lester had no turnovers and nine assists in the win over Georgetown.
• Waite averaged eight points per game that season.
• Iowa finished 23-10 overall, 10-8 in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes were fourth in the conference that season.
• Tickets for the Final Four were $30.