Harty: When TV timeouts add insult to Hawkeye injury

Pat Harty
Iowa City Press-Citizen

My relationship with television is hot and cold.

Watching TV has brought tremendous joy to my life, including endless sporting contests and episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show," "Cannon," "The Rockford Files" and, of course, "Operation Repo," "Hardcore Pawn" and "Family Guy."

Unfortunately, TV has an ugly side, which is contributing to the downfall of the Iowa football gameday experience almost as much as the Iowa offense and tailgating rule changes.

It was excruciating enough for Hawkeye fans to watch what transpired at Kinnick Stadium this past Saturday with Iowa's 20-17 loss to Iowa State, but the combination of Iowa's offensive woes with what seemed like the longest TV timeouts in history made for a viewing nightmare for Iowa fans. It was so bad that some fans vacated their seats in the fourth quarter because they could no longer handle the stoppages in play.

The game, which lasted 3 hours and 12 minutes, including about 30 minutes of TV timeouts, hardly was a classic, but it still had a dramatic finish as ISU's Cole Netten made a 42-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining to secure the upset against an Iowa team that was favored by 11 points and was playing at home.

"It disrupts the flow of the game, and when you're watching at home on TV, it's not that big of deal because you can go to the bathroom, go get something to eat, something to drink and then you're back and the game is back on," said Iowa City native Tom Suter, who has been attending Iowa football games on a somewhat regular basis for more than a half century. "But when you're at the stadium, it completely disrupts the action."

Suter's feelings are shared by many disgruntled Hawkeye fans, who still are trying to adjust to the changes to the gameday experience in and around Kinnick Stadium. Over the past several years, the number of fans who have complained about TV timeouts has increased considerably. It's one of the complaints I hear most often about the gameday experience at Kinnick Stadium.

UI officials should take notice because Iowa's home attendance is fragile at present, and TV timeouts are here to stay — making it even more enticing for fans to stay away on gameday.

Money talks and nothing speaks louder than TV revenue. We're talking about millions of dollars being pumped into each of the Big Ten schools' athletic departments each year.

It's a delicate arrangement: TV fills the pockets of each of the 14 Big Ten schools while also adversely affecting the gameday experience for fans in the stadiums. But you can't live without TV commercials, even if they do ultimately hurt attendance.

"It seems to have gotten a lot worse," said Suter, who attended his first Iowa game in 1960. "Five or six years ago, it just didn't seem that bad. And now it seems like any time there is a change of possession or anything, there is a TV timeout. Way too many of them."

I'm not sure what could be done to enhance the TV timeout experience for those in Kinnick Stadium. I would suggest running scenes from "Soul Train" on the big video screen or perhaps scenes from HBO's "Game of Thrones" to appease the college students.

Given that will never happen, perhaps the best thing would be for the Iowa offense to show a pulse and give fans a reason to keep their butts in their seats.

• SOKOL SHINES: Former Iowa quarterback Cody Sokol transferred to Louisiana Tech this summer hoping for a better chance to start.

He picked the right school.

After three games as a starter, Sokol is averaging 243.0 passing yards per contest. He has completed 64-of-100 passes for 729 yards nine touchdown passes, while being intercepted twice. Sokol threw five touchdown passes, including three in the second quarter, while leading Louisiana Tech to a 42-21 victory over North Texas last Thursday in Denton, Texas.

North Texas is coached by former Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney, who grew up in Iowa City and is a former Hawkeye player and assistant coach.

Louisiana Tech has a 2-1 record, its only loss coming in the season opener at Oklahoma by a score of 48-16. The Bulldogs, behind Sokol's 295 passing yards, defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 48-20 on Sept. 6 at home.

Sokol, who was born in Des Moines, spent two seasons at Iowa in 2012 and 2013 after playing his freshman and sophomore seasons at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona. He was redshirted at Iowa in 2012 and then played briefly in one game last season against Nebraska, compiling no statistics.

This is Sokol's final season of eligibility. He's making the most of it.

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7370 or