Big Ten takeaways: Kinnick renovations near finalization

Chad Leistikow

CHICAGO — A final decision on how Kinnick Stadium’s north end zone will change is coming soon. Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said Tuesday morning that discussions are ongoing for the renovation, which was approved for planning by the Iowa Board of Regents in August.

The vision is to include a wide variety of seating options, similar to what modern professional stadiums are doing nowadays. Barta was using words like “club” and “loge” seating and “patio space.”

“Something for every fan,” he said of the vision. “Whether you want to come in at the lowest price point and have a seat on a bench, or if you want to have the highest price point — a suite or a club seat — we’re trying to offer something that’s a little different than what we have on the (sidelines) right now.”

A perspective from Iowa's North End Zone, which will be renovated at some point. The game shown here was the 2015 home finale vs. Purdue, which was played after a major overnight snowstorm.

The project’s estimated cost has gone from $35 to $45 million to upwards of $70 million, and it could go even higher. The next step is to ask the Regents for permission to proceed. The next board meeting is Sept. 7-8 in Iowa City. If Barta is ready by then, the artist’s renderings would get their first public reveal.

Barta has said he wants Kinnick’s capacity to remain above 70,000 (it’s currently 70,585).

“They have a couple of versions that get it done (in the existing space),” Barta said. “Now we’re just fine-tuning it before we go to the Regents.”

Plans to construct a suite-style residence hall near Kinnick Stadium have been tabled, Barta said.

BTN’s ‘GameDay’ knock-off

A weekly Saturday pregame show is coming to Big Ten Network — think of it like a “College GameDay” exclusive to Big Ten games.

In announcing "the biggest programming initiative in our history," BTN president Mark Silverman revealed the launch of 10, 90-minute “BTN Tailgate” shows that’ll kick off with the Sept. 24 game between Wisconsin plays at Michigan State, at 9:30 a.m. CT from East Lansing, Mich.

BTN will announce future sites later, but you can probably safely assume it'll make an appearance at Kinnick Stadium — perhaps Oct. 1 for Iowa-Northwestern, one of the best matchups on that day’s schedule, or on Oct. 22 for Iowa-Wisconsin.

The show’s talent consists of Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and new addition Anthony Adams, a former Penn State and Chicago Bears defensive lineman.

The update on C.J. Beathard's health:

Stoking by the (former) Bear

New Illinois coach Lovie Smith was the first coach to speak Tuesday, at 8 a.m. By about 8:01, he had already stoked one of the Illini’s biggest rivals.

“We feel like we're Chicago's team,” Smith said in his opening remarks.

Back in 2010, Northwestern launched a marketing campaign that gave the program the label of “Chicago’s Big Ten team.”

Smith will be a force in recruiting here, where he coached the Chicago Bears from 2004 to 2012.

“One message I’ve gotten (from recruiting) is, ‘Lovie, we already know you. You’ve been in our homes on Sunday quite a bit,’ ” said Smith, who was hired in March to replace Tim Beckman/Bill Cubit.

“We have a lot of alumni out there that are waiting to be excited about something.”

Contracts, expectations the talk at Big Ten media days:

Roster attrition

On top of the 21 seniors it lost from 2015, Iowa enters its August camp having lost nine scholarship players since January. The list: defensive backs Lance Billings, Maurice Fleming and Omar Truitt; running back Eric Graham; defensive tackle Brant Gressel; wide receiver Andre Harris; defensive end Terrence Harris; linebacker Justin Jinning; and tight end Jameer Outsey.

"You look at everything individually, and I think every guy probably made the decision that was best for him. I'm supportive of that," Ferentz said. "Ultimately, you're better off if you're someplace where you feel like you're really going to fit in. ... It doesn't work out for everybody."

Billings' exit was curious. He decided to go home to Ohio after spending just a few days on campus.

“Just decided this wasn’t for him," Ferentz said. "I think he’s going to continue to play college football — I hope he does. I think he’s come to that conclusion now.”

Gressel isn't leaving school, just the program. He'll stay on scholarship and spend the fall finishing his engineering degree, Ferentz said.

Another opening for Boyle

Ferentz stopped short of saying Ryan Boyle's switch from quarterback to wide receiver would be permanent.

"It's strictly a fall contract," Ferentz said. "We'll revisit this whole thing in January. He'll drive the ship on this whole thing."

The redshirt freshman, who looked great in the spring game after making the position change less than a week earlier, might be needed even more. Ferentz revealed Tuesday that junior Jonathan Parker, a second-team receiver, suffered a foot injury that could require surgery and cost him six to eight weeks.

CJB takes over Twitter

Ferentz doesn’t allow his players to tweet. But there was an exception Tuesday, as quarterback C.J. Beathard was given permission to take over the handle @TheIowaHawkeyes to talk to Iowa fans for 30 minutes.

Most of the questions he was asked were goofy — he chooses burritos over pizza; his favorite ice cream flavor is cake batter; he thinks The Airliner has the best wings in Iowa City.

Some other insight:

The team's most athletic player? “Josh Jackson.”

The strongest guy on the team? “Aaron Mends.”

Which teammate will be U.S. president someday? “Brady Ross.”

Which coach yells the most in practice? “Coach (Phil) Parker.”

Favorite class he's taken at Iowa? “Ping pong.” (Hey, he's your quarterback, not a Rhodes Scholar.)