Big Ten takeaways: Iowa's alternative uniform confirmed, and an FCS scheduling reversal

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

CHICAGO, Ill. — Saying that he’s “not a total curmudgeon,” Kirk Ferentz said Monday that his Iowa football team will wear an alternate uniform for one home game this season.

He just doesn’t know which game it’ll be. Really.

“We haven’t really picked a week yet,” Ferentz said at Big Ten Media Days here at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. “But there’s a little something in the air maybe.”

The head Hawkeye, who will turn 62 on Aug. 1, said he’s seen designs of what the uniform will look like.

What the alternative uniform looked like for Iowa in 2015 against Minnesota.

“It’s alternative,” Ferentz said. “I like our (traditional) uniforms, I think you all know that. I’m sure it’ll be well-received.

“It could get uncorked somewhere along the way.”

Ferentz relented on an alternate uniform for one game in 2015, a 40-35 home win under the lights against Minnesota. That uniform was an all-black look — tops and pants — with gold numerals.

Between this and the Tiger Hawk logo that recently was placed at the 50-yard line on Kinnick Stadium’s FieldTurf, 2017 seems to be a new-look year.

“I get it. It’s kind of like the Tiger Hawk,” Ferentz said. “Everyone seems to be enthused about that and well-received, so, hey. … You know, I think it’s great.”

FCS ban is over

The Big Ten Conference’s ban on scheduling FCS competition is no longer a ban, a reversal that could open the possibility that Iowa could face Northern Iowa more often.

League commissioner Jim Delany said Monday that after further thought and a few years of observation, Big Ten teams that have four conference home games on their schedules will be permitted to add one FCS opponent in those years.

“When we went to nine games (on the conference schedule), we didn’t anticipate the problems that some of our schools would have when they only had four conference (home) games,” Delany said. “It was very difficult for them to get three FBS opponents.”

Jim Delany speaks to media in downtown Chicago on Monday.

The Big Ten was the only conference to declare a ban on scheduling FCS foes. Delany did so prior to the 2015 season, although the ban was never fully implemented — with existing FCS opponents allowed to stay on future schedules.

For Iowa, that meant keeping North Dakota State on the 2016 schedule and Northern Iowa in 2018. The in-state Panthers were to be the last FCS opponent for Iowa, but perhaps no longer.

Delany said the Big Ten will “still probably have the least number” of FCS opponents as a league, but he anticipates a handful each year, going forward.

Big Ten TV

Despite it being reported for roughly 13 months, Delany on Monday acknowledged for the first time the Big Ten's TV partnership in football and basketball with ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS and the Big Ten Network.

Some of the highlights of the agreements in writing:

  • A minimum of six prime-time football games will be carried annually on ESPN or ABC. Overall, ESPN gets 27 games, annually.
  • Fox Sports will carry "24 to 27" regular season football games, including nine in prime time on either Fox or FS1.
  • In basketball, CBS will continue to carry Big Ten games on Sunday afternoons, in addition to the conference-tournament semifinal and final games.
  • Additionally, ESPN networks will get 38 men's basketball games annually, and Fox will get "39 to 47."

The reason for the delayed announcement, Delany said, was in part because of the back-and-forth of two major networks trying to sort out priority selections in football. Fox is a new regular TV partner for the Big Ten. Fox and ESPN have committed to "co-branded logos" on their respective network broadcasts.

BTN president Mark Silverman said the league continues to evolve in how it delivers live games. For the first time, BTN will be available on YouTube TV and Hulu, and live games will also be accessible on the Fox Sports Go platform.

Eye-opening possibility

Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst confirmed Monday a report from the Chicago Tribune that the Badgers and Notre Dame are in talks to schedule each other at Soldier Field and/or Lambeau Field.

The Badgers faced and beat LSU of the Southeastern Conference last year at Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers.

"It was neat for our players playing in Lambeau. That was a good experience. ... that's a neat thing," Chryst said. "I don't know where all those (conversations) are at, but I think it'd be pretty cool."

The Badgers and Fighting Irish have not faced each other since 1964.

Then there's Iowa. Ferentz acknowledged there's been talk about a similar big-stage game like that, but he again affirmed that he thinks Iowa's schedule is tough enough as it is, with nine conference games and Iowa State on the docket every year.

The Iowa-Iowa State series was recently re-upped through the 2023 season. If the Hawkeyes wanted to try to add a Notre Dame-type name to their schedule, that'd mean tabling the Cy-Hawk matchup for a year or two.

"I think (10 Power Five opponents) measures up with anybody in the country," Ferentz said. "Now we start a discussion to break up a series so we can do a game like that? I don't think that'd be well-received at home on either side of the fence, in my opinion. I think that game is really good for our state and good for football in Iowa. So I don't see us discontinuing that series."

Welsh stands strong

As was to be expected after revealing last week that he's struggled during his Hawkeye football career with depression issues, Sean Welsh got asked about that topic again Monday.

Iowa's starting right guard said he was inspired to share his story after his therapist sent him some articles about athletes, including about former Green Bay Packers lineman Aaron Taylor, coming forward about their depression.

"I'm happy to talk about it," Welsh said. "Because the more that I talk about it, the more other people talk about it. And the more progress is going to be made."

His advice to others who are facing depression?

"You can never be too macho or too proud to seek help," Welsh said. "That was my issue. When I wanted to see a therapist, it was like pulling teeth. I couldn't talk about my feelings because I'd never done that before. I just knew I was screwed up in the head, and I didn't know how to make sense of it all.

"But once you get it off your chest, it makes all the difference."