Mary Ferentz's gift idea for Hawkeye-loving ladies

Chad Leistikow
Iowa running back Akrum Wadley, right, helps out a female fan experience a running drill (with light contact) at the 2015 Iowa Ladies Football Academy.

Men looking for a last-minute Christmas idea for the Hawkeye-loving lady in your life have an option you’ve never had before.

Roster spots are available — but maybe not for long — for the sixth annual Iowa Ladies Football Academy event to be held June 4.

What is the academy? A 5½-hour experience of a day in the life of a Hawkeye football player — for women only. The purpose behind the Academy, started by the wife of Iowa’s 17th-year head football coach, is to raise money for the UI Children’s Hospital.

And for the first time, registration was opened before New Year’s Day.

“Sign up your wives, your daughters. Sponsor them,” Mary Ferentz says. “Write the check — and write them a big check so they win sideline passes (to a future Hawkeye game), and maybe they’ll take you.”

The minimum cost to participate is $550 — a $500 tax-deductible donation to the UI Children’s Hospital plus a $50 registration fee. Ferentz said the average donation per person is around $800. A few lucky participants will win prizes like VIP gameday passes, diamonds and memorabilia.

In the first five years, the Academy raised $1 million that helped construct a family play room at the hospital. Another $1 million has been pledged for medical research.

About 150 people are signed up so far, with participation capped at 400 “because we want the experience,” Ferentz says. “We don’t want a lot of hurry up and wait. It’s all about access with the players and coaches.”

There’s a three-minute video at the academy’s website that encapsulates what June 4, 2016, will entail. It’s a day for women from ages 18 (the minimum) to 100 (the oldest so far has been 87) to go through the Iowa Football Performance Center, practice on Kinnick Stadium’s FieldTurf, interact with coach Kirk Ferentz and almost every Iowa player — and even come out of the tunnel to AC/DC’s “Back in Black” in a swarm with the Hawkeyes.

“That’s a real rush,” Mary Ferentz says.

“The one thing you see is smiles. Everybody’s got a smile. It’s an opportunity for them to see the players and coaches like I get to.”

There are no physical limitations. Golf carts are provided for anyone who needs help in mobility — in other words, if Grandma is a big Hawkeye fan, send her. The goal is to create an unforgettable experience.

The UI Children’s Hospital is near and dear to the Ferentzes hearts, and Hawkeye players are happy to donate their time to help out. On the video from last year’s Academy (which featured celebrity guest Chris Soules of “The Bachelor”), Desmond King is shown “defending” a pass and C.J. Beathard and Jordan Canzeri are showing off their dance moves.

For the cost of a set of Rose Bowl tickets, a lasting football memory can be formed.

“At the same time, you’re writing a check to Children’s Hospital. So you’re doing something really wonderful,” Mary Ferentz says. “It’s a gift they’ll remember forever. It’s something mothers and daughters have done. It’s really just a fun day, a feel-good day.”

A file photo from the first Iowa Ladies Football Academy event in 2011. The sixth annual day in the life of a Hawkeye (for women only) is June 4, 2016.


The purpose: To raise money for the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.

The sixth annual event: June 4, 2016, at the Iowa football complex (including Kinnick Stadium), from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For the first time, registration has been opened before the spring.

Registration: Minimum donation (tax deductible) of $500 is required, plus a $50 registration fee. Space is limited to 400 women. Average donation is around $800.