Oregon Football's New Big Ten Conference Opponents: Iowa, Part 1

Iowa boasts a Heisman Trophy winner and claims several national titles, though their most consistent decades have come recently. The Hawkeyes are among the programs Oregon is joining in the Big Ten Conference.
Nov 24, 2023; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes kicker Marshall Meeder (82) celebrates with his teammates.
Nov 24, 2023; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes kicker Marshall Meeder (82) celebrates with his teammates. / Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Though not an original member the Big Ten Conference, Iowa has been known for its consistency over the last few decades. The Hawkeyes are another program awaiting the arrival of the Oregon Ducks.

“I thank God I was warring on the gridirons of the Midwest and not on the battlefields of Europe. I can speak confidently and positively that the players of this country would much more, much rather struggle and fight to win a Heisman award than a Croix de Guerre.”

Nile Kinnick, Iowa’s 1939 Heisman Trophy

School History

The University of Iowa was founded in 1847, just 59 days after Iowa was admitted as a state. Until 1964, the official name of the school was State University of Iowa. Classes began in 1855 with 124 students, including 41 women.

Iowa was one of the first institutions to accept creative work in theater, writing, music, and art on an equal basis with academic research, and, in 1873, became one of the first to granta a law degree to a woman.

The first law school and dental school west of the Mississippi River was established at Iowa. UI was the first university to use radio and television in education. Iowa has produced 46 Pulitzer Prize winners.

Enrollment in 2023 eclipsed 31,000 students. A member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), the public research institution had research expenditures in fiscal year 2021 of $818 millions.

In the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings, Iowa is No. 93 among national universities and No. 47 among public schools.

Football Program History

Iowa football began as a club sport in 1872, but the program was not officially recognized by the university as a varsity team until 1899. The Hawkeyes were an Independent that year, going undefeated and earning an invitation to the Western Conference, the precursor to the Big Ten.

In their first season with the Western Conference, Iowa went undefeated again to win a share of the league title. That success waned as Iowa soon split time between the Western Conference and the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the precursor to the Big Eight.

Success picked up again in the 1920s, with undefeated seasons in 1921 and 1922. Both of those seasons resulted in claimed national titles, though are not among the recognized national championships from the NCAA.

A 6-1-1 record in 1939 produced the program’s first top-10 finish from the Associated Press. That same year, the Hawkeyes notched their only Heisman Trophy winner in program history, Nile Kinnick, would become he namesake for their football stadium.

The 1950s saw Iowa become a national power. From 1953 to 1961, the Hawkeyes were ranked in the top-12 every season, posting five top-10 finishes. In 1961, Iowa was preseason No. 1, but managed to go just 5-4. That was the last season Iowa would be ranked until the 1980s when Heyden Fry took over.

Fry held the reigns for more than 20 years, leading the Hawkeyes to three Big Ten titles and 14 bowl games, including a trio of Rose Bowls. His 1985 team won a school-record 10 games and took the Big Ten title outright.

In 1998, Fry retired and handed the keys to former assistant Kirk Ferentz. Ferentz kept the consistency going with a trio of top-10 finished in 2002, 2003, and 2004. Despite no Big Ten titles since 2004, Iowa has only missed the bowl season once while reaching double-digit wins six times.

Iowa represented the West Division in two of the final three Big Ten Championship games before the league eliminates divisions this fall.

Championships and Heisman Trohpy Winners

Claimed National Championships: 5 (1921, 1922, 1956, 1958, 1960)

Confrence Titles: 13

Heisman Trophy Winners: Nile Kinnick (1939)

Oregon is set to join the Big Ten Conference in 2024. For information on the league as a whole and where to read about the other programs, refer toOregon Football's New Big Ten Conference Opponents: Rich History, Distance.

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Kaleb Henry