Tevaun Smith: Fans 'might regret not coming to this one'

Chad Leistikow
Iowa wide receiver Tevaun Smith is one of the 21 Hawkeye seniors who will be playing in their final home game against Purdue.

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa’s football players, particularly the 21 seniors who will be honored at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday in their home finale, would obviously love to see a sellout crowd against Purdue.

But with more than 8,000 tickets left as of Tuesday, the clock is ticking.

“It would be nice to have them sell out. But we still have to worry about what’s going to happen on the field,” senior wide receiver Tevaun Smith said. “If they don’t want to come to the game, they don’t want to come. That’s what happened at the beginning of the season. A lot of people didn’t want to get season tickets, and now they regret it. Who knows? They might regret not coming to this one.”

The 10-0, sixth-ranked Hawkeyes can clinch a share of the Big Ten West Division title and spot in the conference championship game with a victory against 2-8 Purdue, a 20-point underdog. Athletic director Gary Barta issued a challenge to fans via email earlier this week, saying, “We need you there to share in these special accomplishments.”

Iowa 17th-year coach Kirk Ferentz, who presided over a program that saw nine consecutive years of consistently sold-out home crowds (including six entire seasons that were sold out; 2004-07 and 2010-11) was asked if 8,000 unsold tickets for a 10-0 team surprised him.

His response: “I haven’t really given it much thought. It’s kind of outside my realm of expertise and what-have-you. We’ve got great fans. I’ve said that for a long time — forever, basically, since ’81. My experience is if we play well on the field our fans will be there. That’s how I look at it.”

In his opening remarks Tuesday to media members, Ferentz praised the fan support in last Saturday’s 40-35 win against Minnesota — which saw the first Kinnick sellout (70,585) of the season and second in three years.

Fan support, home and away, “brings a lot to our football team,” Ferentz said. “It adds a lot to what we’re doing. Our players feel that way also. They feel compelled to play their best.”

On social media, there’s been a mix of outrage, disappointment and understanding that a 10-0 Hawkeye team might not have a sold-out stadium for a possible division-title-clinching day. Before the season, Iowa announced a 17 percent decline in season-ticket sales — creating a lot of ticket-selling ground to make up. A lot of people made other plans when they didn’t buy season tickets.

Still, Iowa has sold more than 11,000 tickets in the last month for this game.

Saturday’s forecast is cold: high temperatures in the 20s and 10-20 mph winds. Ferentz said there would only be a "private" celebration of a Big Ten West title Saturday, should Iowa win, so there'll be no trophy presentation for fans to see.

“I can’t tell the fans what to do. They can do whatever they want,” fifth-year senior right guard Jordan Walsh said. “I definitely know they’ll support us no matter what, whether they come to the game or watch it on TV. There’s a lot of Hawks out there.”