Leistikow: What's the importance of a Tigerhawk logo on a water tower? Let me explain.

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

It actually happened: They finally put a Tigerhawk on the water tower.

On Monday night, at the intersection of Hawkins and Evashevski drives, the first coats of black-and-gold paint were applied high above the Northeast-corner view from of Kinnick Stadium.

The university’s April 20 video announcement that the water tower would be painted struck a note of majesty and satire while portraying images of other famous towers — Eiffel, Leaning (of Pisa), the former Sears — with the background music from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The video had been viewed more than 65,000 times on Twitter alone, underscoring its collective interest.

Now that the Tigerhawk is up there for 24/7 viewing against the white background, what does a little extra paint really mean?

I asked for your feedback, and the responses varied.

It’s been an almost religious happening for some Hawkeye fans, or a truly “meh” moment for others.

One fan wished the tower had instead been painted all black, with a gold Tigerhawk.

Another called it a waste of money for needless vanity when university budgets are tight.

Many said they didn’t understand why people were so passionate about it.

By and large, though, the most prominent and simple fan response to this addition:

They listened.

The Tigerhawk logo appears on the front of the water tower near Kinnick Stadium on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. Crews finished painting it on Tuesday.

In case you missed it, putting a Tigerhawk on the water tower has been a long-held wish by many who adore Hawkeye football.

For years, fans clamored for it.

For years, the tower remained white — a cold response, some fans felt, from Iowa administrators.

How can you be willing to pay $500,000 coaching bonuses, they wondered, and not spring for a few buckets of paint?

What took so long?

Even though the water tower is university-owned, there is a legitimate cost involved — $25,000 to $30,000, the school said, paid out of the athletics department's budget — and the usual bureaucratic hurdles.

“It was just the right time,” the UI’s associate athletics director for marketing, Charlie Taylor, said. “The athletics department and the university all came together to answer our fans. It will provide wonderful brand exposure for the millions of fans who will be watching on television.”

First, a Tigerhawk at midfield. Now, one adorns the water tower.

The Tiger Hawk logo at Kinnick Stadium is fully in place, as this image from video provided by the university affirms.

There's a sense of collective joy and relief. But is it all about being told "yes"?

I think there’s a deeper reason this has been such a passionate topic — a reason that requires a little digging.

Hat tip to my friend Rick Brown — my predecessor in this job and one of the great sports journalists our state has ever seen — for pointing me toward this historic picture.

The Tigerhawk didn't exist until Hayden Fry's arrival in Iowa City in the late 1970s.

Before he became a cowboy-hat-wearing, folksy icon here, he recognized that Iowa’s losing image needed to change.

Coach Hayden Fry holds an Iowa helmet with an American flag decal that the team will wear in the 1991 Rose Bowl to show support for the military. Fry was showing the helmet at a news conference in Newport Beach, Calif.

The football jerseys were altered to mimic the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. And ... a new logo was introduced.

The Tigerhawk.

Whether you believe it's a coincidence or not, a golden era of Iowa sports ensued.

The basketball team made the 1980 Final Four under Lute Olson, kicking off a decade of rich memories that extended to Tom Davis.

A view of the water tower from inside Kinnick Stadium.

The 1981 football team broke through two straight decades of losing and got to the Rose Bowl — then became a perennial bowl team after that.

Dan Gable’s wrestling program soared, winning 15 NCAA championships between 1978 and 1997.

C. Vivian Stringer, upon her arrival in 1983, took Iowa women’s basketball to new heights.

And, as Rick Brown pointed out, the Tigerhawk was along for every mile of the ride.

When you see the Tigerhawk today, in any city, you think: the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Fry understood the importance of such branding early in his trail-blazing career at Iowa.

In his book, “A High Porch Picnic,” Fry itemized one of his greatest coaching regrets:

“I always wanted to put the Tigerhawk on the big water tower across the street from Kinnick Stadium," he wrote, "but I never got it done. I thought it would look great on game day, in full view of 70,000 fans and all the television cameras. … A big Tigerhawk on that water tower would be wonderful exposure for Hawkeye athletics, which the logo has come to symbolize. Maybe we’ll get it done someday.”

Well, Coach: They got it done.

And it looks fantastic.

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 23 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.